Wood Buffalo National Park, located in northeastern Alberta and southern Northwest Territories, is the largest national park in Canada at 44,807 km2 (17,300 sq mi). The park was established in 1922 to protect the world's largest herd of free roaming Wood Bison, currently estimated at more than 5,000. It is the only known nesting site of whooping cranes.
The park ranges in elevation from 183 m (600 ft) at the Little Buffalo River to 945 m (3,100 ft) in the Caribou Mountains. The park headquarters is located in Fort Smith, with a smaller satellite office in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta. The park contains one of the world's largest fresh water deltas, the Peace-Athabasca Delta, formed by the Peace, Athabasca and Birch Rivers. It is also known for its karst sinkholes in the north-eastern section of the park. Wood Buffalo is located directly north of the Athabasca Oil Sands.
This area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for the biological diversity of the Peace-Athabasca Delta, one of the world's largest freshwater deltas, as well as the population of wild bison.
Wood Buffalo National Park contains a large variety of wildlife species, such as moose, wood bison, black bear, wolf, lynx, beaver, brown bear, snowshoe hare, Sandhill Crane, Ruffed Grouse, and the world's northernmost population of Red-sided Garter Snakes, which form famous communal dens within the park.
Wood Buffalo Park contains the only natural nesting habitat for the critically endangered Whooping Crane. Known as Whooping Crane Summer Range, it is classified as a Ramsar site. It was identified through the International Biological Program. The range is a complex of contiguous water bodies, primarily lakes and various wetlands, such as marshes and bogs, but also includes streams and ponds.
In 2007 the world's largest beaver dam (about 850 metres (2,790 ft)) was discovered using satellite imagery within the park at 58°16.3′N 112°15.1′W.
Year-round access is available to Fort Smith by road on the Mackenzie Highway, which connects to Highway 5 near Hay River, Northwest Territories. Commercial flights are available to Fort Smith and Fort Chipewyan from Edmonton. Winter access is also available using winter and ice roads from Fort McMurray through Fort Chipewyan.