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This Parks Day, Take the Road Less Traveled

This Parks Day, Take the Road Less Traveled
Canada’s hidden gems provide many opportunities for you to get outside and connect with nature

Parks Day is July 15 – an annual event when Canadians celebrate the nature and wilderness protected in Canada’s national, provincial, and territorial parks. Last year, CPAWS marked Parks Day with the release of our Parks Report highlighting how Canada and the Parks Canada Agency are failing to manage our national parks, and the iconic nature within them, with ecological integrity as the number one priority.

While we continue to encourage the federal government to re-focus on nature conservation in our national parks, this Parks Day we’re celebrating Canada’s hidden gems: the national, provincial, and territorial parks and protected areas not often discussed but no less breathtaking:

Cataracts Provincial Park in Newfoundland features cascading waterfalls and a deep, scenic river gorge that visitors can access on a short trail. Many wooden steps will take a visitor down to a waterfall and back up again – but it’s worth the effort! Find out more.

Mount Carleton Provincial Wilderness Park in northern New Brunswick is a special spot to re-connect with nature. Its lush misty mountains, including Mount Carleton, the highest peak in the Maritimes, are surrounded by wild rivers and lakes. As it is a hidden gem, you can really get a quiet back-country experience, and you are very likely to see bald eagles soaring, moose munching on tall grasses near the lakes, and songbirds galore. Find out more about Mount Carleton Provincial Wilderness Park or take action to help keep Mount Carleton wild.

Gatineau Park in southern Quebec features 118 rare or endangered species, numerous wetlands, and 50 lakes, yet it is a park in name only. Most of Gatineau Park belongs to the federal government and the National Capital Commission (NCC) manages the land, but it does not have the permanent legal protection provided to “real” national parks. Find out more.

Parc Tursujuq in Nunavik will officially open this fall and is the largest provincial park in Canada, as well as the largest protected area in eastern North America. Home to unique populations of fresh-water seals, Atlantic salmon, and beluga whales, SNAP Quebec played a key role in the park’s creation. Find out more.

Elk Island Provincial Park in Manitoba features dramatic banks behind white sand beaches which make this park worth the visit. The Island is separated from the mainland by just a few hundred metres of Lake Winnipeg's shallows. When the water is low, visitors can walk, or wade, across a sandbar to access the park. With no amenities, this beautiful boreal island sees low human visitation but you'll be kept company by the rustling leaves and countless birds which call this park home. Find out more.

Chitek Lake Provincial Park in Manitoba has no shortage of hoof-prints in the forests and wetlands! The area is home to the only free roaming bison herd in Manitoba and provides habitat for moose, white-tailed deer, woodland caribou, and elk. Co-managed by the province and Skownan First Nation, the park is the first to hold the new Indigenous Traditional Use provincial land designation supporting cultural and economic integrity by protecting the Aboriginal and Treaty rights of Skownan members to continue traditional land use practices within the park. The park also borders Waterhen Lake, upon which Skownan operates the first sustainably certified freshwater fishery in the western hemisphere. Find out more.

Great Sandhills Ecological Reserve in Saskatchewan rises high above the terrain, covering 1,900 square kilometers and containing one of the largest sets of active sand dunes in Canada. Native grasses and small clumps of trees such as aspen, willow, and sagebrush flank the dune formations. These dunes are home to Mule deer and antelope. Find out more.

Narrow Hills Provincial Park in Saskatchewan is uniquely shaped by the last glacial period. This park boasts more than 53,000 hectares of narrow valleys, knob and kettle terrain, and boreal forest. Experience the dramatic and vast landscape of this scenic park by hiking the hills above the Gem Lakes, which were formed during the last ice age where they were carved out by glaciers. Each lake is cut off from the other and no rivers run into them. There is no current running through the lakes, making them perfectly clear and giving them their beautiful colour, which sparkles in the sun. Find out more.

Vuntut National Park is one of Canada’s most remote national parks, located in the northwestern corner of the Yukon Territory and home to vast, rugged landscapes ranging from tundra valleys to towering peaks. Vuntut Gwitchin people continue to travel and live in traditional ways on this land, but every year few visitors, sometimes none, have the chance to travel to this arctic wilderness. There are no facilities or developed trails in the park, and adventurers must be entirely self-sufficient and ready to tackle all weather conditions and emergencies.

Established in 1995 as part of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Final Land Claim Agreement, the 4,345 square kilometers of wilderness is where one of the most spectacular wonders in the world takes place: the Porcupine Caribou migration. The Porcupine Caribou, who travel between their wintering grounds in the Yukon and their calving grounds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, undergo the longest land-migration route of any land mammal on earth, amounting to over 2,400 kilometers a year. These animals are the center of Gwitchin culture. They have coexisted with the herd for thousands of years, depending on the caribou for food, clothing, tools, shelter, and traditional crafts. Find out more.

Perhaps there is a hidden gem near you that you’ve always wanted to visit but never have? Now this is your opportunity. This Parks Day, we encourage you to take the time to visit your local park and connect with nature, and then connect with us! Send us your photos of you in your local park, or tag us on Twitter at @cpaws or Instagram at @cpaws_ntl. We’d love to share your celebration of nature!