One of the principal paradoxes of the northern region is the fact that, while it's one of the most rapidly industrializing zones on earth, it also contains some of the most untouched wilderness on the planet. The Athabasca River delta -- fed by the very river that some fear is being bled dry by the oil sands -- is the second-largest river delta on earth, after the Amazon, and contains a startling array of biodiversity. Deer, moose, elk, some south-ranging caribou, bears, wolves, moose, lynx, martens, wolverines, foxes, beavers, and snowshoe hares are but a few of the wild mammal species found. Common bird species include sandhill cranes, hawks, eagles, and owls. And, in Wood Buffalo National Park to the far north, you'll find the last free-roaming wild buffalo herd in North America.
As such, it's an ideal place for those in search of sport fishing or wildlife viewing to head "into the wild." Most excursions into the north are arranged from Fort McMurray, the natural jumping-off point.
If fishing is your goal, a handful of remote lodges will fly you in via float plane for an all-inclusive adventure, fishing for northern pike, lake trout, and walleye in the pristine northern lakes of the Canadian Shield -- as unspoiled as it gets.
Andrew Lake Lodge and Camps (tel. 780/464-7537; www.andrewlakelodge.com) offers 3- and 7-day packages for hunting, fishing, or canoeing starting at C$1,295 per person. Indian Head Camp (tel. 780/743-2171; www.indianheadcamp.com), a collection of rustic log cabins on Steward Lake, offers fishing packages starting at C$2,000 per person for four days. Mikisew Sport Fishing (tel. 888/268-7112 or 780/743-8218; www.mikisewsportfishing.com) offers trips to more than a dozen remote lakes all over the north, with 5-day packages starting at C$1,199.
For a comprehensive list of all fishing tour operators, consult www.albertasportfishing.com.
Several options are available for wildlife viewing, many of them out of Fort Chipewyan, which sits at the entrance to Wood Buffalo National Park. Moose Crossing (tel. 780/697-3521; www.moosecrossing.ca) offers remote wilderness cabins and access to canoeing, kayaking, wildlife viewing, and hiking, as well as snowmobiling in the winter. The cabins offer a kitchen, dining room, and a nice big fireplace. Moose Crossing will tailor a package to your needs, so they ask that you contact them for prices; they prefer not to suggest rates up front.
Running Bear Adventures also offers river tours, hiking, and wildlife viewing; call tel. 780/791-0180 for more information.