Muskoka's Provincial Parks!

A selection of Muskoka’s Provincial Parks!

 

              Muskoka is an area that is blessed with some of Canada’s, not to mention the World’s, most amazing natural scenery. Part of this is perfectly displayed by visiting one of the regions provincial parks or its prized National park. Campers and day trippers visit Muskoka’s parks for their beauty, and to participate in adventures in a safe and controlled environment. As well, during the fall months, the colours that are present are stunning. With it being the 125th anniversary of Parks Ontario we thought we’d look at some of the more well-known Provincial parks around Muskoka!

Algonquin

              Let’s start with the biggest Provincial Park in the Muskoka region, Algonquin Provincial Park. Algonquin is the first provincial park in Ontario. It protects a variety of natural, cultural, and recreational features. As one of the largest provincial parks in Ontario, it is extremely biologically diverse with more than 1000 vascular plant species and more than 200 vertebrates that reproduce within its boundaries. The park has inspired 40 books, 1800 scientific papers, 12 films, a symphony and the art of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven.

             The park was established in 1893 when the provincial government at the time acted on a recommendation of the Royal Commission on Forest Reservation and National Parks. This commission envisioned the park to have a variety of roles:

  • Maintenance of water supply in a half dozen major water systems

  • Preservation of a primeval forest

  • Protection of Birds and Animals

  • A field for Experiments in Forestry

  • Beneficial Effects on Climate Change

              The park continues to perform these original functions and since its creation has expanded to twice its original size. The name was also changed in 1913 from its original Algonquin National Park to Algonquin Provincial Park.

              The essence of Algonquin is in its vast interior of maple hills, rocky ridges, and thousands of lakes. The interior of the park is inly accessible via canoe or on foot. The park entrances are accessible by Hwy 60. Some of the popular activities located within the park include camping at one of the 8 campgrounds, hiking on one of the 14 trails, taking part in Natural Heritage Education programs, or visiting the Algonquin Visitor Centre, Logging Museum and Art Centre. Not to mention,  biking, birding, canoeing, swimming, as well as winter fun including snowshoeing, cross country skiing and skating.

 

Ragged Falls Provincial Park

              Ragged Falls Provincial Park is in very close proximity to Algonquin Park. It is accessible via Hwy 60 and due to this proximity it is almost an Algonquin appendage however it is a park in its own right and for very good reasons. This park features a hiking trail that is only a kilometer long, however it offers fantastic views of Ragged Falls at its completion. A marked gravel road provides access to Ragged Falls, with facilities like a parking lot, washrooms and marked hiking trails that lead to a lookout over the falls. The waterfall has been named as one of the 10 best in all of Ontario and is especially breathtaking during the spring melt. This park is a day use park only and requires a Provincial Park Pass, however the short hike and waterfall views make it well worth the stop.

 

Arrowhead

              Arrowhead Provincial Park is located just north of Huntsville. It is a year – round Provincial Park and is considered the outdoor jewel of Huntsville. There are many outdoor activities and adventures that can be accessed year – round. It is possible to spend an entire week here and never be bored once! The parks activities include camping, swimming, hiking trails, rental canoes and kayaks, mountain bike trails, birding, fishing, Natural heritage Education, as well as a popular Waterfall and Lookout point.

             As previously stated the park remains open all year long! The main park road and three parking lots are kept open for winter visitors and to host events like the Annual Muskoka Loppet, elementary school races and much more. Throughout the winter, Arrowhead grooms and maintains more than 33 km of cross-country ski trails that are designed for classic skiing or skate skiing. Each trail is rated for difficulty and ranges from beginner to expert. The park offers a variety of hiking/snowshoeing trails as well as a skating rink and skating trail the latter of which is quite the sight to see. There are two warm-up shelters and an open fire pit at the top of the tubing hill, while complimentary tubes are provided.

 

Hardy Lake Provincial Park

             Within Hardy Lake Provincial Park you will find the Hardy lake trails. The park is just off of Hwy 169 east of Torrance. There are unfortunately no facilities at the Park, however there is a parking lot and the aforementioned hiking trails. Hardy Lake Provincial Park is deemed a non – operating park, therefore activities such as biking, riding motorized vehicles and camping are not permitted. This park is special due to its rich community of Atlantic coastal plain species. These species are here because at one time much of present day Ontario was submerged beneath glacial and post – glacial lakes. When the ancient Lake Algonquin receded it left remnants of Atlantic Ocean shoreline plants behind. This park also contains an inland section of displaced Georgian Bay shoreline. There are also a selection of hiking trails that vary in difficulty and are viewed as some of the best in Muskoka.

 

Big Wind Lake Provincial Park

              Big Wind Lake Provincial Park is accessible by water from Big Wind Lake, or via Hwy 118 east from Bracebridge then north along an unmaintained road. This hilly, protected environment lies off the beaten track. The geological feature at this park include a ground moraine deposited by the last glaciation, as well as middle to late Precambrian rocks that are part of the central gneiss belt. The ecological diversity in the park features extensive upland forests of Sugar maple, Hemlock, and Yellow Birch, as well as countless low – lying swamps, marshes and meadows. Protected places such as Big Wind Lake are sensitive to damage and overuse. Visitors are welcome but are asked to respect and be stewards of the ecosystem. The park, which is open for day – use only, has no facilities for visitors.

 

Georgian Bay Islands National Park

              Now last but certainly not least is the only National Park in the Muskoka region, the Georgian Bay Islands National Park. Nestled in the famous 30,000 islands of Georgian Bay within the world’s largest chain of freshwater islands. This park inspires those who visit it by the rugged beauty of Canadian Shield and the clear waters of Georgian Bay. It is also unique because it straddles two natural regions and is a core protected are of the Georgian Bay Biosphere reserve. The southern end of the park is dominated by lush deciduous forests while the northern portion of the park is rugged Canadian Shield. Due to this mix of ecosystems there is a resulting large amount of bio diversity of the plants and wildlife in the park. In fact Georgian Bay Islands National Park has more reptile and amphibian species than any other national park in Canada. The park also offers activities like mountain bike rentals and trails, picnic shelters, beaches, over 25km of hiking trails with picturesque views of Georgian Bay’s windswept white pines, geocaching, and docking facilities for boaters seeking great views.       Today there are more than 59 islands in the Park. Despite this seemingly large number, the total area is a mere 12 square kilometres.

            

Although the Park is relatively young, it has seen many changes. With the convenience of today it is easy to forget that in the 1930s going for supplies meant rowing to Penetanguishene. There have been deeper changes as well. In early Park days, firewood was cut from within the Park; wolves and porcupines were shot; mosquitoes and weeds were heavily sprayed. Today, none of these things are done, reflecting a growing recognition that if these islands are to remain places of natural beauty for years to come, there must be as little interference with natural cycles as possible.

 

              Getting to the park is not the same as the previous ones we have taken a look at. Due to it being made up entirely of islands it is accessible only by boat. Parks Canada operates a boat shuttle service called the Day Tripper, which runs between Honey harbour and Beausoleil Island.

 

              There are also many Municipal parks around Muskoka that all serve varying functions. If you have any more questions surrounding any parks in Muskoka feel free to access the parks Ontario website or the Muskoka tourism website! We at HRC hope you enjoy our beautiful region of Muskoka and stay safe while doing it!



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Born under the name George Hutcheson, Hutcheson, Reynolds & Caswell Ltd. began providing insurance policies in Muskoka since the early 1900s. Bernard Reynolds joined the firm in the 1940s and purchased the firm from George Hutcheson in 1967. Finally, in 1980, David Caswell joined the company's ranks to complete Hutcheson, Reynolds and Caswell. We have grown along with our name and provide the same dedication to superior customer service and top-notch insurance coverage that George Hutcheson was famous for over 100 years ago.