10 great places to connect with nature
Canada's 54 National Wildlife Areas protect approximately 1 million hectares (ha) of nationally significant land and marine habitats. Now 10 of these National Wildlife Areas closer to urban areas are getting public access facelifts so that more people can spend a day witnessing the wildlife.
Alaksen National Wildlife Area (35 km from Vancouver, BC) is part of the Fraser River delta, an area of roughly 67,000 ha recognized as an internationally important migration stop-over and wintering area for a large number of migratory birds along the Pacific coast. Consisting of a mosaic of estuarine habitats, remnant wetlands, riparian forests, agricultural areas, and urbanized zones, the delta attracts up to 1.4 million birds from Siberia to South America each year.
Visitors can enjoy walking a network of trails, wildlife watching, and interpretive programming for groups of all ages.
Vaseux-Bighorn National Wildlife Area (80 km from Kelowna, BC) provides significant habitat to federally listed species at risk, many species of migratory birds and other wildlife including the charismatic California bighorn sheep. This National Wildlife Area is a dynamic natural system influenced by erosion, flooding, fire, grazing, and other natural processes.
Visitors can follow a short boardwalk through the National Wildlife Area and be rewarded with magnificent views of the beautiful landscape from the wildlife viewing tower. Don't forget your camera!
Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area (140 km from Regina and Saskatoon, SK) has two main factors contributing to the wealth of birdlife in the area: its good habitats, as one of the most productive lakes in southern Saskatchewan; and its strategic location in the heart of the central flyway of North America. Spectacular populations of migrating ducks, geese, Sandhill Cranes and other birds use the area as they travel across the Great Plains, between their northern breeding grounds and southern wintering grounds
Visitor can take a driving tour with interpretive stops, explore some walking trails, get a birds-eye view of extensive wetlands and prairies from an observation tower, fish, hunt, canoe, hike and of course bird-watch and wildlife photography.
Big Creek National Wildlife Area (67 km from Woodstock, ON) is home to a wealth of wildlife, including birds, frogs, turtles, amphibians, insects and many other species, all of which rely on wetland habitats. The extensive marshes at the mouth of Big Creek are remarkably undisturbed compared to other Great Lakes coastal wetlands. Located at the base of the Long Point peninsula, the Big Creek National Wildlife Area marshes are a major staging area for waterfowl and more than 200 bird species use the area during their spring and fall migrations.
Visitors will enjoy beautiful views of wildlife and their habitat atop one of the two viewing towers.
Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area (70 km from Belleville, ON) has a unique geographic location and diversity of habitats causing a spectacular number of migratory passerine birds to concentrate at the tip of the peninsula. Also, large numbers of diurnal and nocturnal raptors pass through the area during spring and fall migration. There is no other location on the Canadian side of Lake Ontario with such a density of birds during migration. More than 300 species of birds have been recorded on the point, including songbirds, waterfowl, owls and hawks.
Visitors can pack a picnic, swim at one of several small unsupervised gravel beaches or register for one of the various interactive programs that are offered seasonally. You can also explore the small network of hiking trails to enjoy the sights and sounds of the local wildlife and their habitat.
The Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area (50 km from Quebec City, QC) made up of marshland, plains and forests, is located on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. This National Wildlife Area's purpose is to protect the American Bulrush marshes that serve as the primary habitat of the Greater Snow Goose during migration periods. The territory offers contrasting landscapes shaped by the meeting of the river, large coastal marshes, plains and mountains, and features a multitude of habitats that are home to a wide diversity of animal and plant species. The wildlife area is home to more than 325 bird species, 30 mammal species, 22 types of forest stands and 700 plant species. Many of these species are at risk, including the Peregrine Falcon, the Bobolink, and the Butternut.
Visitors can enjoy hiking, geocaching, wildlife observation, photography or one of the various interactive programs that are offered seasonally.
Lac Saint François National Wildlife Area (120 km from Montreal, QC) is made up mainly of swamps and marshes consisting of Carex and Typha plant communities as well as wooded wetlands populated by Red Maple stands and well-drained dry woods featuring communities dominated by hawthorn, hickory and maple. The biodiversity of the area is among the most remarkable in Quebec, as it is home to more than 287 animal species and 547 plant species, many of which are at risk.
Visitors can enjoy the visitor's centre, guided tours (on foot or in a rabaska canoe), geocaching, fall waterfowl hunting, and seasonally offered outreach activities.
Cape Jourimain National Wildlife Area (95 km from Moncton, NB; 70 km from Charlottetown, PEI) encompasses an extraordinary variety of ecosystems that include salt marshes, brackish marshes, fresh water wetlands, barrier beach, sand dune and upland. The area functions as a refuge for about 170 species of native and migratory birds. Its value to wildlife includes provision of nesting, rearing and migration habitat for several bird species in addition to waterfowl and shorebirds like the Osprey, which uses the area's nesting platforms.
Visitors can enjoy a network of well-marked and accessible trails, educational programs as well as tours offered by the Cape Jourimain Nature Centre. This centre also includes a full-service restaurant, interpretation centre and day camp programming for children.
Shepody National Wildlife Area (46 km from Moncton, NB) wetlands have been recognized as having international significance because it supports large numbers of mud shrimp, the principle food source for millions of fall migrating shorebirds to Central and South America; primarily the Semipalmated Sandpiper. The impounded wetlands of Shepody National Wildlife Area provide important production, staging and migration habitat for waterfowl while the freshwater wetlands further provide some of the best nesting habitat in the Atlantic Provinces for a variety of marsh birds.
Visitors can enjoy hiking, wildlife observation, and photography especially in the spring and fall when huge numbers of shorebirds pass through the National Wildlife Area. Interpretation programming is offered at the interpretation centre during the spring, summer, and fall.
Chignecto National Wildlife Area (200 km from Halifax, NS, 80 km from Moncton) has a wide diversity of habitats due partly to the area's karst geology caused by localized gypsum deposits and subsequently more alkaline soils. An impressive variety of birds can be found on the National Wildlife Area including waterfowl such as the Mallard, Black Duck, Northern Pintail, and Ring-necked Duck. A wide variety of mammals can also be found including the Masked Shrew, Northern Flying Squirrel, Star-nosed Mole, Red Fox, Snowshoe Hare and Woodchuck among others.
Visitors can enjoy hiking trails, wildlife observation and photography.
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