Summer Splashdown

Get your feet wet in these undiscovered playgrounds

Isle Bonaventure Gaspe in Quebec     Photo: Corel

With more than 169 million acres of protected land, 12 times the coastline of the United States, and about two million lakes, Canada's park system is one of the biggest and wettest on the planet. Despite its largesse, our good neighbor's national and provincial park system is still growing. Here are a few of our favorite recent additions.

BRITISH COLUMBIA
By late 2002 (barring any bureaucratic snafus), British Columbia will be home to 14,579-acre Gulf Islands National Park, which will gather several existing parks under one umbrella, increasing the protected area by about 50 percent. To experience this surprisingly Mediterranean climate, gather seven friends and charter a stately 46-foot yacht for a week of swimming with harbor seals, diving in search of rare six-gill sharks, and sailing among the 14 scabrous islands.
OUTFITTER: Cooper Boating (888-999-6419; www.cooperboating.com).
PRICE: weekly charter for eight costs $3,100, crew not included.
The new Stikine River Provincial Park in northwestern British Columbia combines with Mount Edziza and Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Provincial Parks to form a 2.7-million-acre paddling extravaganza. One 12-day trip starts in Smithers, where you take a seaplane to Happy Lake in Spatsizi. Then canoe west for five days along the upper Stikine toward a hot meal and warm bed in your own small log cabin at Laslui Lake Lodge. From there return to the river for seven days of whitewater canoeing.
OUTFITTER: Spatsizi Wilderness Vacations (866-847-9692; www.spatsizi.com).
PRICE: $1,800 per person.

NUNAVUT
It's three times the size of Texas but has fewer people than Northampton, Massachusetts. Auyuittuq (say "I-you-we-took") and Quttinirpaaq (just say it fast) were both raised to national park status in April 1999 when Nunavut became Canada's third territory. The two parks, totaling 14 million acres, offer mountain and tundra hiking across roaring glacial streams. Nunavut will soon add five or six more territorial parks, not to mention an additional 4.7-million-acre national park, Wager Bay, north of Hudson Bay, where polar sea kayaking is the sport of choice. The 5.4-million-acre Sirmilik National Park, on the northern tip of Baffin Island, certainly falls into the "untouched" category, and is another spot to sea kayak through deep fjords, then stretch your legs hiking and exploring hidden lakes.
OUTFITTER: Polar Sea Adventures (867-899-8870; www.polarseaadventures.com).
PRICE: $1,775 per person.

ONTARIO
Not to be outdone by its backwoods brothers, Ontario will add 61 new provincial parks this year. The Great Lakes Heritage Coast will stretch across 1,800 miles of Lake Superior and Lake Huron coastline, protecting 2.7 million acres from Thunder Bay to Port Severn. Sea kayak the remotest stretch, a 118-mile, 14-day paddle from Hattie Cove to Michipicoten Bay. En route, hike up to the base of 100-foot Dennison Falls, a favorite hideaway of Canadian paddling legend Bill Mason.
OUTFITTER: Naturally Superior Adventures (800-203-9092; www.naturallysuperior.com).
PRICE: $1,200 per person.

QUEBEC
Quebec has bolstered its already bountiful outdoor cachet by adding three new parks in two years: Parc National des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie, Parc National de Plaisance, and the 141,344-acre Parc National d'Anticosti, at the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River. Sea kayak along 300-foot limestone cliffs on the northern shore of Anticosti Island, and look for blue, fin, humpback, and minke whales. All park activities are run by Sépaq, the province's government parks division.
OUTFITTER: Sépaq (800-665-6527; www.sepaq.com).
PRICE: $1,000 per person.
—Ryan Brandt and Dan Strumpf

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