With the increasing popularity of Woodland Caribou Provincial Park as a top paddling destination in Canada, we’re constantly being asked about best practices and what is, and what is not acceptable or legal within the park. These are important questions and ones that deserve some attention. Below are some of the more common rules and best practices that will ensure you make the most of your time in the park, and also follow the regulations that help to ensure everyone has an amazing experience in the back country.
Firearms (sidearms and long guns), are not permitted within Woodland Caribou Provincial Park. This is one of the most popular questions we receive and it’s important for non residents to understand you are not allowed to carry any type of firearm within the park. We’re mostly asked this question as folks are concerned with protection from bears. Luckily within Woodland Caribou Provincial Park, we do not have a bear problem, mostly because we don’t have a “people” problem. Our bears are wild and not habituated to campsites and “scraps” as may be the case in other parks. Instead, we recommend that back country paddlers carry Bear Spray if there is a concern about bear safety.
No Cutting Of Live Vegetation
The dynamic Boreal Forest that covers Woodland Caribou Provincial Park is typically made up for Black Spruce and Jack Pine. Throughout your travels you’ll notice deadfall everywhere and firewood for campfires should be harvested from downed or dead trees. No cutting of live vegetation is permitted and this includes the cutting of Spruce and Balsam boughs to line a tent.
Wildlife – Do Not Pursue!
Wildlife, and especially the large mammals such as Moose, Woodland Caribou, Black Bears and Wolves are one of the main reasons paddlers make the effort to visit this park. With stable populations of these large critters, the park offers one of your best opportunities to view wildlife in a natural, back country setting. In saying that, it’s important to ensure you respect both the animals you’re viewing, and the park regulations. Photographing and watching is perfectly fine, however be conscious of the fact that when moving closer, the park’s wildlife may become stressed. It’s important to allow these critters ample room to “move on” and note that by law, you’re not allowed to “pursue”. As an example, should you find a Moose feeding in the shallows, it’s perfectly acceptable to keep your distance, watching and taking photos. Should that animal decide to leave though, it’s advised not to follow or agitate. Let nature do it’s thing and consider yourself lucky to have witnessed the situation first hand.
“Bear Proofing” Your Food
While there are different ideas and theories as to how best protect / store your food while in camp, blue camping barrels are quickly become the norm within the park and other wilderness areas. Available in both 30 and 60 litre sizes, these barrels are air tight and waterproof ensuring that no food smells escape. They also make for a comfy camp chair and will guarantee that your food stays where it should. We recommend tying it up to the base of a tree at night to ensure that it’s not carried away should a Bear come into camp. Tying a small Bear Bell onto the barrel harness will also ensure your food stays where it should and that you’ll be alerted should something begin messing with it at night.
For those that are more comfortable traveling with a food pack, that’s perfectly acceptable. Hanging would be the preferred method of storing it and although this is a fire driven landscape, there is likely always going to be a few trees around to hang, even if you’re in a freshly burned out area of the park.
For the most part, when venturing into Woodland Caribou, you’ll be accessing campsites that see minimal use each season. In saying that, it’s never a pretty sight when you pull up to your final resting place for the day, only to find “white flags” in close proximity to the tent pads or common areas. We’d ask that when nature calls, take a good long walk behind your campsite. Make an enjoyable short hike out of it traveling 200 – 300′ behind your camp. Kick up the moss or soil on the forest floor, make your deposit and then cover it back up with the moss or soil. In doing so, you’ll be ensuring that nobody will ever have the pleasure of knowing where you did your “business” and you’ll be doing your part to keep the area as pristine as possible!
Non – Designated Campsite System
Woodland Caribou Provincial Park does not currently have designated campsites. In saying that, there are currently over 2000 known campsites and its best practice to use the sites that are currently available. Most lakes offer several options. In saying that, should you wish to head off the beaten path, or be caught out late in the day, paddlers are free to camp where they choose within the park. Be sure to follow park regulations by not cutting any live vegetation or clearing areas though.
Maximum Group Size Per Campsite
Within the park, a maximum of 9 people are permitted to camp on each site per night. Luckily most lakes have several campsites adjacent to each other so large groups should have no problem spreading out. This rule is in place for many reasons including ensuring sites are not denuded of firewood or heavily impacted with loss of vegetation due to multiple tent pads. Please note, it’s perfectly acceptable for large groups to travel together during the day, lunch together etc… You just have to split into groups of 9 or less for the night.
While there are many different theories out there for handling garbage, we recommend that all burnable garbage is burned. Upon registering for a trip, paddlers will be given a garbage bag to keep with them to dispose of all non burnables. For items that can burn, ensure that it’s thoroughly burned and no evidence is left in your fire area when leaving your campsite. Remember, pack it in, pack it out!
While the waters within the park are some of the cleanest in the world, it’s recommended that you filter your drinking water. With the prevalence of Beavers and other critters in the park, Giardia (Beaver Fever), is always a possibility. There are several models of simple and effective water filters available on the market so make sure to pack one and you’ll enjoy piece of mind on your adventure.
Disposing of Fish
Many paddlers visit Woodland Caribou to enjoy the world class fishing opportunities available. Feasting on freshly caught Walleye, Pike and Lake Trout is a true privilege, yet time and time again we see folks disposing of fish entrails near their campsite or in the fire area of a campsite. Please DO NOT DO THIS! Best practice is to clean your fish away from camp and then dispose of the entrails on an exposed rock. The Eagles, Ravens and Gulls will make short work of the carcasses and you’ll ensure that your campsite stays odour free!
Cans & Glass
Glass of any kind is not permitted within Woodland Caribou Provincial Park. Please make sure to carefully go through your equipment before heading into the park. There are several types of reusable plastic containers that can be used in place of a glass bottle or jar. Nalgene makes several such containers that are of high quality, and virtually never leak.
Cans however can be carried into Woodland Caribou. For those bringing them in, please ensure you pack out all can’s. Best practice is to burn off any food smells from a used can, then crush it once all residues are burned off. Throw it into your garbage bag and you’re all set.
Permits are now available both at our outfitting shop in Red Lake, or online at the following website https://reservations.ontarioparks.com/backcountry.
By ensuring you comply with park regulations and that you understand the best practices of travel in the Boreal Forest, you can do your part in creating a positive experience for yourselves and those that come well after you’re gone.
For more detailed information on park rules and regulations, please drop us a line at 877-305-2839 or send us and email!