Churchill, Manitoba Canada

Churchill, Manitoba: The Polar Bear Capital of the World

Churchill, Manitoba, a town in northern Canada, is renowned for its polar bear population that migrates towards the shore from inland every autumn. This has earned it the nickname "Polar Bear Capital of the World," and has significantly boosted its tourism industry.

Geography of Churchill, Manitoba

Churchill is situated on the west shore of Hudson Bay, approximately 140 km from the Manitoba–Nunavut border. It is located at the mouth of the Churchill River on the 58th parallel north, far above most Canadian populated areas. The closest larger settlement is Thompson, approximately 400 km to the south, while Manitoba's provincial capital, Winnipeg, is approximately 1,000 km south of Churchill. Across the river, you can find Eskimo Point and Eskimo Island, with the former site of the Prince of Wales Fort.

The History of Churchill, Manitoba

The region around Churchill has been inhabited by various nomadic Arctic peoples, including the Thule people, the ancestors of the present-day Inuit, and the Dene people. Europeans first arrived in the area in 1619 when a Danish expedition led by Jens Munk wintered near where Churchill would later stand.

In 1717, the Hudson's Bay Company built the first permanent settlement, Churchill River Post, a log fort a few kilometres upstream from the mouth of the Churchill River. The trading post and river were named after John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, who was governor of the Hudson's Bay Company in the late 17th century.

The fort, Prince of Wales Fort, was rebuilt at the mouth of the river. The fort was built mostly to capitalize on the North American fur trade, out of the reach of York Factory. It dealt mainly with the Chipewyan living north of the boreal forest. Much of the fur came from as far away as Lake Athabasca and the Rocky Mountains. A defensive battery, Cape Merry Battery, was built on the opposite side of the fort to provide protection.

Environment of Churchill, Manitoba

Churchill is situated at the estuary of the Churchill River at Hudson Bay. The small community stands at an ecotone, on the Hudson Plains at the juncture of three ecoregions: the boreal forest to the south, the Arctic tundra to the northwest, and the Hudson Bay to the north. Wapusk National Park is located to the southeast of the town.

Aurora Borealis in Churchill, Manitoba

Like all northern communities in Canada, Churchill can sometimes see the aurora borealis (Northern Lights) when there is a high amount of solar activity and the skies are clear, usually February and March.

Climate of Churchill, Manitoba

Churchill has a very harsh subarctic climate with long, extremely cold winters and short, cool to mild summers. The shallow Hudson Bay freezes over in the winter, eliminating any maritime moderation.

Transportation in Churchill, Manitoba

Churchill Airport, formerly a United States and Canadian military base, is serviced by Calm Air operating scheduled flights connecting Churchill to Winnipeg. The privately owned Port of Churchill is Canada's principal seaport on the Arctic Ocean.

Demographics of Churchill, Manitoba

In the 2021 Canadian census conducted by Statistics Canada, Churchill had a population of 870 living in 389 of its 540 total private dwellings. As of the 2021 Canada Census, just over 56 per cent of the population is Indigenous and the rest (43 per cent) are non-native.

Attractions in Churchill, Manitoba

The town has a modern multiplex centre housing a cinema, cafeteria, public library, hospital, health centre, day care, swimming pool, ice hockey rink, indoor playground, gym, curling rinks and basketball courts. Nearby is the Itsanitaq Museum, operated by the Diocese of Churchill-Baie d'Hudson, with over 850 high quality Inuit carvings on permanent display. The Parks Canada visitor centre also has artifacts on display and makes use of audiovisual presentations of various topics involving the region's natural and archaeological history.