Woodland Caribou Provincial Park
The dry climate, well-drained plateau topography, and the proximity to the prairie have all contributed to the forest mosaic of the Woodland Caribou Provincial Park.
In its complexion and composition, the woodlands are mainly boreal (northern), with large stands of fire-dependent, lichen-rich jack pine on the dry, sandy soils of the uplands. In the river valleys, around some of the lakes, and on south-facing slopes, white spruce, balsam fir, trembling aspen, and balsam poplar form mixed stands with a rich and diverse layer of shrubs and flowering plants.
Fire has been and will continue to be the major architect of the forest’s mosaic. Over half of the park has burned within the last 30 years. Paddle almost any canoe route within the park and you may pass by forests in every stage of fire succession, from the black and soot of recent burns, to the sudden and colourful profusion of herbaceous growth that flourishes after a fire, to the slow return of a mature forest of jack pine or spruce. The ashes of forests past are the soils that sustain the miracle of forest renewal.
Throughout the park, there are reminders of the influence of the adjacent prairie. Prairie gray-stemmed goldenrod and prairie crocus are only 2 of the almost one hundred plants of the drier prairie habitat found in the park. The term “Prairie Boreal” reflects the similarity that the forests of the park share with the boreal forests of the adjacent prairie provinces, as opposed to the wet Boreal forests found elsewhere in Ontario.
– From the Official Park Map
An estimated 150 woodland caribou trek the lichen-rich granite hills of Woodland Caribou Provincial Park. Unlike their more social northern cousins—the barren ground caribou—the secretive Woodland species seldom form large groups or herds. Their survival strategy seems to be based on a pattern of dispersion, with individuals living and travelling alone or in small groups. Scattered about the hinterlands may give each individual caribou a better chance of eluding predators, especially timberwolves, lynx, or black bears.
The park is situated on a flat plateau of granite rock that’s about 2.5 to 3 billion years old.
The park’s most interesting and notable geological feature is a fault line that crosses the plateau from Wanipigow Creek in the west to Indian House Lake in the east. The fault, called the Wanipigow-Wallace Lakes fault, marks the contact and stress zones between two regions of sub-provinces of the large superior province of the Canadian Shield. North of the line in the Berens River sub-province, the rocks are intrusive granite, moulded smooth into “whale back” forms. South of the fault line in the Uchi sub-province, weathered granites again predominate. However, the composition and texture of the rocks and the rough, broken topography reflect the influence of volcanic intrusions. The straight, deep shorelines of Donald and Royd Lakes and adjacent long, linear creek systems trace the path of shearing and fracturing along the fault line.
Glaciers scoured, scratched, and moulded the ancient bedrock. With glacial retreat about 12,000 years ago, the land was flooded by the waters of Lake Agassiz. Sands and gravel deposited throughout ages of varying water levels filled the lowlands and linear depressions. The course of the Bloodvein and the Gammon Rivers follow deep-water deposits of gigantic post-glacial lakes. Woodland Caribou’s landscapes of elongated lakes, erratic drainage, abrupt changes in elevation, thin soils, bedrock outcrops, and massive boulders bear testimony to the slow resurrection of this island plateau from a tomb of glacial ice and deep, cold freshwater seas.