Destinations Magazine - May/June 2018 - 52
Whooping It Up
Celebrating migratory cranes at a
northern cultural museum
Northern Life &
iving our past a future." That's the motto of the Northern
Life Museum & Cultural Center. Located in Fort Smith on
the Alberta border, its collection of 17,000 artifacts ranks as one of
Canada's most outstanding historical collections. Here, your group
can see a re-created trading post, trapper's cabin, and 1940s kitchen;
fabulous examples of beaded traditional clothing; a birch bark canoe
nestled in a river bank; and a well-pelted, hands-on fur trade exhibit.
The world's only migrating flock of whooping cranes nests in nearby
Wood Buffalo National Park, and the museum also hosts a display honoring these gorgeous, spindly-legged creatures. Hunted nearly to extinction,
today their population is around 600, with about 160 of that number living
All exhibits here tell the story of life in this remote, sparsely populated
province dominated by the grand wilderness. The museum also takes programming to local schools and groups. What's more, it offers a behind-thescenes tour for groups that allows its members to "slip on the white gloves
of a museum collection manager and learn hands-on" how the museum
collects, preserves, and exhibits its materials.
■ Northern Life & Cultural Museum | www.fortsmith.ca,
What's bigger than Switzerland and Canada's largest national park? It's the
Wood Buffalo National Park. Located in the southern part of the Northwest
Territories and northeastern Alberta, its gateway cities are Fort Smith
(where the park's headquarters facility is located) and Fort Chipewyan.
Black bears and bison abound here, so advise your coach's driver to stay
alert for unexpected beasts making highway crossings.
Why visit? Here in this UNESCO World Heritage Site, your group will
see one of the world's few herds of wood bison roaming free, a beaver dam
that's said to be the largest in the world, and a nesting sanctuary for the
last remaining flock of whooping cranes-the Whooping Crane Summer
Range. They thrive here because the park is home to a massive freshwater
river region, the Peace-Athabasca Delta, where all four of Canada's major
bird migration routes converge, bringing millions of birds in the spring
Nighttime is special in the park, since it's the world's largest Dark Sky
Preserve. It's so remote from city lights that evening viewing of the Milky
Way, stars, and aurora borealis are spectacular. An annual late-August
festival offers expert presentations and local events. To learn more, email
■ Wood Buffalo National Park | www.pc.gc.ca/woodbuffalo,
Wood Buffalo National
Park has spectacular
views of bison,
whooping cranes, and
the aurora borealis.
YUICHI TAKASAKA; © PARKS CANADA/CHARLA JONES.
Bison, birds, and stars rule a massive
remote national park