Near the south end of Lake WINNIPEG some 160 km north of Winnipeg is Hecla Provincial Park (established 1969, 865.4 km2). Consisting of 6 islands (Hecla, Black, Deer, Punk, Little Punk and Goose), 2 archipelagoes (Cairine and Kasakeemeemisikak) and the surrounding waters, Hecla can be considered Manitoba's only marine park.
Near the boundary of 3 NATURAL REGIONS (Prairie, Boreal Plains and Boreal Shield) this area has some of the greatest geological and biological diversity in Manitoba. One of the boundaries is evident when looking at the geology of Black Island (Precambrian SHIELD gives way to SEDIMENTARY ROCKS). The sedimentary rock is composed mainly of limestone formed from calcium-rich skeletons of marine life which thrived in an inland sea covering the Manitoba Lowlands some 400 million years ago.
At the south end of Hecla Island, a causeway crosses Grassy Narrows, one of Manitoba's finest marshes. Here are found nesting colonies of terns, gulls, cormorants, great blue herons and white PELICANS. The rare western GREBE also nests in the park. Mammals common in the park include moose, beaver, red squirrel and otter. REPTILES and AMPHIBIANS include the secretive snapping turtle, northern redbelly snake, grey treefrog and the blue-spotted salamander.
Black Island has spiritual significance for OJIBWA. Their MIDEWIWIN held traditional ceremonies at the eastern end of the island. Ojibwa still gather on this island for berry picking, hunting and social events.
ICELANDERS settled Hecla Island in 1876. The settlement began to fail because of its isolation and the settlers' livelihood, the commercial fishery, was in trouble and there was little other employment. By the late 1960s most people had left the island. The park was created in part to provide employment for those remaining and to preserve the community. Life of the settlers has been brought back to life with the restoration of many buildings.
Hecla Island is the centre of activities in the park. On it are 5 hiking trails as well as a series of trails exploring Grassy Narrows Marsh. Accommodations include a 213-site campground, cabins, a bed and breakfast in Hecla and a four-season resort at Gull Harbour, at the north end of the island. White sand beaches are near both the resort and the campground.