Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ontario Provincial Parks in Sunset Country

Ontario Provincial Parks in Northwestern Ontario

Aaron Provincial Park
Aaron Provincial Park is located on the Trans-Canada Highway east of Dryden. Whether you are just passing by or staying for a while, the park offers camping convenience and active outdoor adventure. Hike through the white cedar and aspen forest, splash in the waves of Thunder Lake or picnic on the grass. Thunder Lake is a distinctive reminder of the ancient glaciers that covered Ontario thousands of years ago. Be on the lookout for an impressive number of nesting birds. In late afternoon or early evening, the haunting call of the loon provides background music for tall tales around the campfire.

Enjoy the summer pleasures of swimming and boating in the warm waters of Thunder Lake, hiking the tree-lined trails and picnicking by the shore with friends and family. Take the children to the beach near the picnic grounds where the clean, shallow water is perfect for the whole family. Launch your boat at the ramp in the north end of the park to or cast a line for lake trout, walleye, northern pike and smallmouth bass. Pick up self-guiding trail brochures at the park office for background information on the sights and sounds of nature.

There are 98 campsites. Electrical hookups are available at 39 of them and all sites are suitable for tents or trailers. Choose a private, wooded site or spread out in a spacious, open area. Picnic tables and fireplaces are provided at each site and a central comfort station with toilets, showers and laundry facilities makes you feel at home. For more information on Aaron Provincial Park call the park office direct at 807-938-6534 (May to October) or 807-223-7535 (November to April).

Blue Lake Provincial Park
Blue Lakes's crystal clear water and sandy beaches offer a wide range of choices for a fun-filled vacation. Special geological conditions have combined to give Blue Lake some special features: water so clear you can see the bottom of the lake at a depth of six metres (20 feet) and an abundance of fine sand on a beautiful beach. Stop by the Visitor Centre located in an old log cabin near the campground to view displays of plant, rock and animal specimens. Sign up for other interpretive programs including environmental games and conducted hikes, provided by park naturalists. Launch your boat from the ramp in the park, or rent a canoe from the nearby store. Cruise through Blue Lake's numerous connecting waterways while fishing for walleye, lake trout, northern pike, muskie or bass.

Camp at one of 196 tent and trailer sites - 104  of them have electricity. The beach, firewood, a shower building and comfort station are all nearby. Each site has a parking space and a picnic table as well as an individual fireplace for barbecueing your day's catch. Blue Lake Provincial Park is located on Highway 647 nine km (5 mi) north of the Trans-Canada Highway and Vermilion Bay and 48 km northwest of Dryden. For more information call the park office direct at 807-227-2601 (May to October) or 807-223-7535 (November to April).

Caliper Lake Provincial Park
Camp amid a stately stand of red and white pine, explore the rocky outcrops and picnic in the gently sloped open fields of this remote northern wilderness.Caliper Lake rests in an environment of natural northern beauty. Its 147 hectares are characterized the the lush woodlands embedded in the rich soil left behind by glacial deposits. The diverse natural habitat shelters many plants and animals. Squirrels, rabbits and groundhogs live in the forests and fields of the park. See white-tailed deer bounding towards the trees for cover.
Keep an eye open for interesting birds too. Eagles and osprey soar overhead and grouse race across the forest floor - its muted colours camouflaged by the vegetation. Spot the loon resting on the shores or listen for the hoot of a barred owl. White pelicans are seen more frequently these days and are sure to be a highlight of your visit.

You can pitch your tent or camp your trailer at any one of 83 campsites - 27 with electrical hookups. For your comfort, there are showers, toilets and a modern comfort station nearby. Organized groups of up to 40 people can take advantage of the group camping space available - call ahead to reserve the space. Recreational opportunities in the park include boating, canoeing, swimming and hiking. Canoes, kayaks and paddleboats are available to rent. You can also enjoy a wilderness picnic with your family or friends. Fishing on Caliper Lake is excellent - smallmouth bass, northern pike and walleye can be found in large numbers. Caliper Lake Provincial Park is located just off highway 71 and is south of Nestor Falls and northwest of Fort Frances. For more information call the park office direct at 807-484-2181 (May to Sept.) or 807-468-2669 (Oct. to April).

Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park
Known as the "Niagara of the North", Kakabeka Falls located just west of the City of Thunder Bay are truly a marvel of nature. The park itself provides you with breathtaking scenery where you can camp, cycle, hike or just enjoy the region's sheer natural beauty. Located in a gorge on the Kaministiquia River, Kakabeka Falls plunge 39 metres (about 120') over a cliff of slate into the river below. The rocks of Kakabeka fall are like a stone book. The youngest stones (several millions of years old) are at the top of the falls. These rocks get older and older as you descend down the falls to the bottom. Rocks along the base of the falls are over a billion years old! Each layer of rock tells its own story and some of the fossils discovered here are the oldest found anywhere at 1.6 billion years.

Aside from the falls, the park offers many other opportunities to explore nature. Beyond the developed area of the park are large tracts of forest and fields that are home to many species of birds and animals. Woodland flowers blossom in every colour imaginable. The park's two campgrounds have 169 campsites. The 90 campsites with electrical service are located in Whispering Hills Campground where there are also several pull-through sites to accommodate large trailers and recreational vehicles. Picnic areas on both sides of the Kaministiquia River offer spectacular views of the falls. Bring your bathing suit for a swim at a third picnic area further upriver. For more information on Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park call the park office at 807-473-9231.

Ojibway Provincial Park
Ojibway Provincial Park on Little Vermilion Lake, offers good swimming, a sandy beach and fine musky fishing. Trails weave through pine forests carpeted with lady’s slipper orchids and along shorelines past wild rice. There are several walking trails - from an easy 30 minute walk to a 2.5 hour hike.There are 45 camping sites, including 26 electrical sites. Have a picnic and spend the day at the beach where children can swim and play in the sand or climb the nearby play structure.

The park has one group camping area that can accommodate 10 tents or anywhere from 20-25 people. Water and toilets are available on site. The site is located just minutes from Little Vermillion Lake and the Boreal Walking Trail, a 1.5 km trail leading to the island. Fish for lake trout, muskie, bass, walleye and perch in Vermilion Lake, Minnitaki Lake and Lac Seul. Two boat launches provide access to Little Vermilion Lake. If you feel up to a paddle, the lakes in the park link to several district canoe routes. Venture into the park interior and you might see moose, black bear or otters. Ojibway Provincial Park is located on Highway 72 north of the Trans-Canada Highway and Dinorwic and southwest of Sioux Lookout. For more information call the park office direct at 807-737-2033 (May to September) or 807-223-7535 (October to April).

Pakwash Provincial Park near Ear Falls

Pakwash Provincial Park
Secluded and serene, this northern park has a sandy beach and shallow, warm waters ideal for swimming, fishing and canoeing. Watch for birds and other wildlife on a 5.1 km (2 hour) nature trail that meanders past beaver ponds, through wetlands and forest. Nine interpretive stops along the way explain the flora and fauna. Pakwash Lake is teeming with smallmouth bass, walleye, whitefish and northern pike. Park staff will point out the best canoe routes in the area. Ask them about Canoe Route 74, a 233-km route paddled by natives, fur traders and prospectors. The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including moose, black bears, deer, otters, minks, bald eagles and ospreys. The shallow, clean waters of Pakwash Lake and the park's 1.5 km sandy beach are ideal for family swimming. Play soccer or baseball on the large playing field in the day-use area or take the children to the playground.

There are 69 camping sites, of which 26 are electrical sites. Pakwash Provincial Park is located north of Ear Falls on Highway 105. For more information call 807-222-3346 or 807-223-7535 (October to April).

Quetico Provincial Park
Quetico Provincial Park is a protected, pristine wilderness retreat of international acclaim just north the Canada-U.S. border above Minnesota's Boundary Waters and south of Atikokan, Ontario. The park's tangled network of lakes once formed water routes traveled by Ojibway and fur traders. Now it is primarily the destination of canoeists seeking solitude and rare glimpses of wildlife by cascading waterfalls, glassy lakes and endless forests. The park is accessible at four points by canoe and two by car (Dawson Trail Campground and Lac la Croix Ranger Station). Motorized boats are not allowed into Quetico, ensuring that you will have a peaceful, serene wilderness canoe trip. The interior of the park is home to 2200 backcountry campsites. 

In this article I will refer to the Dawson Trail Campground at French Lake. It is the only entrance in Quetico Park for drive-in camping. My next article in this blog will be about camping in our Wilderness Provincial Parks where I will go into more detail about backcountry camping in Quetico. The 107 campsites, 49 of which have electricity, are close to comfort stations, showers, a laundromat and other amenities.The Dawson Trail Campground has a Picnic and Day Use area, showers, flush toilets, a laundromat, a playground in the Pickerel Beach day-use area, a park store and a Visitor Centre. You can cool off in the summer months at the beaches along French Lake. The Quetico Information Pavilion at Dawson Trail provides information and large-scale maps to help you plan your canoe trip. Nature lectures, slide shows, displays and other programs are offered regularly at Dawson Trail throughout the summer.

Reservations can be made online or by calling 1-888-668-7275. Ontario Parks has a great webpage showing you the two camping areas within Dawson Trail Campground. You can see which campsites are available, and which ones you can and can't reserve ahead of time. For more information on Quetico Provincial Park call 807-597-2735 ext 223.

The Falls at Rushing River Provincial Park

Rushing River Provincial Park
Rushing River officially became a Provincial Park in 1958. The park is very family-oriented offering a wide variety of activities for children and adults alike. Kids will love the Natural Heritage Program which offers a variety of nature-based activities designed for young people. Activities all about bugs, bats, wolves, canoeing and more are part of this program. The intention is to get children to learn about nature through active, sensory-oriented activities. The main goal is for children to have fun! At Rushing River Park, something happens every day during July and August. All the activities in the park are free to those with a camping permit or day use fee.

High above the lake in a grove of jack pine, pitch a tent or park your trailer on any of 217 campsites - 84 with electrical hookups. Washroom and shower facilities are conveniently located in the campgrounds. Group camping can be arranged by contacting the park office in advance. While your morning coffee is perking, take a refreshing dip in the clean waters of the lake. Four sandy beaches provide excellent swimming areas, one with a shallow roped off section for children. After breakfast set out for a scenic walk along the Beaver Pond or Lower Rapids Trails. Take along a blanket and picnic basket and stop for a leisurely lunch at one of the picturesque points along the way.

Set out by canoe to paddle among the many islands of Dogtooth Lake and Rushing River. A short portage leads to an extensive system of interconnecting lakes. Three canoe routes are easily accessible from the park and printed guides are available. You can launch your boat from two ramps located in the park. Bring along your gear to take advantage of the fine fishing - walleye, pike, smallmouth bass and lake trout inhabit the nearby waters. To complement your visit, park naturalists organize a variety of programs such as guided nature walks and evening films in the park amphitheatre. The Visitor Centre also features a series of exhibits that introduce you to the area's notable features. Rushing River Provincial Park is located on Highway 71, southeast of Kenora. Groceries and camping supplies can be purchased in nearby communities or at facilities closer to the park. For more information call the park office direct at 807-548-4351 or 807-468-2669 in the winter.

Sandbar Provincial Park
Sandbar Lake, the largest of 10 lakes in this park just off the Trans-Canada Highway, has a fine sandy beach with spotted sandpipers, and excellent walleye and pike fishing. The lakes in and around the park are filled with northern pike, walleye and smallmouth bass. A fish-cleaning station, with lights, running water and cutting tables, is located by the boat launch. All boats are allowed on Sandbar Lake with this caveat: high winds turn this shallow lake into choppy waters. From Sandbar Lake, you can paddle numerous challenging canoe routes, including the 160-km Sandbar-Press Lake Loop, which takes between 9 to 12 days to complete and passes several pictograph sites. You can rent canoes at the park.

For those that like to hike out into nature, there's the Silhouette Trail a 1.5 km (1 hour) moderate trek. This trail weaves through jack pine woods, aspen forests and wetlands. A short side trail (0.7 km) leads to Savitsky Lake. Keen-eyed visitors have glimpsed the elusive lynx as well as the more conspicuous moose, white-tailed deer, beaver, otter and painted turtle. Watch for spotted sandpipers darting across the beach, loons on the lake, grouse underfoot and Canada jays, red-winged blackbirds and woodpeckers above. A sandy beach, shallow water and a buoyed area make Sandbar Lake ideal for family swimming. There are 74 camping sites, of which 37 are electrical sites. Sandbar Lake Provincial Park is located southeast of Dryden off Highway 17 (Trans-Canada Highway). For more information call the park office direct at 807-934-2995 (May to September) and 807-223-7535 (October to April).

Sioux Narrows Provincial Park

Sioux Narrows Provincial Park
Visitors flock to this park on Lake of the Woods for some of the best fishing in Ontario. Fish for walleye, northern pike, lake trout, muskie, bass and more. The area is also great for boating, swimming, sailing and canoeing. A sandy beach slopes gently into the clean, cool water of Lake of the Woods. Launch your boat at the park ramp for cruising, fishing or waterskiing. A 10-minute cruise down the lake takes you to centuries-old native pictographs and petroglyphs. Lake of the Woods was an historic water route travelled by parties of explorers on their way west. Paddling on the lake is fantastic. The Sioux Narrows Loop is 96 km (6-8 days) with 12 portages. This flat water route is 5 km south of the park. For land lovers, there's a 2 km nature trail starts at the beach and loops towards the lake shore and back. Chipmunks, squirrels and snowshoe hares populate this park along with white-tailed deer or a few black bears. Bald eagles, ospreys and cormorants breed on the nearby islands. The beach and shoreline are good places to spot loons, great blue herons, white pelicans and sapsuckers.

There have been many upgrades to the park in recent years. There are 56 campsites including 19 electrical sites. Half of the sites are situated along the shoreline of Lake of the Woods. Sioux Narrows Provincial Park is located south of Kenora on Highway 71 in the community of Sioux Narrows. For more information call the park office direct at 807-226-5223 or 807-226-5241 in the winter.

For more information on any of the Ontario Provincial Parks you can call 1-800-ONTARIO. You can make reservations online or call 1-888-ONT-PARK (1-888-668-7275).

There are also Wilderness Provincial parks in Sunset Country, but I'll save those for another blog post. They include Albany River, Brightsand River, Kopka River, Opasquia, Otoskwin-Attawapiskat River, Pipestone River, Quetico, Turtle River/White Otter, Wabakimi, Winnange Lake and Woodland Caribou Wilderness Park.

There are also many of our members that offer camping. Whether it be tent camping or RV/Trailer camping, there are plenty to choose from. There are stand alone campgrounds as well as many of our resorts and lodges also offer campsites. Summer camps for children are also popular in the region. Please visit for a complete list of campgrounds in Northwest Ontario.

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