RV to Eastern Canada: 3 Great Destinations

From sea to sea, Canada is a land filled with fascinating places and amazing destinations for the RV traveler.

But, where to travel? Here are three great RV destinations in Canada.

Bay of Fundy (New Brunswick)

Hopewell Rocks. Many visitors make plans to stay for the whole day. They walk the ocean floor, then stay to watch the shift between low and high tides. It’s fun to see how quickly the tide comes in, or conversely goes out. Make sure to check the tide schedules before you go
Hopewell Rocks. Many visitors make plans to stay for the whole day. They walk the ocean floor, then stay to watch the shift between low and high tides. It’s fun to see how quickly the tide comes in, or conversely goes out. Make sure to check the tide schedules before you go. (Source: roadstories.ca)

A world-famous natural wonder, the Bay of Fundy tides are the highest tides in the world—in some areas of the bay, tides reach more than 50 feet.

Best explored at Hopewell Rocks, where you can walk around the famous “flowerpot rocks” at low tide then watch them slowly disappear. At high tide, enormous rock formations that once towered over you are now barely peeking out above the surface.

The time span between low and high tide is 6 hours and 13 minutes, meaning you can experience both in one day. Many visitors make plans to stay for the whole day. They walk the ocean floor, then stay to watch the shift between low and high tides. It’s fun to see how quickly the tide comes in, or conversely goes out. Make sure to check the tide schedules before you go.

And that’s not all—there are numerous other ways to experience the wonder of Fundy. Bike along the Fundy Trail, rappel down craggy cliffs, set up camp at Fundy National Park, head out to sea on a whale-watching excursion, or experience a billion years of Earth’s history at Stonehammer Geopark.

Ottawa (Ontario)

Changing of the Guard on Parliament Hill
Changing of the Guard on Parliament Hill (Source: cvc.com)

The centerpiece of Ottawa’s downtown landscape, Parliament Hill is the political and cultural heart of the city. The Parliament Buildings sit atop the Hill, the gorgeous Gothic-style structures overlooking the Ottawa River. Free guided tours are available daily, including a chance to head up to the Peace Tower for an incredible view of the city.

The Rideau Canal has become a defining landmark in Ottawa. The 126-mile canal, which travels south to Lake Ontario, first opened in 1832. Its 47 locks and interconnectedness with lakes and rivers is a true engineering marvel, leading to its designation as a National Historic Site of Canada and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A city landmark, the Chateau Laurier is one of Canada’s grand railway hotels. Having retained much of its glory; it features the turrets and other architectural elements of a French château, a rich, Victorian interior, yet offers modern amenities.

Other local attractions include Rideau Hall, home to the Governor General of Canada; the National Gallery of Canada; and Canadian Museum of History. Located 50 miles south of Ottawa, Upper Canada Village depicts life in a rural English Canadian setting during the year 1866.

Halifax (Nova Scotia)

Enjoy a scenic drive along Nova Scotia’s beautifully rugged South Shore to the picturesque and quaint fishing village of Peggy’s Cove. Watch the waves as they crash on the rocks in front of the world’s most photographed lighthouse.
Enjoy a scenic drive along Nova Scotia’s beautifully rugged South Shore to the picturesque and quaint fishing village of Peggy’s Cove. Watch the waves as they crash on the rocks in front of the world’s most photographed lighthouse. (Source: shoretrips.com)

Walk the ocean’s edge along the historic Halifax waterfront. Start at Pier 21—the gateway into Canada for one million immigrants—and then explore eclectic shops, some of the city’s best restaurants, and ships including the last of the WWII convoy escort corvettes.

Discover the oldest continuously operating farmers’ market in North America, and exhibits at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic including displays on the city’s link to the Titanic disaster.

End at the timber-frame and stone warehouses of Historic Properties—originally built to safeguard booty captured by legalized pirates called privateers.  Historic Properties is the first restoration project of its kind in Canada featuring three city blocks of Canada’s oldest surviving group of waterfront warehouses and some of North America’s finest Victorian-Italianate façades dating back to the late 1700s and early 1800s. Visitors can experience one-of-a-kind specialty shops, great restaurants, unique events, and boardwalk along one of the world’s largest natural harbors.

Other local attractions include the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, a large, stone early 19th-century British fortification located atop Citadel Hill; Halifax Public Gardens, a formal Victorian garden. Enjoy a scenic drive along Nova Scotia’s beautifully rugged South Shore to the picturesque and quaint fishing village of Peggy’s Cove. Watch the waves as they crash on the rocks in front of the world’s most photographed lighthouse.

Worth Pondering…

Canada is a place of infinite promise. We like the people, and if one ever had to emigrate, this would be the destination, not the U.S.A. The hills, lakes and forests make it a place of peace and repose of the mind, such as one never finds in the U.S.A.
—John Maynard Keynes

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Top 3 Destinations in Eastern Canada

From sea to sea, Canada is a land filled with fascinating places and amazing destinations for the RV traveler.

But, where to travel? There are so many reasons to love Eastern Canada.

Niagara Falls (Ontario)

A must-do when you visit the Falls, the Maid of the Mist is a 20 minute ride on a double-decker boat that takes you as close up to Niagara Falls as you can get without swimming.
A must-do when you visit the Falls, the Maid of the Mist is a 20 minute ride on a double-decker boat that takes you as close up to Niagara Falls as you can get without swimming. (Source: APT)

Niagara Falls, Ontario, is home to Horseshoe Falls, the most powerful waterfall in North America and possibly the best-known in the world.

A must-do when you visit the Falls, the Maid of the Mist is a 20 minute ride on a double-decker boat that takes you as close up to Niagara Falls as you can get without swimming. The boat stops and lingers at the foot of the Falls, 170 feet below the brink. Be prepared to get wet; disposable rain ponchos come with admission.

A trip to Niagara wouldn’t be complete without spending time on Clifton Hill, the entertainment hub of the Niagara area, with casinos, shops, a plethora of restaurants, and lots of kid fun. Ride the Niagara SkyWheel, visit Ripley’s Believe It or Not, or play mini golf. And there’s the Whirlpool Aerocar, IMAX movie theatre, and leisurely country drives to Niagara-on-the-Lake, vineyards and world-class golf courses, cycling and hiking trails.

Québec City (Québec)

Québec City holds both European charm and sophistication alongside its unmistakable French Canadian character.
Québec City holds both European charm and sophistication alongside its unmistakable French Canadian character. (Source: savvysugar.com)

Québec City attracts more than 4.5 million visitors a year, and for good reason. This fascinating city offers an experience unlike any other in North America. Québec City’s Old Town itself is a work of art: Cobblestone walkways, well-preserved 17th century architecture, café culture, and the oldest walled city in North America—all of which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Home to the annual Festival d’été international de Québec (Québec Summer Festival), Québec City holds both European charm and sophistication alongside its unmistakable French Canadian character. It also bears the distinction of being the place where Wolfe defeated Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham, securing Canada for the British Empire.

Home to the iconic Chateau Frontenac, poutine, the clip-clopping of horse-drawn carriages on cobblestone streets, as well as the New France Festival (August 6-10, 2014) and, of course, the world-famous Winter Carnival (January 30 to February 15, 2015), there’s always plenty to do, see, and eat in the capital of La Belle Province.

Getting around Old Town, the part that the majority of tourists visit, is best done on foot. Streets are narrow and crowded not to mention parking is expensive and at a premium.

Much of the pleasure derived from a visit to Québec City comes from merely wandering the old, cobblestone streets of Lower Town and drinking in the history, so much of which is evident in the city’s architecture.

Other places to visit include Chemin du Roy, Petit-Champlain District & Place-Royale, Musée de la civilisation, Battlefields Park (Plains of Abraham), the Citadelle, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, St. Lawrence River and Vieux-Port de Québec, Wendake, Parliament Hill, Île d’Orléans, Montmorency Falls Park, and the Shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré near Mont Sainte-Anne.

All your senses agree: You’re in France. But they’re wrong: You’re in Québec.

Gros Morne National Park (Newfoundland)

A landscape like no other, Gros Morne National Park is an area of great natural beauty with a rich variety of scenery, wildlife, and recreational activities.
A landscape like no other, Gros Morne National Park is an area of great natural beauty with a rich variety of scenery, wildlife, and recreational activities. (Source: triporati.com)

The second largest National Park in Atlantic Canada, Gros Morne National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site stretching across 697 square miles on the coast of western Newfoundland as part of the Long Range Mountains.

Gros Morne National Park is dominated by two distinctly different landscapes, a coastal lowland bordering the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the alpine plateau of the towering Long Range Mountains.

A landscape like no other, the park is an area of great natural beauty with a rich variety of scenery, wildlife, and recreational activities. Visitors can hike through wild, uninhabited mountains and camp by the sea.

Boat tours bring visitors under the towering cliffs of a freshwater fjord carved out by glaciers. Waterfalls, marine inlets, sea stacks, sandy beaches, and colorful nearby fishing villages complete the phenomenal natural and cultural surroundings of Gros Morne.

Beyond its awe-inspiring scenic beauty, Gros Morne National Park is internationally acclaimed for its unique combination of geologic features, an area where the earth’s mantle is exposed, clearly displaying the process of continental drift. The rocks of the area describe eons of geologic turmoil when old oceans disappeared, new ones were created, and continents took shape. The rocks in Gros Morne have contributed greatly to our understanding of plate tectonics.

Worth Pondering…

Canadians have been so busy explaining to the Americans that we aren’t British, and to the British that we aren’t Americans that we haven’t had time to become Canadians.
—Helen Gordon McPherson

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Bear Pulls Camper from Outhouse

A Winnipeg, Manitoba, man is recovering from his injuries after a black bear dragged him from an outhouse and slashed and bit him repeatedly before a friend intervened and shot and killed the bear.

Credit: tundracomics.com

Gordon Shurvell, 65, was home late Tuesday (May 21) after being treated and released from a hospital in northwestern Ontario.

And he can thank one of his best friends, Daniel Alexander, also of Winnipeg, for possibly saving his life.

The attack happened on Saturday at 6 a.m. at a camping site on Crown land about 36 miles north of Sioux Lookout, Ontario, near Dunbar Lake, the Winnipeg Free Press reported.

Sgt. David Pinchin of OPP Sioux Lookout said Shurvell and his 63-year-old friend were camping in the area when Shurvell went to a wooden outhouse and left its door open.

A black bear then dragged the man by his arm and shoulder, before biting him on the back of his head and neck.

The bear also slashed at his arms, neck, and head. The attack lasted about one minute before Alexander grabbed a gun and shot the animal.

“If you had seen your friend being dragged by a bear, how do you think you would react? Alexander told the Free Press.

“I reacted by instinct … when in a life and death situation you react by instinct. You do what you have to do. I shot the bear.”

Alexander said his friend was bleeding badly, but he managed to stop some of it before they quickly headed to the hospital in Sioux Lookout.

Source: myhaironfire.wordpress.com

“You have to understand bush life: we’re not five minutes from a phone, we don’t have cell phone service,” he said.

Shurvell’s son said it was a terrifying ordeal for his father.

“He was on the john … pulled right from the outhouse,” said Dan Shurvell.

“The bear had him by the shoulder. He’s scratched up pretty bad.”

The man went to hospital for treatment, including a rabies shot, said Pinchin. “He had puncture wounds to the back of his head and neck and slash marks to his arms and back of the head,” Pinchin said.

The officer said police have had a lot of calls about bears in the last couple of weeks, but those animals were non-aggressive.

When asked about the friend who shot and killed the bear, the officer said he would do “the exact same thing.”

“I would fight back and if I had a firearm, I’d kill the bear,” he said.

How to stay safe in bear country

Many people like to enjoy nature closely, by hiking in backcountry and mountainsides. But when you are in bear country, you should be careful and prepared.

Bear Safety Tips

Make lots of noise. Especially important when you are on a trail with restricted visibility, as well as those times when the wind is blowing towards you, meaning that bears will not have the benefit of your scent.

What is most important is for the bear to hear your approach long before you are within its personal space.

Travel in groups. Groups of people tend to make more noise, therefore reducing the chances of a bear encounter. Larger groups also offer the added benefit of appearing much more threatening and thus less likely to attract a bear attack.

Stay alert! Even though you may be making noise, it is still important to always stay alert and on the lookout for bears.

Always carry bear/pepper spray, and make sure that it is quickly accessible. It will be useless if it is buried in your pack. Bear sprays are an effective deterrent in very close range, emergency situations.

The black bear has an acute sense of hearing and smell but has relatively poor eyesight. (Source: oklahomawildlifecontrol.com)

If you see a bear, stay calm and give it plenty of space. Do not startle it; detour slowly, keeping upwind if you can, so it will get your scent and know you are there.

When a bear first detects you, it may stand upright and use all of its senses to determine what and where you are. Once it identifies you it may ignore you, move slowly away, run, or it may charge.

On four legs, a bear may show agitation by swaying its head from side to side, making huffing noises and clacking its teeth.

A charge or retreat may follow. Flattened ears and raised hair on the back of the neck indicate aggressive intent. If a bear runs with a stiff, bouncing gait, it may be a false charge.

Worth Pondering…

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

—John Burroughs

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Camping Without a Car or RV

A non-profit group is making camping without a car possible with a regular bus service between Toronto and key national and provincial parks in Ontario.

Starting June 29 (2012), the Ontario Parkbus Initiative will be running buses between Toronto and popular campgrounds, canoe access points, and backpacking trailheads in Algonquin, Killarney, and Grundy Lake provincial parks as well as Bruce Peninsula National Park, according to a news release.

Started as a grassroots initiative by two York University graduates and outdoor enthusiasts, the program runs in cooperation with Ontario Parks and Parks Canada.

Parkbus started as a private initiative in 2010 by a group of outdoor enthusiasts, with the goal of making outdoor destinations in Ontario accessible by bus.

After getting in touch with Mountain Equipment Coop, that provided them with an opportunity to conduct market research in their Toronto store, they created a plan and presented it to Ontario Parks.

Parkbus passengers are being picked up at Lake of Two Rivers Campground in Algonquin Park after a weekend of camping. Photo taken by Parkbus staff.

It started small with a pilot project to connect Toronto and Algonquin Provincial Park on a few select weekends. After meeting with Algonquin’s team and working out the details, they partnered with Hammond Transportation to make the service a reality in the summer 2010.

In 2011 Parkbus expanded its cooperation with Ontario Parks, and received sponsorships and grants, including Tourism Development Fund grant from the Ontario Ministry of Tourism. This critical support allowed them to expand the Algonquin service and to start developing new routes to Grundy Lake and Killarney Provincial Parks.

In 2012, Ontario Trillium Foundation made a key commitment to Parkbus project with a two year grant, allowing the initiative to expand and grow as it pursues a financially sustainable, long-growth model that will benefit people of Ontario, the province’s tourism industry, and natural areas that it now connects with Toronto.

Financial backing is provided by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, along with the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.

“Parkbus is bringing social, environmental, and economic benefits to our province” said Steve Bruno, partnership coordinator at Ontario Tourism.

Buses are operated by Muskoka’s Hammond Transportation, with one-way adult tickets ranging between $35 and $40.

During the 2012 summer camping season, Ontario Parkbus Initiative will be running buses between Toronto and the following popular campgrounds, canoe access points, and backpacking trailheads:

  • Algonguin Provincial Park – Bigger than the State of Delaware, Algonquin is Ontario’s most popular park and a world-class destination offering adventurers and comfort seekers alike their ultimate outdoor experience
  • Killarney and Grundy Lake Provincial Parks – Backpack the famous La Cloche Silhouette trail in Killarney, marvel at snow-white quartzite ridges from your canoe and your campsite, or enjoy a day away from it all at Grundy Lake
  • Bruce Peninsula National Park – UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve with sheer cliffs plunging down to deep blue waters of Georgian Bay, underground caves, orchids, hiking trails, and cozy resort town of Tobermory

Details

Parkbus

Parkbus is a project of Transportation Options (T.O.), a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering sustainable tourism and transportation in Ontario.

Since 1992, T.O. has worked on numerous successful projects, including award-winning Bike Train Initiative and the Welcome Cyclists Network.

Mountain Equipment Co-op and the Ontario Ecotourism Society are the collaborative partners of the Ontario Parkbus Initiative.

Address: 850 Coxwell Avenue, Toronto ON M4C 5R1

Phone: (800) 928-7101

Website: www.parkbus.ca.

Worth Pondering…

In every walk with nature, one receives more than he seeks.

—John Muir

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Happy Birthday Parks Canada!

The world may scratch its collective head when it comes to listing facts about Canada, but—at the very least—most know it’s a lot bigger than the spot they call home.

The Netherlands can easily fit into Lake Huron—with ample room to splash around.

Jasper National Park, Alberta. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s plenty to explore—Canada’s cities are new, dynamic, and evolving—but it’s the beauty of the massive forests, towering mountains, pristine lakes, and the land’s sheer breadth that enthralls many visitors.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Parks Canada and Alan Latourelle, chief executive officer of the Parks Canada Agency, is inviting visitors from around the world—to enjoy the nation’s 42 national parks, 167 national historic sites, including nine canals, and four national marine conservation areas that stretch from British Columbia on the West Coast to Newfoundland on the East.

“Canada! We have more square feet of awesomeness per person than any other nation on Earth,” the beer commercial shouted over and over during last year’s Vancouver Olympics Games, to a steady backdrop of national park scenes. And the locals all raised their glasses, for Canadians love their national parks.

Much of the development of Parks Canada has taken place during the past two decades, and the intent of the parks system has expanded to embrace more and more land in the name of conservation—not necessarily visitation.

Today, some of the parks are home to animals which have become very rare or endangered in most parts of their natural range. For example, Elk Island National Park in Alberta is home to a genetically pure herd of rare wood bison. In March 2011, 30 of these animals were shipped to Russia. And most of us know about the transfer of grey wolves from Jasper to Yellowstone National Park.

Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park, British Columbia (Credit: citypictures.org

Parks Canada has have restored bison and the black-footed ferret, thought to be extinct, into Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan.

The largest park is the Wood Buffalo National Park that stretches across Alberta and the Northwest Territories. At 17,000 square miles, it’s about the size of New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut, combined.

The smallest park is the 3.4-square-mile St. Lawrence Islands National Park in Ontario.

The most visited park in Canada in 2010, not surprisingly, was Banff, with a whopping 3,132,086 visitors—and over 3 million cameras. On the other hand, Quttinirpaaq on Ellesmere Island had just two visitors. That’s a lot of per-person space, as the park measures 14,585 square miles. And about a dozen visitors found their way to Tutktut Nogait National Park, which is about 105 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

As Parks Canada celebrates its centennial, it also faces challenges.

Eight out of 10 Canadians now live in urban centers, and a growing number have never visited a national park.

In the last 10 years, there has been a decline in attendance at the parks. In 2001, 22.4 million people visited the parks, compared with 20.7 million last year.

The agency has begun to address that decline with new advertising campaigns.

The organization has a lot planned to help celebrate the centennial including two days—July 1 and 16—that will offer free, one-day admission to all parks and historic sites.

A Famous Forts Weekend will be held from August 19 to 21 featuring festivities at many of the forts under the agency’s umbrella. The weekend will feature music, dancing, food, and—of course—the signature 100-gun salute.

Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. (Credit: Parks Canada)

My Parks Pass, a Canada-wide program, will provide all Grade 8 students free access (for one year) to any national park, national historic site, or national marine conservation area administered by Parks Canada.

Considered an international leader, the agency is celebrating successes at the same time as it works to attract a new generation of Canadians.

Some citizenship ceremonies take place in national parks and historic sites to introduce new Canadians to them.

“How can we continue to have our places be meaningful and really have Canadians connect to them?” asks Campbell, “That’s our biggest challenge.”

Parks Canada is working on nine new parks. The goal is to represent Canada’s 39 natural regions through the parks system; to capture a comprehensive representation of Canada’s flora, fauna and geology.

Happy Birthday Parks Canada!

Just the Facts

National Parks by province/territory

British Columbia: 7

Alberta: 4.5*

Ontario: 5

Northwest Territories: 3.5*

Nunavut: 4

Newfoundland and Labrador: 3

Quebec: 3

Yukon Territory: 3

Manitoba: 2

New Brunswick: 2

Nova Scotia: 2

Saskatchewan: 2

Prince Edward Island: 1

* Wood Buffalo National Park straddles the Alberta-Northwest Territories border

For more information visit parkscanada.

Worth Pondering…
Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…
— John Muir

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The World’s First National Parks Turn 100

What was the first country in the world to establish a national parks system?

Jasper National Park, Alberta. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you guessed the United States or a European country such as Austria, Switzerland, Norway, or Sweden you would be wrong.

This year, Parks Canada, the first national parks service in the world, celebrates its 100th anniversary.

Banff was discovered accidentally in 1883, when explorers fell through the roof of a cave into a warm, sulphur-water spring below. Sixteen miles around Sulphur Mountain and the Cave and Basin, were set aside as a National Park in 1885, predating Parks Canada by 26 years.

Other sites were added until 1911, when the Dominion Parks Branch of government was formed.

In 1911, when J.B. (Bunny) Harkin was appointed Canada’s first commissioner of national parks, he thought “the word park seemed a very small name for so great a thing.”

The number of visitors to the Canadian Rockies at mountain parks now known as Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Glacier, and Waterton Lakes was increasing and the federal government felt it needed to protect the magnificence of the region.

Moraine Lake and Valley of the Ten Peaks, Banff National Park, Alberta. (Credit: Parks Canada)

“Wonder, reverence, the feeling that one is nearer the mystery of things—that is what one feels in places of such sublime beauty,” wrote Harkin.

Today, Parks Canada administers 42 national parks, 167 national historic sites, including nine canals, and four national marine conservation areas.

More than 4,500 wardens, guides, scientists, and interpreters employed by Parks Canada oversee more than 145,000 square miles of federal land.

One hundred eighty countries now have national parks. The first, in 1872 in the United States, was Yellowstone National Park, which was “too big and too beautiful to belong to any private individual,” according to one of its proponents.

The Parks Canada mandate has not changed: “Dedicated to the people of Canada, for their benefit, education and enjoyment … to leave unimpaired for future generations.”

The national parks were direct results of Canada’s first national railroad, the Canadian Pacific.

Visitors arrived by rail and stayed in hotels built by Canadian Pacific Railway.

“The idea was not conservation, it was tourism,” says Jonathan France, director of the historical research branch of Parks Canada. “The main objective was an economic one, to show a return on the significant public investment in building a transcontinental railway.”

Born in 1875 in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, Harkin worked as a journalist and a political secretary before being named parks commissioner, which he remained until 1936.

Chateau Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta. (Credit: Banffnationalpark.com)

He promoted national parks for outdoor recreation and as a source of valuable tourist dollars. He built roads for public access. But Harkin also developed the idea of conservation, noting that man “is constantly changing the face of nature, cutting and burning the forests, plowing up the wildflowers, killing off the wild animals and birds, damming and polluting rivers, draining and diverting lakes.”

In 1915, the agency designated three pronghorn antelope sanctuaries in Saskatchewan and Alberta, and in 1917 the Migratory Birds Protection Act was passed. This established protection of wildlife on federal lands as part of Parks’ mandate and led, among other initiatives, to the creation of Point Pelee National Park in southern Ontario.

In the 1920s, Harkin was often in conflict with business interests that wanted to exploit coal, timber, and water in parks, leading him to enshrine their inviolability in the 1930 National Parks Act.

Foreign emissaries began visiting Canada to study Harkin’s methods. By the time he retired in 1936, Harkin had built a system of 13 protected areas that touched nearly every province.

Recognized internationally as the Father of National Parks, he remains little-known in his homeland. A 16-page booklet, containing excerpts from Harkin’s notes, was posthumously published in 1957. The Origin and Meaning of the National Parks of Canada, a seminal and lyrical gem, closes with this: “Man is a restless animal. He is constantly changing the face of nature. Even the face of Canada has seen many changes in the last 50 years. What will it look like a hundred years from now?”

Note: This is the first of a two-part series on Canada’s National Parks and its 100th anniversary.

Worth Pondering…
Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.
— John Muir

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Tornadoes: The What, When & Where

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms.

A sequence of images showing the birth of a tornado. First, the rotating cloud base lowers. This lowering becomes a funnel, which continues descending while winds build near the surface, kicking up dust and other debris. Finally, the visible funnel extends to the ground, and the tornado begins causing major damage. This tornado, near Dimmitt, Texas, was one of the best-observed violent tornadoes in history. Image courtesy Wipikedia

People, recreational vehicles, cars, and even buildings may be hurled aloft by tornado-force winds—or simply blown away. Most injuries and deaths are caused by flying debris.

A tornado is a vertical funnel of violently rotating air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground.

The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 miles (400 kilometers) per hour or more and can clear-cut a pathway in excess of one mile (1.6 kilometers) wide and 50 miles (80 kilometers) long.

Once a tornado in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, carried a motel sign 30 miles and dropped it in Arkansas!

These violent storms occur in many parts of the world, but the United States is the major hotspot with over 800 tornadoes reported every year. “Tornado Alley,” a region that includes eastern South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, northern Texas, and eastern Colorado, is home to the most powerful and destructive of these storms. U.S. tornadoes cause 80 deaths and more than 1,500 injuries per year.

Canada gets more tornadoes than any other country with the exception of the United States. Tornadoes are relatively common in Canada, but only in specific regions: southern portions of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. Tornado season in Canada extends from April to September with peak months in June and July, but they can occur at any time.

Tornadoes’ distinctive funnel clouds are actually transparent. They become visible when water droplets pulled from a storm’s moist air condense or when dust and debris are taken up. Funnels typically grow about 660 feet (200 meters) wide.

Tornadoes move at speeds of about 10 to 20 miles (16 to 32 kilometers) per hour, although they’ve been clocked in bursts up to 70 miles (113 kilometers) per hour. Most don’t get very far though. They rarely travel more than about six miles (ten kilometers) in their short lifetimes.

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Image courtesy Seymour

Tornado forecasters can’t provide the same kind of warning that hurricane watchers can, but they can do enough to save lives. Today the average warning time for a tornado alert is 13 minutes.

Tornadoes can also be identified by warning signs that include a dark, greenish sky, large hail, and a powerful train-like roar.

What causes tornadoes?

Thunderstorms develop in warm, moist air in advance of eastward-moving cold fronts. These thunderstorms often produce large hail, strong winds, and tornadoes.

Tornadoes in the winter and early spring are often associated with strong, frontal systems that form in the Central States and move east. Occasionally, large outbreaks of tornadoes occur with this type of weather pattern.

During the spring in the Central Plains, thunderstorms frequently develop along a “dryline,” which separates very warm, moist air to the east from hot, dry air to the west. Tornado-producing thunderstorms may form as the dryline moves east during the afternoon hours.

Along the front range of the Rocky Mountains, in the Texas panhandle, and in the southern High Plains, thunderstorms frequently form as air near the ground flows upslope toward higher terrain. If other favorable conditions exist, these thunderstorms can produce tornadoes.

This extremely dangerous tornado occurred on June 22, 2007 in the town of Elie, west of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The winds in this storm were rated to be between 260 and 320 miles (419 and 512 km) per hour, the most powerful tornado possible! The rare combination weather features converged this day in June, allowing for the most powerful tornado in Canadian history to be recorded. Image courtesy Steinbach Weather

The average tornado moves from southwest to northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction. The average forward speed is 30 mph but may vary from nearly stationary to 70 mph.

Frequency of Tornadoes

The meteorological factors that drive tornadoes make them more likely at some times than at others. They occur more often in late afternoon, when thunderstorms are common, and are more prevalent in spring and summer. However, tornadoes can and do form at any time of the day and year.

In the southern states, peak tornado occurrence is in March through May, while peak months in the northern states are during the summer.

Note: This is part 2 of a 3-part series on tornadoes

Worth Pondering…
There are two big forces at work, external and internal. We have very little control over external forces such as tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, disasters, illness, and pain. What really matters is the internal force. How do I respond to those disasters? Over that I have complete control.

—Leo F. Buscaglia, advocate of the power of love, 1924-1998

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