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Black Bears, Moose and Birds, Oh My!

Algoma is home to the world's largest crown game preserve. • Credit: Algoma Country
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Black Bears, Moose and Birds, Oh My!

Explore the world's largest game preserve

When you hear "game preserve" it likely brings to mind African safaris with packs of lions lazing about, wild herds of elephants wandering the savannah, and cheetahs chasing down their prey. So you may be surprised to learn that the world's largest game preserve isn't in Africa. It's in Northern Ontario–in the heart of Algoma Country to be exact!

black bearThe Chapleau Game Preserve is home to strong populations of black bears. (Photo credit: Algoma Country)

The Chapleau Crown Game Preserve encompasses 2 million acres (700,000 hectares) making it the largest crown game preserve in the world. The first thing you should know about the game preserve is that hunting and trapping are banned (fishing is allowed) within its borders truly making it a place where wildlife abounds.

Healthy populations of moose and black bear flourish here and you may encounter are timberwolf, lynx and beaver, bald eagle, osprey and species of owl. This is the perfect place for nature lovers and photographers who want to view wildlife in their natural surroundings. It's not uncommon for some animals to be oblivious to human disturbances.

Wildlife Viewing Tips:

  • Be patient and stay quiet when trying to view wildlife.
  • Binoculars are still the best way to view wildlife at a safe distance.
  • Try not to wear strong perfumes or scents. This may deter wildlife but attract mosquitos and black flies.
  • The best time to view wildlife is morning or evening.
  • Safety First: there's always a risk when viewing wildlife and it's important to respect the animal's boundaries. Never approach a wild animal no matter how big or small.
  • Never feed the animals.
baldeagleThe preserve is home to many species of birds: bald eagle, osprey, owls, heron, ducks and sandhill crane. (Photo credit: Algoma Country)

Why a game preserve in the first place? Our story begins when the land was first inhabited by the First Nations: Ojibwe and Cree people who hunted and fished here. Archeological sites along the Missinaibi waterways have uncovered artifacts dating back to 2,000 years ago. Centuries later, the first Europeans came looking for new fur trade territory; big fur trade companies like the Hudson's Bay Company established trading posts in Algoma and by the 20th century, the railway was built through the area, opening up the land to hunting, prospecting and logging.

But these new industries, although bringing prosperity, were significantly depleting the wildlife. Chapleau resident William McLeod brought this to the Ontario Government's attention and on May 27, 1925, the Preserve was born.

Wildlife viewing is just one of the amazing wilderness adventures in the Chapleau Game Preserve: it's renowned for its historic canoe routes, once paddled by First Nations, Courier des Bois and explorers. If you decide to book a paddling trip with one of the area's guide services, check out this significant pictograph site: The Fairy Point Pictographs. Red ochre images of canoes, fish, caribou and mythical figures grace the rock surfaces at Fairy Point and can only be viewed from the water. The Fairy Point Pictographs face the setting sun and are illuminated just before the night sky sets in.

Missinaibi canoe tripPaddling the Missinaibi on a guided canoe trip. (Photo credit: James Smedley Outdoors)

Imagine a gentle paddle through the calm waters of the Missinaibi and pulling up next to centuries-old rock paintings. Gazing at the pictographs, you can't help feeling a sense of awe but also feel humbled by the experience. These images hold messages of sacred purposes or could be recorded dreams and visions. The rock paintings have stood the test of time, an ancient form of communication long before the days of cell phones, Facebook or Twitter.

Missinaibi canoeingThere are many amazing moments to capture for the amateur or professional photographer. (Photo credit: James Smedley Outdoors)

Five important things to bring with you:

1. Bring your camera because you want to capture those moments forever.
2. Bug repellant: a true must in Northern Ontario.
3. Light, long-sleeved clothing to protect you from bug bites and scratches and sturdy shoes help you keep your balance when hiking along wooded trails.
4. Map or GPS.
5. Your Sense of Adventure!

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