I paddled Woodland Caribou Provincial Park this season with my canoemate Andy Baxter and Bill and Anne Ostrom, owners of Ostrom Packs. It was an amazing trip—one of the best I’ve ever had—and nothing at all what I thought it would be.
I’ve always thought Woodland Caribou would have a similar landscape to the neighbouring Wabakimi Provincial Park. Both are situated in northwestern Ontario and part of the extensive line of boreal forest that runs along the top of Ontario. However, Woodland Caribou is also part of what’s called Prairie Boreal and is all together different; it’s definitely not comparable to Wabakimi. The park is unique all to its own.
Viking Outpost and Airways flew us out, organized through Harlan Schwartz of Red Lake Outfitters. We landed on Artery Lake in the far northwest corner of the park and spent 12 days paddling across to the southeast corner to be shuttled out by Red Lake Outfitters. You don’t have to fly in by bushplane, but this is definitely a northern experience that should be had by all paddlers. To be dropped off on a remote lake, with your gear tossed off the plane and only a quick goodbye—and good luck—given by the pilot before they take off and leave you vulnerable to the elements is an unnerving, yet exciting and uplifting experience.
Minutes into the flight I was bewitched with Woodland Caribou. Prior to the trip I predicted everything below the pontoons of our plane would resemble some kind of shag carpet decorating a 1970s bungalow. Instead, it was an ecological masterpiece, appearing like a rich tapestry made up of old-growth conifer forest, interspersed with a scattering of birch and poplar, and prominent elongated bands of exposed bedrock jutting out between a labyrinth of lakes, creeks and rivers. I couldn’t wait for the plane to land so I could start my canoe journey there.
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Check out the video to see Part 1 of our trip. More to come.