Marsh Walk, Wild Bison and a Gorge Hike
After an amazing weekend in Winnipeg eating and exploring my way around the city, I’ve headed three hours northwest to get back to nature in Manitoba’s first national park. I’ll be staying in the town of Wasagaming within the borders of the park and sleeping in one of Parks Canadas oTENTik at Wasagaming Campground. Nature by day and campfires at night. A perfect escape from the city.
Opened to the public on May 30, 1933, Riding Mountain National Park is almost 3000 square kilometres and made up of three different ecosystems converging. There are the boreal forest, fescue prairies and aspen parkland bridging the two together. It is a wonderfully rich and diverse part of the province and huge thanks go out to those that fought to preserve this part piece of the Prairies for all of us to enjoy.
As I’m based out of Wasagaming in the southern portion of the park I’m highlighting three of my top things to do in the park. One is an easy hike through a marsh of approximately .57 km. A more rigorous hike of just over 6km one way is for those that want to really see some spectacular views of the Manitoba Escarpment and then the last activity is in your car driving through a herd of wild Bison. There really is something for all ages and activity levels in Riding Mountain.
Ominnick Marsh Walk – EASY This activity I feel is best done first thing in the morning or perhaps after dinner before the sun sets. You can do this walk as a stand-alone or as part of the larger and slightly more challenging South Lake trail. The Ominnick Marsh Walk lets you walk over the marsh on a boardwalk. You’ll see plenty of birds and if you’re lucky you may even spot a beaver hard at work. I spotted one but it was too dark to capture on my camera. Still quite cool though.
Gorge Creek – DIFFICULT If you are up for a more strenuous hike with amazing views then the Gorge Creek is for you. The trail does not loop back on itself so you either take two vehicles and place one at the beginning and one at the end or you leave enough time to retrace your steps back the just over 6 km trail.
I absolutely loved hiking the Gorge Creek in the Fall as the leaves were changing, but I can only imagine how beautiful it would be in the summer with all the flora in full bloom. My friends and I had our eyes out looking for wildlife. We saw lots of birds and evidence of four-legged critters being here recently but no sightings.
The end of the trail takes you to the East Gate, the last remaining early 1930s-style National Park gate in all of Canada. It is still in use today as the eastern entrance to Riding Mountain National Park.
Lake Audy Bison Enclosure – CAR TOURING I have saved the best for last. A self-guided car tour of the Lake Audy Bison Enclosure is truly a magical experience. With over 500 hectares (split between summer and winter enclosures) to roam the herd of over 40 Plains Bison are at home in their natural habitat.
As we were driving into the enclosure we had been warned that we may need to drive for a bit before we spot any of the Bison as they are wild and are free to range at will. The nature gods were with us that day as we spotted the herd within seconds of driving through the gate.
To the left and right of us, they were there grazing and rolling in the dirt. It was simply amazing. You are not allowed to stop and get out as the Bison are wild so we slowed down as much as possible and just put-putted along. We had no bad seats in the car as the Bison were all around us.
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There is a viewing platform you can stop at and sometimes the grasslands in front are where you will see the Bison grazing and roaming.