Northern Alberta

Photographer
Jeremy Mac Knott

Northern Alberta

This is a region of Alberta few take the time to visit, but those who do are met with a menu of experiences that might require a week or even a month. Towns and communities are the basecamps to fuel up and head out into the backcountry for nature, boating and camping adventures.

At the centre of it all is Fort McMurray. Here’s what one of our writer, Jody Robbins had to say about her experience there.  

“I’d never been to Fort McMurray and if you haven’t either, I bet you also hold assumptions about this northern Alberta city. Fort McMurray is best known as ground zero for oil sands production. There’s definitely energy here, but it’s not just in the ground. I discovered it’s much more than a hard working town. This vibrant community nestled within a picturesque valley offers a myriad of adventures for outdoor enthusiasts.”

Not far from Fort McMurray, there are lakes teeming with fish, First Nations experiences and endless backcountry to explore. Head to Grande Prairie, the site of the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum or a place like Peace River, which is just as tranquil as it sounds.  You’ll never see more spectacular Northern Lights, learn from shared cultures and mix in with locals.  

 

Province
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    Rockwell, a local photographer, has been guiding night-sky lovers for more than 20 years, helping them to capture on camera the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. It’s often a once a lifetime experience for many people who come here from all world to see the dancing bands of colours that can take on many shapes in colour.

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    As we cross the causeway to Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park’s Big Island, we stop to admire the view. Sunshine glints off the water and fishing boats, while cyclists cross the causeway. On the island road, the truck in front of us pulls over and waves us on.

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    The pike’s tail thrashes, splashing the sides of the boat. It’s a strong 10-pounder and it’s putting up a fight. This is the eighth fish on our lines in less than an hour but it’s my first. Not just my first today; it’s my first ever.

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    “I think we can get a bit closer,” Jamie says, and we paddle as silently as we can towards a huge American pelican. Soon, we are just metres away from the giant bird, and he looks at us curiously wondering what we’re up to.

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    Flying high over the waves, Nathalie Senez takes a plunging dive. Momentarily, she pops up again. Mere seconds later she’s back in the air. Senez is a talented athlete, no doubt, but she’s no superhero - she’s a flyboarder.

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    Tendrils of smoke curl from the kindling I’ve just set alight. Soon, the slow burning embers ignite and tiny dragon tongues lick the sky. Shawn Perry sets a pot over the fire, preparing to make tea from the leaves we’ve just harvested.

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    My heart thumps rapidly as I start the Sea-Doo’s ignition. It’s my first time jet skiing and I’m excited, but a little nervous. After the safety talk, I wonder if I should be wearing a wetsuit, or if I’m going to fall off, then relax as I look around the lake. The sun is shining, the lake is placid, and the water is warm. We couldn’t ask for a better day to go jet skiing.

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    Brian Hamilton, our captain, tells the tale of the Kinosoo, or “big fish” for which Cold Lake is named. Legend has it that a giant fish bit a Dene warrior’s canoe in two as he paddled across French Bay to see his beloved.

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    Frogs hop under fern leaves as trembling aspen whisper above. Sun filters through the high forest canopy as the breeze stirs the treetops, sight and sound combined bringing to mind a sense of shimmering.