Churchill is known as the “The Polar Bear Capital of the World”, because Churchill is the only easily accessible place in the world where humans can view Polar Bears in their natural habitat. Located in Northern Manitoba approximately 995 km north of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Churchill is only accessible by rail or air. The community of 900 residents is nestled on the shore of the Hudson Bay at the mouth of the mighty Churchill River. This unique community stands at an ecotone, the juncture of two ecoregions; the boreal forest to the south, and the Artic Tundra to the North. The meeting of these two regions provides a unique environment for the variety of wildlife found in Churchill. Churchill is the main Arctic Ocean seaport in North America with a rail connection to the south and an airport for transportation of goods and people.
Churchill isn’t just about Polar Bears, we have an abundance of interesting things to see and do.
- In the Spring & Fall, the sub-arctic coniferous forest, with its miniature shrubs and flowers located just south of Churchill, burst into reds, violets and yellows.
- See the huge boulders scrubbed smooth and round by retracting glaciers on the coastline.
- Many interesting species of plants grow along the coast, including black & white spruce, dwarf cranberry, dwarf birch, bearberry and crowberry
- Churchill is the premier viewing location for the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). Nowhere else in the Northern Hemisphere are the lights as bright and spectacular as there are here.
- There are more than 150 species of birds in Churchill. They can be seen from mid-April to late June and all through September.
- Beluga whales by the thousands visit Churchill each year in July and August and congregate in the estuary of the Churchill River. These mammals are highly intelligent, playful and curious and will often approach tour boats to have a better look.
- In the harbour, be sure to see the 5 million bushel grain complex. It can load grain at the rate of 60,000 bushels per hour.
History of Churchill in brief
The first Europeans to visit Churchill arrived in 1619 from Denmark. Jens Munk and his crew spent a long cold winter on the coast of Hudson’s Bay arriving back in Denmark with only 3 of the original 64 members of his expedition.
Before 1619, the area around Churchill was inhabited by many indigenous peoples. The Thule people arrived around 1000 A.D. and later evolved into the present-day Inuit Culture. Additionally, the region has been continuously inhabited by the Chipewyan and Cree peoples.
The Hudson Bay Company established the first fur trading post in Churchill at the mouth of the Churchill River in 1717. The town was named for John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, who was the governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company in the late 1600s.
After World War 1, Churchill was selected as the site for the creation of a major new northern shipping harbour on Hudson Bay, linked by rail from Winnipeg. The rail line finally arrived in Churchill in 1929 making it possible for commercial shipping to take place. Today the shipping port is mainly used to transport grain and other bulk cargoes.
Churchill was also the site of the Churchill Rocket Research Range. This range was part of the Canadian-American atmospheric research. The first rocket was fired in 1956 and the range was eventually closed in 1984. The site is now used by the Churchill Northern Studies Centre where Arctic research is carried out.
Ecotourism has become the major industry in Churchill, with more than 10,000 tourists each year who come to view the Polar Bears, Beluga Whales and other wildlife in their natural habitat. Click here to find Places to Stay in Churchill.