Algonquin Provincial Park is bigger than Prince Edward Island, bigger than the state of Delaware. Established in 1893 because the land wasn’t good enough for farming, it looks marvelous as the Grand Dame of the Ontario Parks system.
And does it have wildlife! — 279 species of birds, 45 types of mammals, 15 different reptiles, 17 amphibians and 56 varieties of fish. But that’s not all; for every variety of human there’s hiking, biking, camping, birding, picnicking, skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, winter yurts and the most beloved sport of all — canoeing.
Much of the park is unreachable except on foot or by canoe. These backwoods were the adopted home of Canada’s iconic landscape painter Tom Thompson who died in the park under mysterious circumstances in 1917. For those willing to engage in some sleuthing, public archives at the Visitor Centre could reveal hidden secrets about his fate.
Near the East Gate you’ll find an outdoor Logging Museum at km 55 and Visitor Centre with extensive free displays at km 43. Note: locations along Hwy 60 through the park are marked in km from the West Gate.
Four outfitters and three historic lodges enable visitors to get away from it all in rugged luxury that includes gourmet cuisine. The park also has six summer youth camps. Want more? An Art Centre hosts informal seasonal art classes plus a first rate gallery.
Especially in autumn when the landscape turns a blaze of colour, it’s easy to see why Tom favoured the park as a place of beauty to put on canvas. Algonquin sits elevated on a bump of Canadian Shield granite that puts it in a unique transition zone between northern and southern Ontario, so fall foliage arrives here first.
For those who don’t have a car or prefer to let someone else do the driving, here’s a nifty idea that fittingly grew out of a campfire discussion. It’s called a PARKBUS and serves Algonquin from the Toronto region, 2 hours south. “If you live in the city and want a piece of nature, this is the way.”
Algonquin Park Info Line 1-705-633-5572
Algonquin Park Reservation Line 1-888-ONT-PARK (668-7275)
Private lodging within the park is generally available mid May – mid October
Tel (Toronto) 416-0483-4393
(Algonquin Park) 705-633-5661
Toll Free (Canada and USA) 1-866 633-5661
Tel 705-633-5543 or toll free 1-866-614-5355
Tel year round 705-633-5551 or toll free 1-866-473-5551
Algonquin Art Centre is located at km 20, hwy 60
TEL 705-633-5555 or 855-221-2278
Wild About Algonquin
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Sven Miglin, owner of The Portage Store, Canoe Lake
“Our experience in Algonquin is just a bead of sand in time.” — Dave Coulas, Park Superintendent
David LeGros, Natural Heritage Education Specialist, Visitor Centre lobby
Aerial view of the park's Visitor Centre
Wolf diorama, Visitor Centre.There are 18 known Eastern wolf packs in Algonquin, probably the park’s most famous residents. Although there’s never been a documented case of wolves attacking a human, moose are not so safe; they don’t die of old age in the park. Organized wolf howls, especially in August, are enormously popular with visitors.
Tom Thomson exhibit at the Visitor Centre.
Killarney Lodge dinner menu
Park Naturalist Chris Boettger demonstrates a logger's broad axe from decades past. Logging continues in the park even today.
Evening slide lecture at Killarney by Greg Betteridge, Algonquin fishing specialist. “A canoe is the perfect craft for Algonquin," he says. "The draw is only 6 inches.”
Killarney is digital detox — no tv, radio or electronics except one cabin with wi-fi. “We don’t want to expand. We like it just the way it is.” — Poppy Roweland, co-owner.
Summer classes at the Art Centre by Josée Trahan
Canoe Lake looking south. A cairn to Tom Thomson sits at the end of the forground peninsula, a spot often visited by boaters. It's a must for Tom Thomson followers.
Kim Smith, owner of Bartlett Lodge, shares an abiding interest in Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven.
Immun Texeira is the 'chef de cuisine' at Bartlett.
Acidic excrement from cormorants has bleached the trees and created an algae bloom in Lake Opeongo. In this photo illustration I imagined the island as a an 8-masted schooner.
A young female osprey looks over her high rise residence from atop a tree.
Dining at Arowhon Pines Resort is a fine affair of casual elegance with light streaming through windows on 3 sides of the spacious dining hall.
Bug shirts are known as Algonquin burkas. Walks through dense bush in warm weather make this evening wear almost de rigueur. Oh, and leave the cologne at home.
Peter Mills, Senior Park Interpreter, displays Tom Thomson reproductions. Parks staff are very protective of the painter's legacy.
"In the part of the park where there are no roads you are rewarded with solitude."