Adventures in camping, paddling and history in Lac La Biche
It’s not every day you can paddle your way around history. But you can in Lac La Biche County, home to one of Canada’s most unique provincial parks, Sir Winston Churchill Park, Alberta’s only campground that is on an island.
Our #TakeItToTheLake expedition took us around the island on paddleboards to explore why this is a must-do provincial park and region for fans of the outdoors, and anyone keen to learn more about Alberta and Canada’s history.
If paddling isn’t your game, then take the six-kilometre hike around the island on the Old Growth Alley trail, a spot that is a beautiful example of a healthy and thriving eco-system.
“There hasn’t been a fire on the island for over 350 years,” says Jaclyn Denman, Alberta Parks Development officer for Sir Winston.
“A tree’s life-span with our winters is anywhere from 80 to 150 years, but that means there is lots of decomposition happening of past generations of trees that provide amazing nutrients for the eco-system of wetland and boreal forest that the island is comprised of.”
For Matt and Trisha Klein, a couple of locals, who got out paddleboarding for our cameras, this is their spot to come for a little “wind therapy.” “Coming off the water you feel so relaxed, it’s so calm on the water, and just that little bit of breeze. It’s about getting out and feeling that wind on your face,” says Matt.
They don’t own paddleboards, but that doesn’t stop them. They simply call local outfitter, Off Road Rentals, a local Lac La Biche County business, which not only rents but delivers the gear to wherever you need it.
Norm Charest, founder of Off Road Rentals, knows Lake Country like the back of his hand and loves getting people out to explore the region.
“(This is) home to dozens of back- and front- country water-based adventures,” he says. That’s why his company’s paddleboards are inflatable and come with a backpack, perfect for this diverse landscape. Off Road also rents motorized toys, like ATVs and snowmobiles in winter. “I find here, 99 per cent of (our) outdoor adventures are hidden gems. Running a business that sees guests … get into these special places, it makes you feel good.”
Not only is the Lac La Biche County an outdoors lover’s destination, but it also has deep Indigenous roots, dating back millennia.
Be sure to stop into the Lac La Biche Canadian Native Friendship Centre. It offers a Spirit Program, which gives guests the chance to learn about the language and traditions of the Cree Nation.
As you can see from the video above, we had a chance to watch a youth dancing demonstration. Guaranteed, you’ll be impressed just like we were.
If you’d like to dig a bit deeper into a unique Indigenous experience, you can book one of two tipis at Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park campground, a partnership with the Native Friendship Centre. This is definitely not roughing it. You’ll have a deluxe setup with your own kitchen and a proper washroom. The tipis have been erected in true Cree tradition with the support poles set according to north, south, east and west.
WHEN YOU GO
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