Great Canadian Parks / Manitoba

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The Parks / Manitoba / Riding Mountain National Park








To the west, the escarpment's edge gradually merges into a gently rolling landscape of a highland plateau, where plant and animal communities meet. Large herds of elk gather in sedge meadows while wolf packs congregate in nearby forests. Lynx and cougar inhabit the woodlands, bald eagles and osprey nest along the streams and lakes. The aspen parkland is an extremely productive wildlife habitat where white-tailed deer, coyotes, snowshoe hares and ground squirrels are conspicuous mammals. In the past, vast herds of bison ranged into the aspen zone. Other large mammals include black bears, which can weigh up to 400 kilograms, moose, elk, and wolves. Efforts continue to monitor the gray wolf population since they are few in number, highly mobile and vulnerable to human impact. Black bears easily range 100 kilometres a day and many have grown bigger than most grizzlies. There are now about 3500 beaver dams in the park and over 18 000 beavers; with such an exploding population, problems do exist, such as the dams preventing fish spawning in some areas. There are at least 260 bird species including great gray owls. The dozens of prairie potholes provide for the highest density of breeding dabbling ducks in North America, particularly mallards, shovellers and pintails.




Recent archeological evidence of habitation, fishing, hunting, tool and pottery making and burial activities suggests that aboriginal peoples have inhabited the area for at least 6000 years. More recently the Ojibway migrated from eastern regions to inhabit the Riding Mountain area, previously the home of the Nakota Nation. The Nakotas, known to travel widely, shifted west and south moving tribal boundaries. The Ojibway, active fur traders, roamed throughout the area trapping, fishing and hunting. Today there are several First Nation communities around the park. In 1896, a fishing reserve established on the shores of Clear Lake for the Keeseekoowenin Ojibway First Nations was wrongfully removed in 1930 at the time of the establishment of the park; this land was returned in 1991 after the Band made a land claim. Oral histories of various elders have added not only to our archeological and geographical knowledge, but also to our understanding of the sacred meaning that the mountain and its waters hold. In 1931 the famous Archie Belaney, aka Grey Owl was hired by Riding Mountain National Park to re-establish the ailing beaver population. Grey Owl stayed only six months, before moving to his new post in Prince Albert, claiming the lakes were too dry for the beavers. The beaver population has since been restored and today numbers somewhere around 18,000. Grey Owl's cabin is a popular hiking destination at Beaver Lake Lodge.



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