Have You Been To Riding Mountain National Park?
Located in southwestern Manitoba, not far from the provincial border with Saskatchewan, Riding Mountain National Park consists of nearly 3,000 square kilometres of protected wilderness.
Characterized by windswept grasslands, deep forests, vital wetlands and hundreds of lakes, the park is a natural wonder. Read on below to learn more about what makes this national park worth visiting.
Diversity of ecosystems in Riding Mountain National Park
This beautiful national park — one of two national parks in the province — is part of the Manitoba Escarpment, a steep ridge of land that rises above the lowlands of southern Manitoba.
One of the features that makes Riding Mountain National Park so special is that it is a meeting place of ecosystems, which can be seen in the vegetation and in the variety of birds and mammals.
At the foot of the escarpment is a rare strip of eastern deciduous forest, further into the park are significant tracts of marsh and river-bottom wetlands as well as vast expanses of boreal forest and aspen parkland. Huge meadows of rough fescue grassland mark the park’s west end.
Dotted throughout are more than 1,900 lakes. Beautiful Clear Lake, which is the centrepiece of the park, is at the heart of many of the park’s activities and dazzles visitors with spectacular sunsets.
Wildlife at Riding Mountain National Park
The varied and vital landscapes of Riding Mountain provide habitat for a large number of species, some of which are listed as ‘at risk.’
Those exploring the park are likely to come across some of the native wildlife: black bears, white-tailed deer, beaver, pine marten, moose, fox and elk. Other wildlife, such as the estimated 100 wolves that call the park home, are harder to spot.
The park is also home to hundreds of bird species — including the majestic bald eagle, the red-headed woodpecker and the great gray owl (Manitoba’s provincial bird) — as well as amphibians and reptiles like tiger salamanders and turtles.
For a truly unique experience, take a drive through the 500-hectare Lake Audy Bison Enclosure, where a herd of approximately 40 plains bison reside year round. Once abundant in the grasslands, plains bison were hunted into extinction by settlers and the herd in Riding Mountain is part of a program to reintroduce the species to the area.
Evidence has been found in the park of not only bison activity on this land, but also Indigenous presence for at least 6,000 years. Parks Canada has begun to work with local Indigenous groups to help bring traditional wisdom and culture back into the land. New exhibits within the visitor centre feature interactive displays that show traditional Anishinabe culture and way of life
Wasagaming: a town within a national park
Riding Mountain is one of the few national parks that have a townsite inside its borders. Wasagaming, a picturesque resort town, sits on the shores of Clear Lake at the park’s South Gate. From Winnipeg, it will take you approximately three hours to reach Wasagming and about an hour if you’re coming from Brandon.
During the summer, Wasagaming bustles with activity and visitors looking to relax at the beach. You’ll find lots of shops, restaurants, boat rentals and a golf course.
In the winter, some of the shops close but there are still enough amenities available for those seeking winter adventure.
Ways to enjoy Riding Mountain
Like most of Canada’s national, provincial and territorial parks, Riding Mountain offers visitors a wide range of activities, whether you are looking for family fun or a more rugged adventure in the backcountry.
There are nearly 400 km of trails throughout the park, ranging from short walks to longer day hikes to multi-day trips into the backcountry. Cycling and horseback riding is permitted on most backcountry trails. In the winter, 130 km of trails remain open for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking. See this Parks Canada Trail Guide for information on all the different trails.
Swimming, boating, paddling and fishing are all popular summertime activities on the water. The park has camping available with both drive-in (frontcountry) and hiking in (backcountry) options. For those who prefer to leave the tent at home, the park does have several oTENTik, yurt and micrOcube roofed accommodations.
If you’re heading across Canada on VIA Rail’s The Canadian train, Winnipeg is a possible stopover. Riding Mountain National Park is easily accessible from Winnipeg (with a car rental if you’ve arrived by train). Reach out to us if you’d like to start planning a getaway to Manitoba.