I respectfully acknowledge that the land in and around Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park (previously named Big Island) is located within the Treaty 8 Territory, the ancestral and traditional territories of the Beaver Lake Cree, Michif Piyii (Métis), Cree people. Source: native-land.ca
For seventeen years of my life, I could look out my bedroom window and see Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park. (Or “Churchill” as the locals call it) In that time, I can only recall hiking these trails twice. Once for a last day of school activity in third grade, and once with my family a few years later. It’s funny how the places closest to us are the ones that we least explore.
I had been meaning to get out and hike the park a couple of times over the last few years when I’d go back home to visit my parents, but the weather was never cooperative (this was before I had the proper gear and didn’t appreciate rainy or snowy hikes). I finally had the opportunity to go this past summer, and boy was it ever hot and humid! (Hot, sunny days are now my “uncooperative” hiking weather!)
The Boardwalk Trail is a quick and easy 1.2 kilometre trail, taking you through a 300 year old-growth boreal forest. (Quick history lesson: The trees on the island survived The Great Fire of 1919 that destroyed most of Lac La Biche and ravaged through 7.5 million acres all the way to Saskatchewan) The trailhead starts you on a boardwalk taking you through some overgrown marsh, then up a staircase into the forest.
Part way through the Boardwalk Trail, there is a short out and back trail down to the beach. If you are lucky you might be able to spot some pelicans, but unfortunately all we saw were a flock of seagulls. However, they did give me a great opportunity to capture some photos of them against the still, glassy water.
Halfway of through the Boardwalk trail you can either loop back, or head on the Long Point Trail (which is an out and back loop that will take you right back to the spot you are currently at) Again, this is an easy trail and it is 2.5 kilometer long. The Long Point Trail takes you along various vegetation along a mainly carpeted trail of seemingly untouched lush grass with trees creating a canopy overhead to the westernmost tip of the island. (Just be cautious not to rub against the stinging nettle along the trail.)
The island is home to over 200 different species of birds so keep your eyes and ears open! We didn’t spot too many as they were probably taking shelter from the sweltering heat (we saw a hawk, seagulls, pelicans and cormorants). We also saw frogs, grasshoppers, spiders, butterflies, moths, and mosquitoes. (DO NOT forget your bug spray!)
Until next time, chase the stoke!
- More information about Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park can be found on the Alberta Parks website.
- When photographing wildlife, please keep your distance. Parks Canada recommends 30 meters from large animals and 100 meters from bears. Never bait, call, crowd, chase, or capture an animal to take a photo.