Your guide to Canada's oldest and most famous natural playground
Algonquin Provincial Park is one of those special places that make you proud to be from Ontario. This wilderness sanctuary is a photographer’s heaven as it is comprised of rocky ridges, pine clad hills and thousands of miles of rivers, streams and interconnected lakes. The park was established in 1893 and it is the oldest provincial park in Canada and was designated a national historic site in 1992.
Algonquin means “at the place of spearing fishes and eels”. The aboriginal Algonquin people used the area for hunting and fishing but by the late 1880’s loggers in search of the area’s Great White Pine arrived in ever increasing numbers so the park was established as a way of protecting the area’s natural beauty, stop farming and to control the logging industry. To this day Algonquin Park remains the only park in Canada that allows industrial logging to occur within its borders.
Algonquin Park is huge encompassing 7,639 sq. kilometres (2,946 sq. miles) or 1,891,201 acres (736,345 hectares) of which 12 % is water. The headwaters of 6 major rivers run through it and it contains over 1500 lakes and 1200 kilometres of brooks and streams.
The natural beauty of Algonquin Park is world-renowned and the park attracts visitors year round to partake in a variety of activities. Most of the park is accessible only by foot or water so hiking, canoeing, fishing and camping are the most popular activities.
Other recreational activities include:
- cross-country skiing
- mountain biking
- horseback riding
- nature watching
One of the parks greatest attractions is the abundance of wildlife to be found within its borders, particularly moose, black bears and North America’s most southerly wolf population. These protected animals while not easily spotted can nevertheless often be seen at road’s edge. Venture further into the bush and the chances of encounters increase significantly. It should be noted however that these are wild animals and care should be taken not to approach or get to close as danger is everpresent.
In all, the park contains 45 species of mammal, 262 species of birds, 30 species of reptiles and amphibians, 54 species of fish, 7000 species of insects, 100 species of plants and 1000 species of fungi.
Please note that species such as moose, deer and beaver can usually be readily seen while others such as otters, black bears and wolves are rarely seen.
Location of Algonquin Park
Located in the Canadian Shield about 300 kilometres north of Toronto and 300 kilometres west of Ottawa, Algonquin Provincial Park also serves as the traditional border between northern and southern Ontario as it is where broadleaf forests give way to deciduous forests.
Getting there is very easy:
- From Toronto take Highway #11 to the town of Huntsville then take highway #60 to the town of Dwight (the West Gate entrance to the park is located just east of Dwight). You can also continue on Highway # 60 to the East Gate park entrance just before the town of Whitney.
- From Ottawa the northern part of the park is accessible by the Trans Canada Highway #17.
- For those visitors that would like to experience the park but have no means of transportation there is a company out of Toronto called Hammond Transportation that offers services to Algonquin. Contact them at 705-645-5431.
Highway # 60 is the main entranceway and it runs through the southern portion of the park while the Trans-Canada Highway # 17 bypasses it to the north and provides access points to the huge interior or so called “back country”. The backcountry is hard to reach and can only be accessed by canoe or foot.
It is in the backcountry that you really get to experience the beauty of Algonquin Provincial Park. Pine clad ridges and swift running waters vibrate with the echo of loons on placid shimmering lakes while canoeists traversing the multitude of streams camp nightly under the open skies on their banks.
A trip to the park while not on everyone’s itinerary is a great way to experience the Canadian outdoors in a beautiful, serene and safe way. A 2 or 3 day camping trip makes for the perfect adventure. The park is open all year round but for more information visit the Park’s official site at: www.algonquinpark.on.ca For more specific activity information check out one of my pages below.
Park Activities and Attractions
Hiking is one of the most popular activities at Algonquin Park and the vast wilderness areas draw hikers by the busload. Hiking participants must be broken down into two different groups, day hikers and backpackers. Get all the info you require about hiking in Algonquin Provincial Park at my Algonquin Park hiking page.
Algonquin dog sledding allows you to mush a team of huskies through waist deep snow through silent forests while passing frozen lakes. Stop and drink a hot chocolate near the heat of an open campfire amidst snow-laden trees. This fantasy scene could be a reality within the confines of Algonquin Park. For more information, check out my Algonquin Dog Sledding page.