Churchill Field Notes and Photos – Aurora Season

The first groups of travelers have been experiencing dramatic cold and sensational northern lights in Churchill these last couple of weeks. Here are some pictorial field notes from the far north and northern lights season guru Brad Josephs. So much of what Nat Hab’s aurora borealis trips encompass is more than seeing the northern lights. The amazing train trip north and stops at Pisew Falls and Thompson leading to the journey through boreal forest and taiga coming to rest in Churchill. Dog-sledding, igloo building, curling and various other cultural experiences make this an unforgettable adventure. Northern lights above the vast frozen Hudson Bay is more often than not the proverbial “icing on the cake”! Enjoy

Nat Hab group in Churchill

Natural Habitat Adventures group with guide Brad Josephs. Brad Josephs photo.


dog sledding in Churchill

Dog – sledding in Churchill. Brad Josephs photo.


boreal forest in Churchill

Moonscape above the boreal forest before the aurora appeared in Churchill. Brad Josephs photo.


aurora borealis in Churchill, Wapusk Adventures

Northern lights above Wapusk Adventures tee – pee and boreal forest. Brad Josephs photo.


Natural Habitat Aurora Pod Churchill

Northern lights action at the Natural Habitat Aurora Pod. Brad Josephs photo.

Natural Habitat travelers in Churchill.

Natural Habitat Adventures travelers beneath the northern lights in Churchill. Brad Josephs photo.

Churchill Sunday Photo – Pisew Falls

An awesome shot of Pisew Falls on the road to Thompson. Natural Habitat Adventures groups heading to Churchill get off the train in Wabowden and take a coach to Thompson to reconnect with the train in Thompson. I have had the pleasure of guiding many travelers to this spot over the years and this is always an epic photo opportunity. A boardwalk down into the forest stops at a overlook platform where one can get views like this. Enjoy!

Pisew Falls

Pisew Falls on the road to Thompson. Moira LaPatourel photo.

Notes From the Field-Northern Lights

Travelers to Churchill on Natural Habitat’s northern lights tours have been enjoying clear skies and pristine, powdery white snow in Winnipeg as well as in Churchill these days.

The Hudson Bay and Churchill River are frozen solid and aurora borealis displays have been extraordinary over the frozen tundra around Churchill. This ice coverage chart from the Canadian Ice Service shows the extensive coverage of thick pack ice.

Hudson Bay - WIS54CT - 2015-02-09 18:00:00 UTC

While nights in Churchill are consumed with searching out and viewing aurora borealis, days and early evenings leading up to these exciting excursions are filled with natural and cultural activities unique to the isolated village of Churchill.

Guide Karen walker’s group had some fun experiences in Thompson en route to Churchill. A Heritage Museum visit and a walk along the Burntwood River set up a thrilling visit to frozen Pisew Falls…always the highlight of the journey through the nickel belt.

Pisew Falls outside Thompson, MB.

Dog sledding with Churchill River Mushers or Wapusk Adventures gives everlasting memories from an experience of a lifetime. Dogs crying with enthusiasm and the stabbing cold seem to “burn” a memory in one’s mind forever. Karen’s group went on an extended run winding in and out of the boreal forest. Travelers spent some time in Kelly’s trapper’s tent and heard stories of the north over coffee or hot chocolate.

Dogsledding in Churchill. Joseph Lin photo.

Dogsledding in Churchill. Joseph Lin photo.

The optimal night of northern lights in Churchill was a swirling display of greens culminating in a circular pattern over the Hudson Bay. Each night had aurora though this particular night was the pinnacle of the trip.

Aurora over the "aurora domes", a prime indoor spot to photograph the lights. Photo Brad Josephs.

Aurora over the “aurora domes”, a prime indoor spot to photograph the lights. Brad Josephs photo.

Another activity out at the Churchill Northern Studies Center involved snow sampling and analyzing the snowflake from its inception to it becoming a part of the snow pack. Igloo building instruction also is taught by some local experts and the group returns the following night to photograph the igloo with aurora overhead.

Pisew Falls amazing in Winter

Pisew Falls outside Thompson, MB.

Beautiful. frozen Pisew Falls outside Thompson ,MB. Karen Walker photo.

Voyaging by train to Churchill from Winnipeg can be an enduring pilgrimage. A minimum of 36 hours before one arrives in the historic wooden depot in Churchill...and that’s being optimistic. So, disembarking in the middle of the middle of the trip can really lift the spirits of travelers.

Natural Habitat aurora trip guide Karen Walker and a recent group heading to Churchill to view aurora and get a feel for northern living and climate found a gem in the heart of the Manitoba back country…just off the tracks. Arriving on Louis Riel day in Thompson, the group took a coach to the magnificent site of Pisew Falls and made the short trek down into the forest for a close look from observation platforms. The frigid cold of the Winter veils the falls and rushing river in an icy covering. Quite a magnificent sight!

Pisew Falls under icy camouflage.

Pisew Falls covered with ice. Photo Karen Walker

On a beautiful, blue-sky day, the group spent time exploring Pisew Falls Provincial Park, the encompassing forested area around the falls. The travelers trekked along the trail in the winter wonderland, snow-covered boreal forest to the impressive Rotary suspension bridge spanning the Grass River.  After sliding down the snow covered stairway, some folks continued across the bridge to the top of the waterfall. ” It was so calm above the falls, then the water gushes over the edge.  The frozen stalactites were beautiful.” ; reported Karen. A memorable stop in time …at least it feels like time is stopped in these conditions.

Suspension bridge over the Grass river in Manitoba.

Suspension bridge spanning the Grass River in Manitoba, Canada. Karen Walker photo.

This area has always been one of my favorite places on my many, many train treks to Churchill for Summer expeditions...I love the secluded feel of the spot buried down in the forest. Birding here and at Sasikew rapids not far down the road was always a welcome break from the confines of the train. The transient beauty would get travelers in the mood for even more wildness in Churchill. The Winter feel only adds to the mystique of this very special hideaway in the deep woods of Manitoba.

Pisew Falls near Thompson ,MB.

Pisew Falls spits out frost spray. Karen Walker photo.


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