The designated corridor of the Seal River is 260 km long and extends from the junction of the North and South Seal Rivers, at Shethanei Lake, to Hudson Bay. The river is located in the wilderness of northern Manitoba, 1000 km by air charter from Winnipeg.
The Seal begins its course at Shethanei Lake, ringed by magnificent sand-crowned eskers, then passes through stands of black spruce and develops into a series of rapids and gorges. Beyond the boreal forest, the river flows into a transitional subarctic environment known as the “Land of Little Sticks,” and then through arctic tundra and boulder fields until it reaches the estuary on Hudson Bay.
The Seal remains the largest undammed river in northern Manitoba and exhibits numerous glacial features such as 300 metre-wide eskers extending up to several hundred kilometres in a north-south direction. The river corridor provides habitat for approximately 30 plant species rarely found in Manitoba, as well as for wildlife such as moose, black bear, wolf, fox, snowshoe hare, ptarmigan, Canada goose, ducks, otter and beaver. Particularly notable species found in the area include wolverine, golden and bald eagle, osprey, beluga whale, harbour seal, barren-ground caribou and polar bear.
The Seal River area played an important role in aboriginal hunting, fishing and travelling. There are a large number of prehistoric artefacts and archaeological sites in the area, with finds dating from the Paleo-Indian peoples of 7,000 years ago, to the Taltheili who existed from 1 C.E. to 1700 C.E. The river is also closely associated with the European explorer Samuel Hearne of the Hudson’s Bay Company who left Prince of Wales Fort, near Churchill, in February 1771 and followed the Seal River inland on foot to Shethanei Lake. Today, the Sayisi Dene, descendants of the people who assisted Samuel Hearne on his historic overland trek to the Arctic coast, continue their ancestors’ traditional use of and reverence for this river.
The Seal River offers an outstanding wilderness white-water canoeing and kayaking experience that only a small number of adventurers undertake each year. The challenging river trip includes cold-water lake paddling, long sets of rapids and a boulder-strewn tidal estuary. Hikes to the tops of eskers reward visitors with a 360-degree vista of a totally natural environment.
Who Manages the River?
The river’s estuary on Hudson Bay is the calving and feeding grounds for 3,000 beluga whales, one of the largest concentrations in the world. The river is named for the harbour seals (normally marine creatures) that are found up to 200 km upstream from Hudson Bay.