Hudson Bay Lowlands


Hudson-James Lowlands


Polar Bears
Polar Bears
© Parks Canada

... Though only at the distance of two miles, so low and flat was the land, that it appeared ten miles off, and scarcely a tree was to be seen....

The words of R.M. Ballantyne,
a clerk with the Hudson Bay Company, upon sighting this region.

THE LAND:

The entire region is a vast sodden plain that slopes gently toward the sea at a gradient of less than a metre per kilometre. Up to 85 percent of the region is muskeg or peat-forming wetlands. Such a huge expanse of peat occurs nowhere else in North America and in only a few places in the world.

This is a land more of water than earth. Water lies everywhere - shallow oblong lakes, rivers that meander endlessly, streams running nowhere, bogs and fens; up to 50 percent of the surface is covered by water.

Water in the form of permafrost underlies much of the region, resulting in landforms such as patterned ground, string bogs and palsas (mounds of frozen peat). In summer, walking is torture. Possibly nowhere else on earth are biting and sucking insects more abundant.

Tundra, Churchill area
Tundra, Churchill area
© Parks Canada

VEGETATION:

Approaching from sea as the first Euro-peans did, one sees a treeless land. Outside of alpine areas this is one of the most southerly expanses of tundra in the world. Separating the treeless tundra from the boreal forest is a mosaic of forest and tundra. Farther inland, dense forests of white spruce, balsam fir, aspen, balsam poplar and white birch occur on well-drained riverbanks and lake shores. Black spruce and tamarack spread over vast expanses of poorly drained muskeg.

WILDLIFE:

The region is famous for its polar bears. A unique characteristic of this most southerly population of polar bears is that they construct summer dens to cool off in. Some are more than six metres deep and have probably been used for centuries.

Willow Ptarmigan
Willow Ptarmigan
© Parks Canada

Caribou concentrate along the coastline in summer and winter inland among the boreal forests.

In summer the coast of this region is alive with birds. Lesser snow geese, small Canada geese, brant, tundra swans, oldsquaw, king eider, northern phalarope and a host of shore-birds nest here.


National Parks System Plan, 3rd Edition

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