Canada's National Parks

Canada's National Parks
65 minutes
Format: DVD
Available: Now

This colossus of land spans six time zones. Only Russia is larger.

Exploration began with the voyageurs... and now the parks keep alive what they saw... set aside as national parks. This program covers in detail 21 of Canada's 39 national parks.

L'Anse aux Meadows

Where icebergs persist all summer, Vikings waded ashore a thousand years ago. Today, it is generally agreed that the Vikings were the first Europeans to reach North America. Archaeological research has proven that Norse men and women warmed themselves by their fires here... almost 500 years before the voyages of Columbus.

Gros Morne

Gros Morne is known for some of the most spectacular scenery in eastern Canada... a land of fiords that lie in canyons carved by glaciers. The woodland caribou wander on the highlands, trying to escape the black flies... which really isn't possible. But the flies are even worse down below. In the southern park area, rock formations tell the story of moving continents. Butterfly in Fundy National ParkThe French name, Gros Morne, means "Big Gloomy," which seems to describe the weather here.

Cape Breton Highlands

In Cape Breton Highlands National Park, winter lasts until the fourth month of the year. Few hikers venture into this highland plateau. Its rugged slopes may speak of freedom, but make tough going through the birch and spruce. At sunset, moose watchers come to French Lake. The moose were only reintroduced here in 1947. Now they are a chief attraction. At dawn, the red fox hunts to feed her pups, and the lynx retreats to its remotest sanctuary in the park. Her very existence depends on the healthy environment which the park provides.


Dawn in Kejimkujik Park is moment of utter peace. Eighty thousand years ago, ice ground over the bedrock, creating lakes that dominate the park today. Kejimkujik Lake is the liquid heart of the park. People of the Archaic Tradition were here before the Egyptians built the first pyramid. They linked their survival to the survival of other creatures, and found food in the lakes and forests.

Prince Edward Island Park

ButtercupPrince Edward Island is Eastern Canada's most popular park. A million visitors come every year. They come to see the House of Green Gables. It is the actual setting for the book Anne of Green Gables, which has been published in seventeen languages. Lucy Maude Montgomery, who wrote the book, spent her own childhood here and in the woodlands which inspired the imagination of the little orphan girl. Visitors still come to share her love of the woods and flowers.


In Kouchibouguac National Park, spring calls the black bear from his winter den. Kouchibouguac Park borders the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where a series of barrier islands blocks the tides from the forests. In the heart of the forest we find a strange open place, where trees are unable to get a foothold. It is a bog... a depression filled with six feet of sphagnum moss. There is little soil and almost no nitrogen which plants must have. So the pitcher plant has evolved its leaves to form a trap, catching insects to nourish itself.


Fundy National Park is located on the Bay of Fundy, which is renowned for some of the highest tides in the world. On the tidal flats, water will rise 40 feet/12 meters in only six hours, transforming the valley into a standing marsh. The forests here too are evolving to their original form under the protection of the national park... even red spruce, which was almost wiped out by over-logging in the Squirrel19th Century.

La Mauricie

In the 19th century, men of European descent persistently exploited the forests of Canada, cutting trees by the millions. They produced a moonscape of millions of acres, included here in La Mauricie National Park. But today under the care of Parks Canada, this land is also being reclaimed. The Canadian Shield is exposed in La Mauricie National Park... outcroppings of ancient rock that are over 600 million years old... the foundation stone of North America. The Shield covers about half of Canada.

Point Pelee

This is the most southern tip of mainland Canada. This will be the first bit of land for waves of birds during spring migration from the south. Point Pelee National Park was created because of the birds. It became a park in 1918 even though settlers and squatters had been here for a hundred years. But it was the birds that have continued to shape the future of this park. Now people come every spring... 100,000 of them in May alone... until they almost outnumber the birds.

Ellesmere Island

The most northern point of Canada is Ellesmere Island. Summers are surprisingly long in Ellesmere Island National Park, even though it's a thousand miles north of the Arctic Circle. Wolves are the main predator here. And musk oxen are their natural prey. To hunt larger animals like the musk ox, the wolves must work together. Even though healthy musk oxen are in little danger from wolves, if one animal is sick or lame, they may have a chance to capture it. The two have lived in balance for thousands of years.


Grasslands National Park in southern Saskatchewan is home to sage and sharptail grouse, and the only place where black-tailed prairie dogs can still be found in Canada. Like the American bison, they once covered the prairies by the millions. Before the vast prairies of North America were plowed into farmlands, fifteen to thirty million pronghorn antelope roamed here too. Their existence brings a sense of wild freedom to Grassland National Park.

Riding Mountain

The area of Riding Mountain in present day Manitoba was a trove of beaver pelts, and the voyageurs traded with the Indians here to obtain them. The beaver were once exterminated, but they have returned today. They cut down trees, but they build dams to create ponds and lakes, amounting to flood control for the whole region. These ponds are dependable water for moose. Hunted only with cameras here, the moose provides pleasure for many outdoorsmen in Riding Mountain National Park.

Waterton Lakes

We find Waterton Lakes National Park shrouded in winter snow. Winter winds funnel through mountain passes. Surprisingly, some creatures can remain here in Waterton Lakes Park because of the wind. Whistling swans and Canadian geese remain late in the season because some of the lakes are ice free... a direct function of the wind. Humans take refuge from the winds in the Prince of Wales Hotel... built in 1926. The hotel was built because this was a popular route into Glacier Park in the U.S., so the two parks became an International Peace Park in 1932... and signals a continuing friendship between the United States and Canada.

Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay

Valley of Ten PeaksRising above the continent itself, the massive spine of the Rocky Mountains dominates Canada's oldest national park, Banff... and three other parks that touch its borders, Kootenay, Yoho, and Jasper. At the base of a mountain, rocks fall mysteriously into the river. They are loosened by mountain goats that climb these vertical cliffs in early spring. A favorite resident of most visitors is the black bear, while in the valleys, elk prepare for serious battles they will face later on. The somber days of autumn reflect a conflict that revolves around these parks ...a clash between Parks Canada and those who would develop the parks even more.

Wood Buffalo

The voyageurs pursued their quest for furs through present day Wood Buffalo National Park, the largest in Canada... larger than Switzerland. The whooping crane, rarest bird in North America, winters in Texas, but nests in Wood Buffalo National Park... the only place it nests, so this park is designated by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site, of Canoeingglobal significance.


There are no roads in or into Nahanni National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada. It is a genuine wilderness, and if you venture here, you are expected to be self-reliant and responsible for your own safety. There is only one highway here... the Nahanni river. Only about 600 people a year travel it. A sense of mystery exists, as we pass places named Death Canyon, Headless Valley, and Broken Skull River. The centerpiece of Nahanni National Park is Virginia Falls... twice the height of Niagara.

Pacific Rim

HummingbirdPacific Rim National Park... where Canada meets the Pacific Ocean. The rivers drain a land lush and temperate... winters are short, summers are nine months long. It is a soft and inviting land. We see a female hummingbird regurgitate nectar into her young. Mule deer fawns, hidden by their mother, gambol in the grass. An encounter with them still satisfies our need for a romanticized national park experience.


Even further west lies Kluane National Park. It sits in majestic silence. Mt. Logan, Canada's highest mountain, is found here. There is more fresh water locked up in these frozen glaciers than is contained in all the Great Lakes put together. Kluane is home for myriad forms of wildlife also. It is most often associated with the Dall sheep... the white sheep of the north! The voyageurs and mountain men passed through a virgin, pristine land... taking great joy in it. They walked off into the winter of their lives... and sometimes they simply disappeared. But perhaps their footsteps still point us to a land ethic... to conserve some of the great wilderness, as embodied in Canada's national parks.

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