Churchill Manitoba~

Oh course I have to lead with the bears. Churchill is often referred to as ‘The Polar Bear Capitol of the world’ and I do have more of them to show you. This is a different mother and cub from the ones I posted before and they are shot in black and white.

Churchill itself is a most remarkable and unique place. In the summer it is nippy, but in the winter, it is another story altogether. Hudson Bay freezes over and the polar bears are in their element. People, not so much. But clever and resourceful humans have adapted many ways to make life in this forbidding climate livable. Check out this polar research vehicle which you have to admit is pretty darn nifty. (In the background you can see an abandoned missile silo. More about this later).

Decades ago polar bear populations around Churchill were in very serious decline. Protection and creative bear management practices have brought numbers up significantly. This is the ‘Polar Bear Holding Facility,’ which locals call, “Polar Bear Jail.” Bears that cause repeated problems in town are held in this facility and then relocated by helicopter far away in the tundra. The town has a Bear Patrol, which is called out when bears become a threat, to shoo them out of town. These smart practices are saving the lives of both bears and people.

Inukshuks were used by northern Inuit people as traditional directional markers. An Inukshuk like this one symbolizes friendship and safety. Today, “Inukshuks have been transformed into worldwide symbols of hope and friendship transcending borders and welcoming people all over the world.”


Respecting the meaning of symbols like this seems more important than ever in today’s world.

Note: the femur bone at the bottom right of the photo. Most likely caribou. This is polar bear country after all.

Traditional Caribou Hall is a National Landmark and a town centerpiece.

My son is checking out the wreck of a plane that crashed in Churchill in 1979. All aboard survived, but what ends up in Churchill, often stays in Churchill, because the only way in and out of town is either a train ride that takes about 45 hours, or an air flight. The commuter airline that makes the trip between Winnipeg and Churchill is called “Calm Air.” It offers a lovely ride that we enjoyed immensely, even though some locals refer to the airline as “Calamity Air,” due to, errrr…..unforeseen weather variations enroute.

These are the community vegetable gardens. Vegetables are prized and hard to grow in this frozen tundra environment, so community effort is important. Recycled arctic buggy wheels make useful above frozen ground planters.

A traditional cabin built to withstand the arctic winter.

Our lodge was built of reclaimed logs and has this sign in front.

Churchill is filled with amazing open air art. Click on this link and read how and why this is so. You will be glad you did. The story is awe inspiring:

This abandoned building is a concrete blast shelter connected to a former missile test facility by underground tunnels. This facility operated in Churchill from the 1950’s until the mid 1980’s. All the missile testing buildings are now abandoned.

The seemingly endless miles and miles of tundra topography surrounding Churchill is stunning and utterly unique.

Cheers to you from amazingly beautiful Churchill Manitoba~

229 thoughts on “Churchill Manitoba~

  1. Timothy Price

    Churchill is a long way from everything on a land’s end. Beautiful photos, great artwork, and very nice they are working with the polar bears.

  2. Hi Cindy. I am really in awe of all your life travels that you have shared. The photographic journaling of your experiences is a wonderful sharing of what most will never experience. Love this post. <3

    1. My son makes every trip he joins us on much better. I think I would actually like to take the train. It would be incredible to pass through the taiga into the tundra and see the vast tracts of wilderness.

  3. His chronicle of excellent narration and his photos tell us about the beauty of the landscape and how majestic the bears look. With you we travel in first class. Regards.

  4. Wow! Cindy. Fabulous photos. The tundra landscape sure is inspiring in its wildness and beauty. The Romantic side of me would love to live in the wilderness in a log cabin and while not viable in my current life, maybe my next life on planet earth? 😀

  5. This amazing post goes beyond the portrayal of the polar bear. It shows important aspects of culture, people’s courageous attempts to grow vegetables and the fascinating landscape. Thank you for sharing your precious experiences with us, Cindy!

    1. Thank you so much more Peter, for recognizing, the wonder of people, especially those who find ways to thrive in challenging isolated environments with wild animals for neighbors.

  6. OMG, Cindy, I love your posts. You show me a world I never knew existed. Every picture you post, I want to be there. I guess I will have to live vicariously!

    Forty-five hours on a train. Oh, MY. I guess that would be like a traveling hotel.

    1. Thank you and love back to you. I thought the train ride was an impossibility for me, until I got here. This unique ecosystem straddles three distinct biomes, the taiga, the tundra, and the arctic. To be able to take a train from civilization (Winnipeg) through all this stark wilderness and changing ecosystems is now completely appealing to me. Plus, they have sleeper cars. I want to go~

  7. That would be an interesting train journey. Many years ago, we took a train from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (670 miles from Churchill, according to that sign) to Prince Rupert, British Columbia. We went through some amazing country, but I’ve never been to the Arctic. Thanks for the great photos!

    1. Wow that train experience must have been fascinating. I actually would like to take the train. The vast taiga and tundra between Winnipeg and Churchill would be fascinating to see. I hear the train stops in random places like trains in Alaska to pick up and drop off people, and it has sleeper cars.

      1. It was a great experience, by what was called VIA Rail at the time (don’t know if they’re still in business). We were in a sleeper car, with “uppers and lowers,” kind of like bunk beds. A totally different travel experience than flying.

  8. Amazing country considering its harshness. And very heart warming to hear the people and practices to keep the Polar Bears ‘alive’, a compromise that should be heeded by the many leaders around the world. There is always that compromise, it just has to be found 😀

    1. “a compromise that should be heeded by the many leaders around the world.”
      Amen! Why is it that some of our leaders don’t learn from other’s good examples and hence lead so badly. It is highly frustrating isn’t it.

  9. That polar research vehicle looks like a cross between a tank and a Citroen 2CV! The rounded back and the bonnet are both very reminiscent of a 2CV, while the extremely solid centre and caterpillar tracks instead of wheels are very tank like. Splendid pictures as always.

  10. What a gorgeous place! I would love to wander around the tundra and Churchill. But the bears. Hmmm. When we hike in WA state, I am overzealous about running into bears. How would I feel knowing polar bears were out in close proximity? Yikes.

  11. It is beautiful! I’m thrilled they have done something to help the bears.
    I checked out the artist’s article. I adore public art!!!!
    The best, makes me laugh, is the pole with the directions and mileage! a new age inukshuk!

      1. LOL! Practicing up for Quebec?
        There’s a Poutine place up the street from me. They have a sign outside “clogging arteries for 10 years”. LOL! <3

  12. Fabulous, Cindy! You know I love seeing the world through your eyes and am grateful each time you share this part of your life with us. Inukshuks, huh? My curiosity is piqued…these are lovely, btw. 😊👍🏾

    1. Your thoughtfulness is most appreciated Mya and sharing the experience with you makes it better. Inukshuks as a symbol of welcome to all in the world is a wonderful concept isn’t it <3

    1. Your history fascinates me Rebecca. I am home now, already thinking of returning, maybe in a couple of years in spring when the birds arrive. The train ride would be interesting too, crossing all that solitary taiga. I think I would love it.

  13. I’m glad you led with the bears – heart melting.
    I’ve never been to Churchill but I’d love to – for the bears of course.
    After years in/close to the Yukon those log buildings look awfully familiar.

    1. The bears definitely take the lead! How could they not. I was only in the Yukon for a few days. I was totally struck by the beauty. I didn’t know you used to live there. Lucky you.

  14. Oh my… what beautiful bears and photos Cindy and loved reading that these bears are now being protected more… Love the artwork on that building. And what a great way of recycling old worn tires in that community garden..
    Many thanks for sharing your travels and amazing photography skills..
    Much love your way <3

    1. Thank you Jennie. People who adapt to extreme environments fascinate me on so many levels too. First I admire them, and second they have an entire skill set I know nothing about. I always feel this acutely this when I am around them. Plus their lives are so utterly different and so interesting. I share your interest Jennie and thank you for letting me know.

  15. Thank you for introducing us to this remote part of Canada. I also read the story of the artists, which was heartwarming. I was particularly struck by the polar bear photo because both their postures and their expressions look exactly like those of my white Siberian Husky.

    1. Well, they do come from the same arctic climes. Lucky you, those are awesome dogs. Polar Bears are not actually white. They are black. Their fur are hollow translucent tubes that conduct heat from the sun where it concentrates on their black skin. They are mobile heat generators. This is also why they pant so extremely when the weather starts to get even slightly warm. They can’t turn off their solar heaters.

  16. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord Blog Magazine and commented:
    If you are not out dancing this Saturday night then I think you should at least go out on the town in Churchill Manitoba, but watch out the bear patrol does not put you in the lock up for troublesome visitors. As always Cindy Knoke brings the wild and the beautiful to us, especially grateful not to travel by calamity air!!! Head over and enjoy and watch out for bears.

    1. Laughing……Why am I not out dancing???? Calamity gets a bad rap. They are a wonderful airline. It is not their fault if the route can be a tad testy! Hugs to you Sally and thank you for your kindness my friend <3 <3

  17. Just wow Cindy. Thanks for doing my country proud. I especially loved the hand carved signs and had a chuckle at the fact there is a ‘bear jail’. Brilliant! <3

  18. Folks who suggest “may you lead an interesting life” is a curse need to follow you for a while to get an attitude adjustment. Churchill is yet another interesting place in your portfolio. (And I didn’t realize that there could be trees in the tundra.)

    1. Yes, that is a pointed quote isn’t it. The trees are stunted and sparse, with branches often growing on the leeward side only. They have shallow roots. There are berries growing all over too, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries. You can eat them but they grow flat on the ground like grass with no bushes and the berries are miniaturized. Completely unique.

  19. Great narrative story for the great pics. I’m assuming Churchill was named after Winston Churchill as it is was under British rule? Would be a great place to visit. I love the polar bear pics in all these posts. I have been to Vancouver, B.C., Alberta and Nova Scotia and one other province up in Canada on vacation trips in the past but not been to Churchill but would be awesome to visit there. Very resourceful people there it looks like with what they do to withstand the cold artic climate.

    1. Churchill is a unique place in so many ways, not the least of which is of course the mighty polar bears. Thank you Joyce for your thoughtful comments and cheers to you my friend <3

  20. Mandibelle16

    I had no idea about polar bears and their fur not actually being white. That was very interesting. I
    Also love the outdoor murals that’s very cool. I think they brighten up many places, be they up north in the wilderness or on the middle of a busy city. I like the beluga whales though and couldn’t help but think they like the polar bears are both-endangered and it would be a great loss not to have them.


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