Canadian UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Canada is widely represented by UNESCO World Heritage Sites from coast to coast, and currently boasts 14 in total.

Text by Laura Button, Pictures by Rolf Hicker



Here we have created a list of the current 14 Canadian UNESCO sites and included a brief description of each one. At the time of publishing this article, there are in excess of 10 more sites in Canada which are being considered for UNESCO World Heritage Site designation:

Canadian Rocky Mountain Park

Picture of a snow covered Mt Robson at sunset, part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Park UNESCO World Heritage Site in Canada This World Heritage site encompasses four national parks and three provincial parks in British Columbia and Alberta. Together, the parks are a breathtaking geographical tract in western Canada. Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho national parks and Mount Assiniboine, Mount Robson, and Hamber provincial parks are already well known for the high peaks of the Rocky Mountain chains. Visitors on skis admire the winter landscape, while hikers are afforded magnificent views that earned this site UNESCO's admiration first in 1984. Banff has the distinction of being Canada's original national park.
Pictures of the Rocky Mountains

Dinosaur Provincial Park

Picture of the badlands in Dinosaur Provincial Park a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Alberta Canada For the same astounding beauty and geographical anomaly as the Canadian Rockies Park, Dinosaur Provincial Park of Alberta was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Best known for the reptile fossils found in the badlands, the park is home to 35 species of dinosaur bones. A gold rush of a different sort happened here. In the early 1900s, fossil hunters rushed to extract the dinosaur remains. In 1955 the area was preserved as a provincial park, and in 1980 UNESCO lent its name to further protection of the 75-million-year-old fossils.
Pictures of Dinosaur Provincial Park

Gros Morne National Park

Picture of the steep cliffs of Western Brook Pond in Gros Morne National Park designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Newfoundland Canada Within the boundaries of Gros Morne National Park lie some of the world's greatest geological wonders. The oldest mountain range reaches its Northern limits here, the Long Range Mountains, an extension of the Appalachian chain. The earth's mantel shows off red and brown hues in the Tablelands - the only place on earth that this deep crust breaches the surface of our planet. The park was held up as an example of exceptional beauty and an important geological showcase. For these reasons it was named a World Heritage Site in 1987. Hiking and wildlife photography will dominate your trip to Gros Morne.
Pictures of Gros Morne National Park

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

Picture of the cliffs of Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump a UNESCO World Heritage site in Alberta, Canada. Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump is the only Canadian World Heritage Site so designated solely for its cultural heritage. It was here aboriginal people of 6,000 years ago hunted the American bison on the plains of what is now southern Alberta. The Blackfoot hunters would chase the buffalo over a cliff and harvest the animals at the base of the crag. The aboriginals who rounded up buffalo were careful conservationists, using all parts of the animal for food, shelter and tools. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump was designated a World Heritage site in 1981.
Pictures of Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump, Alberta

Historic District of Old Quebec

Picture of the old town portion of Quebec City a UNESCO world Heritage site in Canada during blue hour The capital city of Quebec on the shore of the St. Lawrence River owes its permanence to Governor General Lord Dufferin who stood firm against the demolishing of the old fortifications on Quebec's waterfront. Quebec has long been a military town, and remains a perfect example of a fortified colonial city - the only walled city in North America. The architecture and history preserved within won the historic district World Heritage status in 1985. Visitors will find their steps echoing in streets 400 years old. Quebec was once the busiest Canadian port of call, and most of the buildings in old Quebec were built during this time of bustle before 1850.
Pictures of Quebec City, Canada



Kluane/ Wrangell St-Elias/ Glacier Bay/ Tatshenshini-Alsek

Picture of the mountains and glaciers of Kluane National Park part of an International UNESCO World Heritage Site Spanning two provincial borders and one international boundary, the parks of Kluane, Wrangell St-Elias, Glacier Bay and Tatshenshini-Alsek are full of world-class mountain peaks and the largest icefield outside of the arctic and Antarctic circles. The parks were first identified as a world heritage site in 1979, with expansions through 1994 to encompass today's boundaries. The glaciers carving their way through mountain valleys earned the area UNESCO approval for their geological importance. The tundra landscape is home to grizzlies and caribou, and the highest number of Dall sheep in the world.
Pictures of Kluane National Park, Yukon, Canada

L'Anse aux Meadows

Picture of a bronze sculpture at the entrance to the viking site at L'Anse aux Meadows on the Northern Peninsula in Newfoundland Labrador L'Anse aux Meadows is both a Canadian National Historic Site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland and Labrador, L'Anse aux Meadows remains the only authenticated Norse Viking site in North America. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1978. The remains of a Viking settlement were found in 1960, and today the park caters to visitors from all over the globe interested in the Norse culture of 1000 years ago. The Vikings called this land Vinland, and found here an abundance of lumber and a variety of food. At L'Anse aux Meadows, visitors can explore three recreated Viking longhouses, see traditional Viking shipbuilding and discover the Norse sagas that brought these traders to North America.
Pictures from L'anse aux Meadows

Miguasha National Park

Miguasha has been a World Heritage Site since 1999, but the treasures within have been around a lot longer than that. Fossils dating to the Devonian Period 370 million years ago show the very early stages of evolution from fish to four-legged tetrapods. On the South side of the Gaspe Peninsula, the fossils were discovered in 1842. The preserved specimens range from micro-organisms and plants to the earliest four-limbed vertebrates. Visitors with keen eyes are sure to come away with a great deal of knowledge of the Age of Fishes.

Nahanni

The waters of the South Nahanni River have seen much over the course of years past. The gold prospectors of the last century only the latest visitors to the caves and canyons of this National Park reserve that has seen rushing water and the wilds of nature for thousands of years. The park was declared a World Heritage site in 1978 for the natural beauty within. The feral wilderness has been untouched by human alterations and remains unoccupied today despite the bubbling hot springs and stunning cave network. The Mackenzie Mountains of the North West Territories are well protected.

Old Town Lunenburg

Picture of the waterfront in the old town portion of Lunenburg designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in Nova Scotia  Canada The old Town has had a new coat of paint, but the town map has stayed the same. This 1753 colonial settlement is the best example of a British pre-planned town. Most of the wooden buildings are more than a hundred years old, some dating even two centuries back. The town map was laid with no heed to geography. Visitors to Old Town Lunenburg had best bring comfortable walking shoes to negotiate the steep cobbled hills. The Old Town was named to the list of world heritage sites in 1995 for the historic culture embodied by the original buildings and city streets of this 18th century town.
Pictures of the beautiful historic town Lunenburg in Nova Scotia

Rideau Canal

Picture of the rideau canal in Ottawa, Canada The Rideau Canal is held up as a 'masterpiece of human creative genius', the first criteria for world heritage designation. The canal was built over 20 years in the mid 1800s. The 2002-kilometer canal provided a solely Canadian route from Ottawa to Lake Ontario. 47 locks allow vessels to navigate the Ottawa and Cataraqui rivers instead of traveling the St. Lawrence, thus risking attack from the Americans. International tension had mostly ceased by the time the canal was complete, but it remains the most spectacular feat of engineering from the era. Most of the original canal is still in tact, and pleasure crafts now cruise the locks of the Rideau. This is Canada's most recent addition to the World Heritage roster, having been named to the list in 2007.

Sgang Gwaay

At the far western reaches of Canada, the Queen Charlotte Islands lie in a crescent in the Pacific Ocean. Here the first nation Haida people made their home. The island of Sgang Gwaay has returned to the hands of nature, and visitors will find only the remains of carved poles and weathered homes. Nan Sdins village was all but a ghost town by the 1880s though Haida culture still thrives in other parts of the Queen Charlotte archipelago. These people make a living from the land and sea, and more recently their artistic carvings. The island was named a World Heritage site in 1981 for the cultural memories stored along this rugged coast.

Waterton Glacier International Peace Park

Picture of Middle Lake in the Waterton Lakes National Park a UNESCO world heritage site in Alberta Canada This World Heritage Site bridges the US-Canadian border, combining a national park from each nation. It finds itself on the world stage for the biological bounty of animals and habitats as well as the international peace motto of the united parks. In 1932 Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada joined forces with Glacier National Park of the United States, and UNESCO stamped its seal of approval in 1995. It was the first international peace park in the world. The animals here are borderless, so to are the rivers, prairies, and mountains that call the Waterton Glacier park home. Visitors are well reminded that world heritage bridges political borders and cultural divides.
Pictures of Waterton Lakes National Park

Wood Buffalo National Park

Picture of an american bison buffalo Wood Buffalo World Heritage Site is well named. Bison and boreal forests mark this park as unique in Canada's central plains, but the whooping cranes and largest inland delta are not to be overlooked. This park was declared a world wonder in 1983 for the culture and ecology represented here. The wood bison were hunted close to extinction in the late 1800s, and this park became a refuge for the remaining animals. The wetlands are home to the last wild flock of whooping cranes. Three rivers and countless streams give shelter to thousands of other birds each year.



Links to related pages about UNESCO World Heritage Sites