Featured Park - Bonnechere

Ontario Parks Insider

Belted kingfishers swoop across the river and the pileated woodpecker’s hysterical call echoes throughout the backwoods. American bitterns sing out from patches of sedge where the river widens, and an assortment of warblers flutter through the trees. Wildlife abounds along the shores of the Bonnechere River, part of Bonnechere Provincial Park.

Winding its way through the northern portion of the Madawaska Highlands, between the southeast border of Algonquin Park and Round Lake, The Bonnechere is rich in human history too. Aboriginal peoples hunted, fished and trapped, lumbermen felled trees, and immigrant settlers cleared farms. Over time, each group left its mark on the landscape.

Thanks to extensive archeology research performed by members of the Ontario Archaeological Society, the park has been able to bring its rich human history to life. So rich in fact, that research has uncovered human activity in the region that dates as far back as 3000 B.C. There are several events you can be a part of throughout the year, simply log on to the Friends of Bonnechere website to find out more.

Nearby and Natural
Bonnechere is a great base camp for exploring the natural and historical wealth of the region. Once you are finished discovering the wonders of the park, hop in your car, grab your hiking boots or paddle and discover some of these hidden gems.

Basin Depot, a historical site located a few kilometres north of the main campground inside the boundary of Algonquin Park, contains the ruins of an old shantytown loggers inhabited between 1850 and 1913. A well-constructed log home built by the McLachlin Lumber Company in 1892 is still intact, making it the oldest standing building in the Algonquin region. The house served as a hospital during a diphtheria epidemic in 1911, and at least seven gravesites hidden in a nearby poplar grove remain as signs of the outbreak. There are ten self-guided hikes to various historic and scenic sites along the upper Bonnechere River at Basin Depot.

Heading in the opposite direction, take a driving tour of the Bonnechere River Watershed to Eganville. Once there, you can visit the Bonnechere Museum, which features the natural and cultural landscapes of the Bonnechere River watershed. After lunch, follow the Fourth Chute Road to Ontario’s Natural Underground Wonder – the Bonnechere Caves where award-winning guides lead you underground through a series of eerie and entrancing passages.

How to - Be Bear Wise

Ontario Parks Insider

Black bears having been getting a lot of press lately; enough that you might even worry about your upcoming camping trip. Getting the facts about black bears will start you on your way to a peaceful co-existence with these impressive creatures. According to Lee-Ann Choquette, Communications Advisor for the MNR Bear Wise Program, there are some misconceptions around black bear ecology.

A common misconception is that black bear populations have recently increased quickly. Choquette tells us that that is not the case. “Black bear populations do not increase quickly. Female black bears typically start to reproduce at from five to seven years of age, and have an average litter of between two and three cubs every other year.”

Choquette continued to correct some of the misunderstandings about the alleged natural aggressiveness of black bears. “Black bears are normally wary around people and work to avoid us. They are however, big and powerful wild animals that focus their entire life (outside of hibernating) on finding food. Black bears will lose their natural fear of people when they get used to finding non-natural food sources like garbage and bird and pet food in places where people live.”

Another interesting fact found on the Bear Wise website is that for black bears to survive and raise their young they have to double their weight before going into hibernation. So it’s no wonder they are attracted to the pile of bacon grease left by the camp stove.

Good campsite hygiene and some common sense actions will help you to avoid any bear encounters. Here are some top tips for camping in black bear country:

  • If you are going to Ontario Parks or another campground, follow the advice provided by staff
  • No matter where you camp, always pack out all garbage from the backcountry and use bear-resistant containers where available
  • Be aware that all food odours and residues can attract bears, so do everything you can to eliminate or reduce odours from yourself, your camp, your clothes and your vehicle
  • Never feed or approach a bear
  • Clean fish away from your campsite
  • After a meal, store leftover food away from your campsite in sealed plastic bags and, if possible, in bear resistant containers
  • Keep your site clean. Burn food scraps and fat drippings thoroughly in a fire.
  • Drain dish water away from your camp site
  • Never cook, eat or store any food (including snacks), cooking equipment or toiletries in your tent
  • If you are sleeping in a tent try to not sleep in clothes you have worn while cooking meals
  • Store food so that bears cannot reach it – in the trunk of your car or hanging at least 4 metres (13 feet) above the ground and 3 metres from tree limbs or trunks that can support a bear. Fishing tackle, clothes worn when cooking, garbage, toiletries and all snacks should also be hung. If you cannot hang your pack, put it in a canoe or boat that is anchored offshore
  • Look for signs of bear activity nearby. Consider moving elsewhere if it appears as though a black bear has been active in the area


Check out the Bear Wise website for more tips, information on black bear ecology and what to do if you encounter a bear. See MNR staff tagging black bears when Rick Mercer visited us at Algonquin Park this year.

Inside OP ? Kawartha Highlands Signature Site

Ontario Parks Insider

The system of provincial parks in Ontario is huge. There are over 330 provincial parks spread out across the one million or so square kilometres that make up this province. Ontario Parks also provides management direction for over 300 conservation reserves (link to PPCRA legislation). Managing these properties is no small feat. With this in mind, you may wonder if we get excited when a new park is added to the system? You bet! Ontario Parks sat down with Park Superintendent Dave Coulas, to catch up on the progress of one of our newest provincial parks – Kawartha Highlands Signature Site. Located 50 kilometres north of the City of Peterborough, this park is the largest protected area south of Algonquin Park, encompassing 37, 587 hectares along the southern edge of the Canadian Shield.

OP: Can you give us an update on the park’s status?

Dave: The park management plan was released to the public in the fall of 2008. We are now focusing our work on the priorities that were identified in phase 1 (years 1 – 2) and working with the management advisory board, municipalities, aboriginal communities and other stakeholder groups on projects of mutual interest.

OP: What were the key reasons the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park was formed?

Dave: I think the key reasons for the park to be formed can be found in the Vision Statement for the park. Key phrases like: a legacy of protection and stewardship, protection of ecological integrity is of paramount importance; long term protection of natural and cultural heritage values; balanced out with traditional activities that will continue like cottaging, low-density recreational opportunities and the continued public involvement in the planning and management of the area are all at the core of why the park was formed.

OP: When would users expect to begin paying for permits and how would they go about getting them?

Dave: The park management plan identifies the implementation of permit issuing and fee collection as part of the Phase 2 (years 3-5). This would be the summer of 2011 at the earliest. Backcountry campsites will be managed through a reservation system. Once we have the system set up, we can then look at options for issuing the permits. It is our hope that we can manage this electronically to make it as easy as possible for users to book their specific site.

OP: What is the most challenging part that is facing Kawartha Highlands in the near future?

Dave: The biggest challenge we face is how to engage the diversity of users and keep them up-to-date with the development of the park. I spend a great deal of time meeting with different groups (cottage associations, municipalities, hunt camps, canoeists, etc.) and providing information as we move forward with implementing the direction in the management plan. I am fortunate that I work with a Management Advisory Board made up of volunteers that do a tremendous job in communicating accurate information out to the public.

OP: What’s the best part of your job as Superintendent of Kawartha Highlands?

Dave: I think the best part of this job is being in a position where I hear from all sides on any particular topic. People have a passion for how they use and enjoy the area but they also have very different views on what should and should not be allowed. This is because, no matter how they use the area, everyone has the common belief that the core values that make this place special need to be protected. By working together, we can achieve far more than working individually and I believe that, as neighbours, we may not always agree on every activity but it is in everyone’s interest to work together to see a level of protection on this landscape so that those core values will be there for future generations.

OP: What’s your favourite area to visit in the park?

Dave: That is hard to say, it changes so dramatically from season to season. I like the Burly ridge area in the fall when the colours are at their peak. I have winter camped in the remote north part in the middle of January with a full moon and wolves howling. Springtime sees high water levels on the Mississagua River perfect for canoeing and the summer sees the height of activities on popular cottage lakes. I really cannot say what my favourite area is but my favourite thing to do is be out in the park to meet people and understand how they use the park and what values are important to them.

For more information on the planning and development of the Kawartha Highlands Signature Site Park or information on how to become a Management Advisory Board member, please visit: http://www.ontarioparks.com/english/kawa.html

Water Safety Starts with You - Watch Children Around Water at all Times

Ontario Parks Insider

It takes only minutes for a child to disappear from sight and one inch of water for a child to drown. The Canadian Red Cross encourages Canadians to stay safe when enjoying water activities, and reminds parents and caregivers about the importance of supervising children closely around water.

“Whether it’s a pool, the bathtub, or the beach, always watch children around water,” stresses Shelley Dalke, national coordinator of swimming and water safety for the Canadian Red Cross. “Learning to swim is important, but learning water safety is key to knowing what to do to prevent an emergency in or on the water. It’s not just swimming but swimming and safety together that saves lives. Parents and caregivers must remain vigilant at all times when children have access to bodies of water.”

A Red Cross research report that examined 10 years of drowning statistics showed that young children ages 1 to 4 and men ages 15 to 44 are at the greatest risk of drowning. Backyard pools are especially dangerous for small children, who are also the most vulnerable group for near drownings. Near drownings can be equally devastating as they often result in varying degrees of brain damage.
5 Easy Steps:

  1. Watch Children Around Water at all Times. Stay within sight and reach.
  2. The best lifejacket or PFD is the one you wear. Zip Up and Buckle Up
  3. Before entering the water- stop, look, go slow! Check for depth and watch for hazards
  4. Alcohol and boating don’t mix, boating while impaired is illegal
  5. Secure your pool - no matter what size. Fence It, Cover It, Empty It

Get Trained; Learn to swim and take a first aid and CPR course.
Know how to call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number.

For more information and activities on water safety education, visit our Water Safety Public Education page