Vast areas and unique animals: Canada’s largest nature reserve, the Wood Buffalo National Park, is located in the northeast of the province of Alberta. On a gigantic area of 44,807 square kilometers, about one eighth the size of Germany, a wonderful landscape of a boreal character stretches out, which captivates the visitor in a variety of ways.
White salt flats and blue water
The park consists mainly of lakes and swamps, which means that there are two Ramsar areas, the Peace-Athabasca Delta and the breeding area of the whooping cranes. Ramsar areas are the regulations for the protection of wetlands and marshland that came into force in 1975, which are also considered to be one of the first international treaty regulations for nature conservation. The Peace-Athabasca Delta, for example, is one of the world’s largest inland delta for fresh water.
But not only the unique water landscapes of the Wood Buffalo fascinate the visitor. The salt plains or salt deserts – which are formed by evaporation of water – can be explored, as well as karst funnels and underground streams.
During the winter night the mysterious red, green and purple glowing Aurora Borealis appears over the flat area of the region, while in summer the sun never sets and it is as bright as day even at midnight. The Wood Buffalo National Park has been designated as the world’s largest light protection area (Wood Buffalo Dark Sky Reserve) since 2013. The aurora borealis can be observed particularly well in complete darkness.
As the Wood Buffalo National Park area is in the far north, the thermometer can drop as low as -40 ° C in winter, with only an average of 7 hours of sunlight per day. To avoid these extremely low temperatures, it is recommended to visit the park in spring as well as in summer.
A unique variety of animals: from bison and cranes
Founded in 1922 to protect the endangered animals of Alberta, Wood Buffalo National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 due to its biodiversity. In 2007, the largest beaver dam in the world was discovered in Wood Buffalo National Park, which was an incredible 850 meters long.
Today over 5,000 forest bison live in the area of the national park, which can weigh up to 900 kilograms. The last free-living whooping cranes, which are considered to be the largest birds on the North American continent, have their natural habitat in Wood Buffalo National Park.
But not only whooping cranes and wood bison can be found with a little luck; Moose, black and brown bears, as well as lynxes, snow geese, snowshoe hares and the lightning-fast peregrine falcons are also at home here.
Explore Wood Buffalo National Park
In addition to exploring the great flora and fauna, it is possible to hike, fish and ski in the winter or go hiking with snowshoes in Wood Buffalo all year round.
The Pine Lake Campground and the Kettle Point Group Camp are centrally located in the national park and offer an ideal spot to spend the night if you are staying for several days. It is also possible – as is usual in Canada – to pitch the tent in the backcountry, far away from the usual tourist routes.
Many beautiful water areas such as Pine Lake, the salt rivers as well as Buffalo and Little Buffalo are a paradise for canoeists and those who want to become one. The necessary equipment for this can be borrowed in the city of Fort Smith, which is located east of the national park.