Riding Mountain National Park

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Riding Mountain National Park
IUCN category II (national park)
Map showing the location of Riding Mountain National Park
Riding Mountain National Park
Location of Riding Mountain National Park in Canada
Location Manitoba, Canada
Nearest city Dauphin
Coordinates 50°51′50″N 100°02′10″W / 50.86389°N 100.03611°W / 50.86389; -100.03611Coordinates: 50°51′50″N 100°02′10″W / 50.86389°N 100.03611°W / 50.86389; -100.03611
Area 2,969 km2 (1,146 sq mi)[1]
Established 1933 (National park)
1986 (Biosphere reserve)
Governing body Parks Canada

Riding Mountain National Park is a national park in Manitoba, Canada. The park sits atop the Manitoba Escarpment. Consisting of a protected area 2,969 km2 (1,146 sq mi),[1] the forested parkland stands in sharp contrast to the surrounding prairie farmland. It was designated a national park because it protects three different ecosystems that converge in the area; grasslands, upland boreal and eastern deciduous forests. The park is home to wolves, moose, elk, black bears, hundreds of bird species, countless insects and a captive bison herd. It is most easily reached by Highway 10 which passes through the park. The south entrance is at the townsite of Wasagaming, which is the only commercial centre within the park boundaries.

The park was first protected in 1929 and had much of its public infrastructure created during the 1930s by labourers participating in Canada's great depression relief programs. Much of this early construction survives to this day. During World War II it was home to a prisoner of war camp which has since been dismantled. In 1986, Riding Mountain National Park and the surrounding area was designated as Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

Park access[edit]

Riding Mountain National Park is easily accessible by car and bus from centres to the north and south. PTH 10 connects Brandon, 95 km to the south, with Wasagaming and continues to Dauphin, 13 km beyond the north border of the park. From the east, PTH 19 enters the park through the scenic escarpment region. The nearest commercial airports are at Dauphin and Brandon, and the nearest International Airport is located in Winnipeg. An airport for small planes is located at Erickson, just south of the park. To enter Riding Mountain National Park by motor vehicle, a permit is required and can be purchased at the park gates when entering the park.

The East Entrance has been designated a National Historic Site of Canada in recognition of its historic and rustic architectural design, the gate was designed by Shamus Marshall, a very renowned Canadian architect.[2]

The Manitoba Escarpment in Riding Mountain National Park, with surrounding topography and vegetation.


Deep Lake

Elk, porcupines, coyotes, moose, wolves, beavers, lynxes, white-tailed deer, snowshoe hares, and cougars are the animals that roam around this park. Loons and Canada geese are Clear Lake's bird inhabitants. The park boasts one of the largest populations of black bears in North America. There is also a wild bison enclosure located near Lake Audy.

Riding Mountain National Park is also well known for its wildflowers and wide range of unique vegetation, most of which is not seen anywhere else in the prairie regions of Canada.


For all recreation activities within the park, it is advisable to contact Riding Mountain National Park administration for information and to acquire necessary permits.

  • Hiking and backpacking

There are over 400 km (250 mi) of trails within the park for hiking or backpacking. The park's habitat varies from the rugged gorges of the east side of the park to the tall evergreens of the Central portion to the meadows of the western portion. Trail surfaces vary from partially graveled patrol roads to grassy trails. Backpacking trails include Ochre River Trail, South Escarpment Trail, and the Tilson Lake Trail.

A bison herd near Lake Audy
  • Cycling

There are a lot of cycling opportunities in Riding Mountain National Park. Trails vary in difficulty from the easy gently rolling trails of the Central, Baldy Lake and Strathclair trails to the rugged and extremely hilly Packhorse, Jet and Baldy Hill trails.

  • Horseback riding and horsedrawn carriages

Horse use is allowed on most backcountry trails. Local outfitters are able to provide equipment needed for a horsedrawn carriage experience.

  • Cross country skiing

Riding Mountain National Park is home to critically acclaimed ski trails. Warming shelters are found on several of the trails during the winter months and heated base cabins are available.

  • Snowmobiling

Because the park is federally protected land, only the frozen surface of Clear Lake during the winter months can be used for snowmobiling.

  • Fishing

National Park Fishing Licenses are required for fishing within park boundaries. There are many clean, freshwater lakes within the park including Clear Lake, Lake Audy, Moon Lake and Whirlpool Lake among others. Walleye, white fish and perch are found in Clear Lake, and a limited number of rainbow and brook trout can be found in Lake Katherine and Deep Lake. Ice fishing is allowed on Clear Lake during the winter months.

Boat Cove near Wasagaming in Riding Mountain National Park
  • Boating

Motorized boats are allowed on Clear Lake, Lake Audy and Moon Lake. Boat launches can be found on Clear Lake and Lake Audy, while boats and motors must be carried 300 metres at Moon Lake. Only non-motorized watercrafts are allowed on Deep Lake, Lake Katherine and Whirlpool Lake, and all other backcountry lakes.

All personal water crafts are banned within Riding Mountain National Park.

As of 2008, only four-stroke and direct injected two-stroke equipped motor boats will be permitted on Clear Lake. Boats equipped with other motors are not permitted to use the lake for environmental reasons. The ban is enforced by Parks Canada and the RCMP.[3]

  • Canoeing and kayaking

The lakes of Riding Mountain provide excellent conditions for canoeing and kayaking. At times, Whirlpool River and Jackfish Creek can be used for canoeing and kayaking when the water is high enough, usually after heavy rains or spring runoff.

  • Sailing

Clear Lake is used by many people for sailing because of its relatively large size, and wind patterns. Parking and assembly areas are located at the Wasagaming boat launch.

  • Swimming

Clear Lake is by far the most popular for swimming in Riding Mountain National Park. The main beach at Wasagaming is equipped with washrooms, change rooms, along with outdoor shower. There are numerous other beaches on clear lake as well. Other lakes used for swimming are Lake Katherine, Lake Audy and Moon Lake. Most of the other lakes in the park have muddy bottoms, so swimming is difficult but possible.

  • Scuba diving

The clear spring-fed waters of Clear Lake provide many opportunities for scuba diving. The deepest point in Clear Lake is approximately 34.7 m (114 feet) deep.

A duck in Clear Lake
  • Camping

Wasagaming campground is one of the largest in Manitoba, and is a full service campground located near the Wasagaming townsite and Clear Lake. All sites in the Wasagaming campground contain a fire box, picnic table, and access to washrooms at the unserviced camp sites, and full service sites are equipped with all modern amenities including sewer, electricity, water, picnic table, and fire box. Other campgrounds suitable for car camping are located at Lake Audy, Moon Lake and Deep Lake. These campground sites are equipped with a fire box, picnic table, and access to washrooms or pit privies.

  • Tenting

Tent camping is available at all campgrounds within the park. Whirlpool Lake campground is designated as a tenting only campground. There are also 22 wilderness campsites located in the back country of the park. These sites are equipped with firewood, pit privies, picnic tables and food storage containers.

  • Picnicking

There are 15 picnic sites located within the park, usually along major roads and trails. These sites are equipped with barbecue pits, pit privies, and most have access to drinking water.

  • Golfing

Clear Lake Golf Course is located within park boundaries along the shores of Clear Lake. The course has received high ratings from multiple North American golf publications.

  • Tennis

There are six professional tennis courts located in the park in the Wasagaming townsite.

Riding Mountain National Park Back Country
  • Skateboarding

There is a skateboard park, located next to the parking lot near the old community center site in Wasagaming.

Ochre River Trail[edit]

Ochre River Trail is situated deep within Riding Mountain National Park, beginning just off Highway #10 and then winding its way through thick forest down to a parking lot on the north-eastern boundary of the park.[4] Highlights along this trail include scenic campsites, river views, stream crossings, and a serene forest setting.[4] The trail is used by backpackers, bikers, horseback riders, and cross country skiers.[4] Skiers can make an over-night trek from the South Trailhead to Cairn’s Cabin (located about 800m off the trail near the Ochre River Campsite) for the night and then back out again the following day.[4] This cabin must be booked and paid for in advance.[4] This trail has not been maintained since September 29, 2011.

Tilson Lake Loop[edit]

The Tilson Lake Loop is a multipurpose trail located in the western portion of the park, as that side of the park is not as heavily forested as the eastern side, and provides views over open meadows and rolling hills for hikers, horseback riders and bikers.[5] The trail is 2-day loop and takes hikers an average of 11 hours to hike, but which can be joined up with some of the nearby trails to create a longer trip.[5] The trail has few markings, but is wide and difficult to lose, and there are large, green signs clearly marking all junctions along the way.[5] There are two campsites on the trail which have privies, fire pits, food storage bins, firewood, picnic tables and plenty of space for tents.[5] It is possible to snowshoe this trail in the winter, but access can be difficult after heavy snow fall.[5] This trail has not been maintained since August 11, 2011

Grey Owl[edit]

Grey Owl was the name Archibald Belaney (September 18, 1888 – April 13, 1938), adopted when he took upon a First Nations identity as an adult. He was a writer and became one of Canada's first conservationists. He spent 6 months living in a cabin in Riding Mountain National park studying and working with wildlife, including two beavers named Jelly Roll and Rawhide. His main goal in the park was to re-establish beaver colonies in areas where they were exterminated. He is regarded as a legend and major historical figure because of the influence he had on Riding Mountain National Park. His living quarters, now known as "Grey Owl's Cabin", still stand to this day and are a popular tourist attraction.

80th Anniversary

View from J.E.T. Trail.

In 2013, Riding Mountain National Park celebrated the 80th anniversary of the creation and opening of the park. It was the first National Park in Manitoba, and one of the first in western Canada. Anniversary celebrations included a reenactment of the official park opening ceremony, along with year-long arts, culture and wildlife programs.

Photo gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Parks Canada - Riding Mountain National Park of Canada
  2. ^ "East Gate Registration Complex". Riding Mountain National Park of Canada. Parks Canada. 2009-09-11. Retrieved 25 June 2010. 
  3. ^ Parks Canada - Public Safety - Boating Restrictions
  4. ^ a b c d e Pemmican.org, "Guide to the Ochre River Trail", accessed 01-11-2009
  5. ^ a b c d e Pemmican.org, "Guide to the Tilson Lake Loop Trail", accessed 01-0=10-2009

External links[edit]