Bushcraft. The very word sends chills through my spine. Visions of pristine Spruce forests, campfires and shelters. Of working with the raw materials that nature provides to make my time in the wilderness a more comfortable experience.
Growing up in the city, my opportunities to head out into the wilderness were limited. Instead, my time was spent studying the skills laid out before me in books and magazines. Then, twice a year I had the good fortune to head north, into the forest to put my new found knowledge to practice. I remember these times fondly and while my efforts were rarely rewarded with success, I kept at it. Year after year, my skill set grew, bushcraft techniques became easier and more natural. Subconsciously I could look over the land and know exactly how I was going to work with the materials at my feet.
Fast forward to the present, bushcraft, and the principles around it, have forever shaped my life. I’m extremely fortunate now, living amongst the Spruce forests I once only dreamed of. It’s in these forests that I find the most rewarding components of life, not just in the making of fires or cooking over them, but in the lessons, the land teaches us each day. For while working so closely with the materials that mother nature provides, we learn a lot more about ourselves as well.
The landscape of Woodland Caribou Provincial Park, set within the Black Spruce and Jack Pine of the Boreal Forest, offers the bushcrafter one of the best environments to practice his / her craft. The moss covered forest floor, the white birch, over 1000 lakes, and an area that for the most part is void of human activity. Put it all together, and this land just may be the hidden gem we’ve all been looking for.
Look at all the top Bushcraft videos, websites, books, schools etc.. these days and one common thread present itself. They are all using materials from the forest and more often than not, from the Spruce forests of the north. For millennia, humans have been utilizing their skills and knowledge in combination with the materials of these forests to carve out a life, create shelter, cook food, boil water and generally, just live out a peaceful existence. Sound like fun? You bet it does and there is arguably no better place to do all this than Woodland Caribou Provincial Park.
At 1.2 million acres in size and with just 500 paddlers annually accessing the park, this is a massive swath of Boreal Forest just waiting to be explored. More importantly, it offers a welcoming environment to the bushcrafter to practice his / her skills, without worry of being overrun by other campers. No stealth camping here, nope, in all likelihood you’ll never see another soul out in the park so you’re left to do as you wish as long as you follow Ontario Parks regulations.
Why Woodland Caribou Rocks For Bushcrafting!
It’s all about fire. Fire is front and center with virtually everything we do up here and you’ll find no greater source of fuelwood than in the Boreal. With the forest continually coming down upon itself and a fire cycle of around 100 years, dry, dead firewood is found virtually everywhere. Winds, rains, and snows snap and blowdown trees throughout this land, snagging them on others ensuring the fuelwood source stays dry. Take a walk around our forests and it’s quickly evident that bone-dry wood is found in abundance. Add to this that most of the trees are 6″-10″ in diameter, making them easy manipulated by hand without the need for axes or saws (although they are essential tools to carry).
Also of note, within the park, once a permit is obtained, you’re free to travel and camp, wherever you’d like so carving out a comfortable home of the night, offers the bush crafter complete freedom.
A Note On Shelter Building:
Ontario Park’s regulations do not permit the construction of permanent shelters or structures within the park. Having said that, you are legal and free to use dead wood and materials to construct a shelter for overnight use so long as you remove the shelter when you leave the campsite in the morning. Bring the landscape back to how it was before you arrived and you’re all set! Leave No Trace practices apply here. If you’d like more information on the regulations of the park, please visit the following link. It’s a fairly lengthy read but it offers you clear direction on just what you “can” do within the park!
The requirement for food is an essential component in Bushcraft and once again Woodland Caribou Provincial Park offers the bushcrafter an abundance of options while keeping within Ontario Parks regulations.
For most of the season, wild berries are found virtually everywhere. Blueberries, Cranberries, Saskatoon’s, Bearberry etc.., all make themselves at home in this environment.
Mushrooms are also a staple up here with Morel’s coming out at the beginning of the season and Chantrelle’s beginning to pop up in mid/late summer.
The fishery within Woodland Caribou Provincial Park is world class. Walleye, Northern Pike, and Lake Trout are all found in abundance making it easy to grab a quick meal and offer an exceptional source of protein while out in the forest.
There’s something so special about harvesting a fresh meal from a northern lake, heading to shore and cooking it over the open fire. In Woodland Caribou, that’s the norm. Purchasing an Ontario fishing license is all that’s required to harvest several of each species daily.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen more and more bushcraft folks coming up to Woodland Caribou with just the staples in their pack. Perhaps some rice, flour, oats etc.. They do so with the knowledge that the land up here will provide the rest with a fair degree of certainty. I would always suggest that folks begin a trip with enough food to see them through, but for those that want the most authentic of experiences, Woodland Caribou Provincial Park is a top bet for ensuring that your bellies will be full each evening.
No Hunting / Snaring:
As per the Woodland Caribou Provincial Park regulations, no hunting / snaring is permitted within the park. Firearms are also not permitted.
Travel in Woodland Caribou ultimately is about freedom. Freedom to use fire, harvest food and use the raw materials of the forest to create a comfortable experience while in the backcountry. In a world of ever-increasing regulations and restrictions, it’s nice to know that bushcraft and all it’s components can still be practiced in a place such as Woodland Caribou Provincial Park.