originally published January 21, 2013
In 2007, The National – one of Canada’s nation-wide nightly news broadcasts – ran a competition to track down the Seven Wonders of Canada. I’ve written a few articles on the various incarnations of the ‘Seven Wonders’ concept, but this one truly irks me. Canadians voted – I didn’t, but many of my countrymen who actually cared did – then a panel of CBC ‘experts’ voted on which Wonders made the list.
I don’t know why they bothered to poll the nation, only to hand the list over to a trio of talking heads to make the pick. They selected Roberta L. Jamieson, the first woman to receive a law degree in Canada, Roy MacGregor, who covers hockey for the Globe & Mail, a national paper, and the guitar player from Trooper.
Why these people had a greater say than the citizens of this country, I have no idea. But they did, and the end result was that they selected only two of the top seven voted upon by Canadians. Among the other five chosen, three don’t even make sense. The canoe? Prairie skies? The friggin’ igloo?
No, those get tossed. Prairie skies are lovely, but I’m sure there are plenty of flat-scapes around the globe that look similar. And nothing should be a national wonder if you can build it easily in another country. No, I’m going with the voter selections. Mostly.
Without a doubt, this Wonder freaked out a few impressionable children in Thunder Bay, Ontario, a city about as close to the middle of nowhere as you can get. It consists of a crowd of mesas and sills on the Sibley Peninsula, which juts like an exclamation mark into the waters of Lake Superior. From most angles it doesn’t look like much, but seen from the city of Thunder Bay, this is the Sleeping Giant.
As fun as it might be to boast that you live in the groin of Canada’s massive Sleeping Giant, it isn’t possible. Almost all the peninsula is occupied by the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. An Ojibway legend says the giant turned to stone when white men were told about the Silver Inlet silver mine. I don’t know if that’s true (of course it isn’t), but what baffles me is how this rock formation – however impressive I’m sure it must be in person – received over 177,000 votes, well more than double the #2 selection. I mean, I’ve never seen it in person, but more than twice as many votes as this?
That’s right, the glorious Canadian horseshoe Niagara Falls, seen here in its most prestigious moment, when it was featured in a small segment of Superman II. There are three Niagara waterfalls, two on the American side and one – the pretty one – on this side of the border. Actually, the border used to cross through middle of the falls, but with erosion and construction since that invisible marker was decided in 1819, no one’s really sure where the line is. I suppose if there’s ever another war between our two countries, someone will figure it out.
The Falls are a major source of hydroelectric power, as well as a major source of romantic honeymoon-schmaltz tourism dollars. There have been so many stunts involving high-wiring over the Falls or flying over the edge, they could fill another article. You can, if you feel so inclined (and pay the admission fee, of course), take a tour behind the falls. It’s great if you’re curious what a lot of water looks like up close.
You can’t spell ‘Bay of Fundy’ without ‘Fun’. There you go – I give my permission for the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to use that for a slogan. The Bay has a tidal spectrum greater than anywhere else in the world, with its most extreme range being over 53 feet (that’s over 16 meters in Canada-speak). The Bay saw action in the American Revolution, as well as the War of 1812. Now the Bay is Canada’s bitch, serving as a premium shipping route for the nation’s far east.
The ports around the Bay of Fundy produced the fastest ship in the world (the Marco Polo), and the first female captain in the western world, Molly Kool (who totally was).
I was tempted to leave this one out, only because I’ve never heard of it. The Nahanni National Park Reserve is another dollop of Canadian wilderness, perched atop British Columbia in the oft-chilly Northwest Territories. A Google Image search showed me why this collection of glacier-cut canyons and igneous batholiths snagged 64,000 votes (more than five times the number of people who voted for the friggin’ igloo).
Nahanni is just a short jaunt west of Yellowknife, which means you can visit during the summer when it isn’t cold, snowy and stupid. That said, I don’t often work ‘marveling at nature’ into my vacation plans, unless ‘nature’ refers to a warm beach. So as much as I can appreciate Nahanni National Park Reserve as a beautiful snippet of Canadian landscape, I’ll be honest – I’ll probably never see the thing.
Of the final three, I’m skipping two of them. They are two of my favorite things about Canada – the Northern Lights and the Rocky Mountains – but I’m going for pure nationalism here. You can see the Northern Lights in Norway, Russia, Finland, and I’m sure a handful of other countries, and the Rockies stretch their majesty deep into America. So let’s skip to the next in line.
Cabot Trail. It’s a scenic roadway in Nova Scotia, looping 185 miles over the upper swoop of Cape Breton Island, which itself is perched atop the province like a funky artistic beret. Not a lot to say about this one. It’s a road. A gorgeous road, and I have no doubt it deserves to be a Canadian Wonder, but it’s a road. Named after Jean Cabot, the famous explorer who landed in 1497 nowhere near where this road is. Whatever – it’s a pretty road.
Gros Morne National Park along the west coast of Newfoundland is another spot I’ll probably never see, because I don’t hike, I don’t camp, and I don’t climb mountains. The scenery is once again spectacular though – Canada is full of inspirational terrain. This is a great spot for amateur geologists to learn all sorts of wonderful information about plate tectonics.
If you have no interest in this sort of thing, and are wondering if the giant Easter Egg in Vegreville or West Edmonton Mall will show up on this list in spot #7, you’re out of luck. The last entry is yet another Provincial Park.
Whether you want to climb around the hoodoo rock formations or spend a day walking around the largest repository of dinosaur fossils in this hemisphere, Drumheller is a valid addition to this list. Honestly, if you have any interest whatsoever in dinosaurs, this should be your top vacation destination in the country. Drumheller also boasts the world’s largest dinosaur: an 86-foot T-Rex that you can enter (rectally, I assume) and climb up to look out the mouth.
I suppose it’s a strike against my Canadianness that I’ve only seen two of these Wonders in person. But come on, this country is huge. And if I’d gone one more down the list, I’d have included the CN Tower in Toronto, which is a phallic architectural marvel worthy of being named one of our national Wonders.
But I don’t get to make that call. I wasn’t asked by the CBC to be on the judging panel. I’ve never been a part of any classic rock bands.