Churchill, Manitoba: Polar Bears and Northern Lights

Churchill, Manitoba: Polar Bears and Northern Lights

Charlie and I participated in Fantasy RV Tours’ 15-day Polar Bear Migration trip. This was our second trip with Fantasy. Our first trip was to Alaska. Like that trip, much of our route was in remote areas, for long stretches. Because of this, we thought that it would be better to travel in a group. The trip began at the International Peace Gardens, along the US-Canada border, just north of Dunseith, North Dakota.

The International Peace Garden ( was established in 1932, as a symbol of the peaceful relationship between the US and Canada. I’m sure it is beautiful in the summertime. The park plants over 150,000 flowers each year. Some were still present while we were there, but most were gone.

There are a lot of peaceful hiking trails and small lakes within the Garden where one can take in nature.

We enjoyed checking out the North American Game Warden Museum, located within the Garden. This museum was created to raise awareness of the important role game wardens and conservation officers play in protecting so many of our natural resources.

There is also a meaningful 9-11 memorial. Looking at the metal structure pieces really makes you think about the tragedies of that day.

In the tiny town of Dunseith, ND, a short drive from the Peace Gardens, we found this huge Turtle sculpture, made out of tire rims. Dunseith is located in the Turtle Mountains, hence, the sculpture.

I should have taken a picture of the roads in the area, as you go up and down and up and down……like traveling over a bunch of turtle backs. I did get a picture from Butte St. Paul, a nice overlook in the area.

On the Canadian side of the border, they also have a Turtle sculpture.

After our group congregated in the Peace Gardens we began our trek to Churchill, Manitoba. There were 17 RVs in our group, led by some great, well experienced, Wagonmasters; Bill and Esthermay.

Charlie and I brought up the rear of the RV group, as Tailgunners. Our first overnight stop was in Dauphin, Manitoba. We had a busy afternoon there. We started with Tea Time and a tour of the Fort Dauphin Museum. The best part was the stone oven-baked bread!

We ended our afternoon with a tour of an old Ukrainian Church and an authentic home-cooked Ukrainian dinner. We were treated to a dance show as well. Everything was amazing!

Our next overnight stop was in The Pas, Manitoba. On the way there we passed through Swan River and noticed this enormous swan sculpture.

We didn’t arrive in The Pas until late in the day and we simply parked in the parking lot of a local casino. So, no highlights from The Pas. We were there on the evening of September 26th. I point this out because we happened to be in a great area to see Northern Lights and as luck would have it there was a solar storm that day, leading to brilliant, and rare, colors.

When I saw on the Aurora app that we were in a highly active area Charlie and I jumped in our Jeep and drove about 15 minutes down the road to a very dark Provincial Park. It was a great spot to see the lights, as we had a lake on one side of the road and the Boreal Forest on the other side. We couldn’t believe how active the lights were and the amazing colors we were seeing. We photographed them from 11:30 pm to 1:00 am. It was hard to leave.

Our next day of travel took us from The Pas to Thompson, Manitoba. On the way, we stopped at Pisew Falls. It was a very short walk down to the falls.

There was also a very nice swaying bridge there.

As we prepared to leave Pisew Falls we got word that one of the RVs in our group had some maintenance issues and was stranded on the side of the road, just a mile or two down the road from the Falls. We unhooked our Jeep from the motorhome and Charlie went to see if he could help. Another one of the group participants was already there, under the motorhome, trying to fix the issue, to no avail. We were less than an hour away from Thompson, but getting a tow truck was not an easy task. Long story short, after about 5-6 hours of being stranded on the side of the road a tow truck came and towed the motorhome to Thompson. The good news is that we were flying out of Thompson to Churchill so the repair shop had plenty of time to get the motorhome fixed before we were due to hit the road again.

The whole purpose of our trip was to get to Churchill in hopes of seeing Polar Bears out on the Tundra. Well, we did! Upon our arrival, we were picked up by the funniest tour guide, Rhonda. She was responsible for transporting us around Churchill, and to the Tundra Buggy, during our stay. She was also responsible for making sure that we understood that polar bears can be found walking around town, and that they are very dangerous. You see warning signs all around town. We were very limited with where we could walk. As a matter of fact, a polar bear was found walking the streets of the town in the middle of the night while we were there.

Needless to say, we didn’t go out in the middle of the night looking for Northern Lights while we were in Churchill. Churchill is a very small town. There are no roads leading there. You have to come by plane, train, boat or snowmobile (in the winter). Below are some photos from our tour around town with Rhonda. The murals are stunning.

The most interesting structure is the Polar Bear Jail. This facility is used to house unruly bears until the waterway freezes and they can go off in search of seals.

These are photos I took from the plane. It shows the small town of Churchill, surrounded by water and Tundra.

We spent two and a half days out on the Tundra in one of these fancy Tundra Buggies.

The ride can be a bit bumpy at times, as the terrain is very rough in places.

We were fortunate to see a number of polar bears during our time in Churchill. A couple of them were pretty far away, but visible with binoculars. A mom and her two cubs were very close, but they were running across the street, in front of Rhonda’s bus, early in the morning. They were too quick for us to get any pictures. Then we had one that came right up to the Tundra Buggy. We came across this bear a few times during the day.

We also found an arctic fox.

And an arctic hare.

I’m not sure what type of birds these are. But, they must be pretty durable to sustain the brutal winters of Churchill.

After a fun-filled few days in Churchill, we flew back to Thompson, to our RVs. We visited the Heritage Museum in Thompson. There are a lot of interesting artifacts in this small museum.

At night, we were blessed with more Northern Lights. These didn’t have the spectacular colors seen the week prior, during the solar storm. Regardless, they were amazing and fun to see. We were able to see them from our campground.

Charlie and I drove down the street, to the river, and watched the lights from there as well.

From Thompson, we worked our way down to Winnipeg. We had a couple of unexpected issues to deal with on the way. The first was that one of the motorhomes in our group pulled off to the side of the road for a quick stop. The dirt, off the pavement, was not supportive and his tires quickly sank. Others in our group saw the issue, stopped, and helped dig him out. The second was that our Wagonmasters had a breakdown. Fortunately, they were only a mile away from a rest area. When Charlie and I rolled up on them we were able to help get them there. They were down for the count for two nights. They had to get a service person to drive 4 hours (one way) to the remote location to repair the motorhome. The first attempt failed so the tech had to make two trips there (16 hours of driving). On the final trip, the tech’s car broke down, just 30 minutes from the Wagonmaster’s location! In the end, it all worked out. Charlie and I filled in for the Wagonmasters until they were able to rejoin the group in Winnipeg. We had such a fabulous group of people traveling with us. Everybody was so helpful when these unexpected issues arose.

In Winnipeg, we visited the Royal Canadian Mint, the Human Rights Museum, The Forks Market, and strolled through a really neat sculpture garden. The sculptures by Leo Mol are beautiful, as is the English Garden.

We ended our Fantasy Tour with a fabulous dinner at Resto Gare and Train Bar Bistro. The food and ambiance were great. I loved how we got to eat in a train car.

We loved traveling with Fantasy on this trip and absolutely loved the group we traveled with.

After departing the tour in Winnipeg we worked our way to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I’ll try to get that post published soon. Until then……

6 thoughts on “Churchill, Manitoba: Polar Bears and Northern Lights

  1. We met Charlie today in the neighborhood and he told us about your blog. Wow! What an amazing trip and the northern lights and polar bear photos are spectacular. I also loved the polar bear jail. What a hoot!
    Thanks for sharing these beautiful photos!

  2. Wow! Even with the challenges, you got what you came for and that’s just awesome. Those solar storm photos are out of this world (no pun intended – obvs) and I can see the individual hairs on that polar bear! Your photos are stunning! Of course, my favorite part is the polar bear shaped jail for wayward polar bears. Hilarious!

    1. Thank you for the note Laura. It was amazing to see the Northern Lights in all of their splendor! Looks like you have made your move to Portugal. Congratulations! I hope you thoroughly enjoy it there. Maybe we will make it there next Spring. I’ll let you know if we do.

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