|Our National Parks are the jewel in the crown of Canada's natural attractions. These outdoor treasures are located on the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic coasts, across the Rockies, the plains and the Great Lakes – and they reach as far north and as far south as Canada goes. Parks range in size from just under 9 km2 (St Lawrence Islands) to almost 45,000 km2 (Wood Buffalo). And they include world-renowned names such as Banff and Jasper, as well as more recently established Ivvavik and Vuntut.
National historic sites are places of profound importance to Canada. They bear witness to this nation's defining moments and illustrate its human creativity and cultural traditions. Each national historic site tells its own unique story, part of the greater story of Canada, contributing a sense of time, identity, and place to our understanding of Canada as a whole.
Parks Canada manages 44 National Parks, 4 National Marine Conservation Areas and 167 National Historic Sites including 11 of Canada’s 16 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Check out www.pc.gc.ca for detailed information.
A new concept in National Parks
Rouge National Urban Park is a unique concept and a new venture for Parks Canada – it is an urban park, accessible to everyone and right on the edge of Toronto, the country’s largest city. Rouge National Urban Park changes how we think of a national park, and it reflects our Canadian reality. In this sparsely populated country of 34 million people - 80 per cent of us live in three urban areas and within 100 miles of the United States border. Creating an urban park means thinking differently about what a national park is and how it serves its visitors - many of them new Canadians who are perhaps unfamiliar with both the outdoors and Canada’s history and geography.
Rouge National Urban Park encompasses natural, cultural, agricultural and recreational lands. Its boundaries overlap private properties and infrastructure corridors within the City of Toronto and the towns of Markham and Pickering.
The park has a rich diversity of natural and cultural heritage resources, including: a rare Carolinian forest; numerous species at risk; a national historic site; geological outcrops from the interglacial age that are internationally significant; and, in-situ evidence of human history dating back over 10,000 years, including some of Canada's oldest known Aboriginal historic sites and villages.
Learn to Camp!
Another innovation from Parks Canada is the “Learn to Camp” initiative that make it easy and accessible for people to get outdoors and sleep under canvas.
Parks Canada is keen that YOU learn to camp. “Learn to Camp” events at certain National Parks (including Rouge National Urban Park) will allow participants to learn camping basics such as how to set up a tent, how to cook outdoors, and what to pack. Helpful Parks Canada and Mountain Equipment Co-op staff will be on hand with tips to make future camping adventures a success.
Parks Canada’s website also has lots of helpful information about learning how to camp – and yes – there’s an app for that too!
Parks Canada is currently also implementing alternative accommodation options (Yurts, Cottage tents, Cabins, Teepees etc.) that are perfect if you find the great outdoors intimidating or simply lack the knowledge to camp in the traditional way. These new facilities will provide all the equipment and amenities necessary to experience the great outdoors in slightly more comfortable surroundings. To supplement these accommodations a trained Parks Canada employee will provide onsite training and information on all aspects of camping.
New Canadian National Parks in the making
Sable Island National Park
Located 290 kilometres offshore from Halifax, Sable Island is a windswept crescent-shaped sandbar 42 kilometres long that emerges from the Atlantic Ocean near the edge of the Continental Shelf. The island’s sand dunes and fresh water ponds are home to over 400 wild horses and numerous migrant and breeding birds, including the rare Ipswich Savannah sparrow. Called the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”, there were over 350 shipwrecks recorded here since 1583 due to the fog and storms that set siege to Sable Island.
Nááts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve
On August 22, 2012, the establishment and boundaries of Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories was announced. It measures 4,850 square kilometres. It will serve as a launching area for visitors, who will have the opportunity to see the spectacular landscapes of the world-famous South Nahanni River, and to hike, canoe, raft and climb. This area has been travelled and valued for hunting and its spiritual importance by the Shutagot’ine (Mountain Dene) of the Tulita District.
This new national park reserve protects 70 percent of the upper South Nahanni watershed. Habitat for mountain woodland caribou, grizzly bears, Dall's sheep, mountain goats and Trumpeter swans will also be preserved.
Mealey Mountains National Park
In 2008, Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced a commitment to establish a 10,700 km2 national park reserve in the wilderness area of the Mealy Mountains in Labrador.
Once agreements are reached with the province and Aboriginal groups, this national park will be the largest protected area in Atlantic Canada.
It will protect a stunning array of boreal ecosystems and their wildlife such as the threatened Mealy Mountains caribou herd and landscapes of great cultural significance. It will provide amazing opportunities for Canadians to experience the east coast boreal forest wilderness.
Special events and activities at National Historic Sites
In 2013 the historic French Fortress of Louisbourg comes alive with a grand fête of special events to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the founding of Île Royale – modern day Cape Breton Island – and its capital, Louisbourg. At Louisbourg vibrant cultures meet diverse heritage and awe-inspiring vistas in a celebration of sea and stories, music and military, community and cuisine. Thanks to tours and costumed interpretive guides you can take part in the daily life of the "residents" of this 18th-century fortified town.
Cave and Basin Re-opening
The Cave and Basin National Historic Site has just re-opened this year after a $13.8 million renewal. The Cave and Basin is the birthplace of Canada’s national parks. It is a must-see historical and cultural attraction in Banff National Park with revitalized programming and year-round events, including all-new interactive programs, exhibits and a giant four-screen HD visual experience that will lead you on a one-of-a-kind journey through Canada’s National Parks, National Historic Sites and National Marine Conservation Areas.
Celebrating the War of 1812
Parks Canada invites Canadians to personally experience many of the most important landscapes, forts and buildings related to the War of 1812 at Parks Canada’s national historic sites. With more than twenty sites commemorating the War of 1812, Parks Canada will be the leading presenter of historic experiences from this pivotal era in North American history.
For the next three years, sites where War of 1812 history still echoes will resonate with authentic and stirring programs and events which will enable visitors to experience life as it was in the 1812 period, both in everyday living and on the battle front.
Parks Canada Trip Showcase
Check out this new concept from Parks Canada - the oTENTik tent offers a unique blend of homey comfort with a taste of outdoor adventure. It’s a unique concept for visitors to enjoy camping with the comfort of a bed and a campsite already set up and ready to go.
Each unit includes three beds and can accommodate up to six people. A cross between a tent and a rustic cabin, this type of accommodation is the perfect way for families, friends and couples of all ages to discover the joys of camping without all the muss and fuss.
Whether you want to explore and appreciate Canada's unique and diverse wildlife, wilderness, and natural environment, or discover the inspiring people, places and events of our fascinating past, the Parks Canada Discovery Pass is the one for you.
This annual pass gives you unlimited opportunities to enjoy more than 100 National Parks, National Marine Conservation Areas and National Historic Sites across Canada that charge entry fees. And there are Discovery Passes for families, youths, adults and seniors.
Photos Courtesy of Parks Canada