Six Ontario Parks reach a golden milestone in 2010

Ontario Parks Insider

2010 will be a year of celebrations, as six parks are enjoying their 50th anniversary. One of the most visited of these six golden anniversary Provincial Parks is Killbear. It’s no surprise why, some campers consider Killbear to be their second home. Year after year people visit the park to take in the splendour of Georgian Bay; to relax on white sandy beaches protected by rocky headlands or walk a network of nature trails leading through tranquil woods. Water play is key at the park; whether it’s windsurfing, kayaking, motor cruising or sailing. Park regulars also take full advantage of the renowned natural heritage programming available and prime local attractions.

Killbear has the best of both worlds; it’s a place where the blustery wild winds off Georgian Bay give a sense of the neighbouring northern landscape and the multitude of nearby southern attractions make for an active holiday outing. One day you’ll find yourself kayaking through a cluster of the notable 30,000 Islands or taking a shoreline hike on top of a craggy outcrop to watch the sun set. Then the next you’re going into Parry Sound to experience Georgian Bay Airways “Fly & Dine,”(YouTube video) where you get flown out to a remote island on the Bay for lunch at Henry’s Fish and Chip Restaurant or the two hour Island Queen’s inner-island tour.

Watch a short video that showcases some of the highlights of Killbear

Killbear - Thanks for the memories
In celebration of Killbear’s 50th anniversary, a second edition of Killbear, Thanks for the Memories is in the works. The book is filled with a myriad of visitor stories from adventure to romance to practical jokes to making new friends. The book, told in a "Chicken Soup" style, will be sold at Killbear's Nature Shoppe or online with all profits going to Killbear's volunteer group - The Friends of Killbear.

Other Parks Celebrating this year

Sturgeon Bay
Sturgeon Bay is close neighbours with the more familiar Killbear Provincial Park. Both are situated along the splendid coastline of Georgian Bay and have many similarities. One difference is that Sturgeon Bay doesn’t receive as many visitors as Killbear. And to some campers, that’s a prime reason to keep pitching camp here year by year. Sturgeon Bay allows you to touch Northern Ontario yet the urban south is not too far away.

Blue Lake
Located northwest of Dryden, Blue Lake is a popular recreational park. Famous for its long sandy beach and deep crystal clear water, which its name is derived from, Blue Lake is a perfect family camping destination. Stop by the Visitor Centre located in an old log cabin near the campground or take a hike with a park naturalist through a spruce fen and stands of majestic pines.

Caliper Lake
Caliper Lake is one of the lesser known provincial parks in Ontario. The campers that do know of it, however, happen to treat it in high regard. Caliper Lake provides the opportunity to take a warm evening swim at the small but exceptional sandy beach. It’s camping under a forest canopy where majestic red and white pine, infrequent this far north, have taken root. And it’s having the rare prospect of catching a glimpse of a White Pelican, birds that have extended their range out from the neighbouring Lake of the Woods region during the last thirty years.

Marten River
Marten River Provincial Park is, and ever will be, one of the prime entrances to the wilds of Temagami’s seemingly endless canoe routes. However, staying put at the main campground itself, pitching your tent under the canopy of 150-year old pine, can be just as rewarding. Day paddles can be had to remote lakes or nearby hikes to Temagami’s old-growth forest or to the summit of Caribou Mountain. The park itself also has a 5-kilometre hiking trail that is shaded by 300-year old pine trees. Huge blackened stumps found throughout the campground itself bear witness to the intense logging that once went on here – all of which can be revisited at the replica logging camp.

Pigeon River
Pigeon River’s High Falls is an absolute must see for both its beauty – the cascade plunges over a large chunk of soft sedimentary rock - and also for its historic significance. This is part of the main travel route used by the voyageurs and was the preferred travel route for the fur traders between 1722 and 1797. For a number of years the boundary between Canada and the United States was disputed by both sides. Both countries agreed that the line would be drawn along the main travel route, which was the Pigeon River to Lac la Croix and then to Lake of the Woods.

Sinzibuckwud, AKA maple syrup, a sweet reminder that spring is on its way.

Ontario Parks Insider

With the month of March quickly approaching, it is time for the staff and volunteers at Bronte Creek to gear up for the sweetest time of year - the annual maple syrup festival. They will work tirelessly to ensure that all the taps and buckets are in place for when the maple sap begins flowing. Then on March 6 the doors will be opened at Bronte Creek Provincial Park for the start of the park's annual Maple Syrup Festival.

The festivities are open to the public every weekend in March and daily through March Break (March 15-19th). Visitors can enjoy a guided tour of the Maple Lane, where 1890s costumed interpreters demonstrate how to tap maple trees, make maple syrup and maple sugar, tour the 100-year-old Spruce Lane Farmhouse, or hop on a wagon that will take you to a heated pancake house where you can enjoy fresh, hot pancakes with pure maple syrup and sausages. Best of all, the park makes their own Fresh Maple Sugar and Maple Taffy that you can take home to help sweeten the final days of winter as we wait for the trilliums bloom.

If you plan to visit the Bronte Creek Maple Syrup Festival, tell staff that you read about the festival in the Insider and mention the word 'sinzibuckwud'. You will receive a free maple candy at the candy shanty.

Ontario Maple Festivals :

Maple Syrup Steeped in History
No one really knows for sure just how long people have been making maple syrup and maple sugar. First Nations were the first to discover 'sinzibuckwud', the Algonquin word for maple syrup, meaning 'drawn from wood'. Tomahawks were used to make V-shaped gash in the trees. Pieces of bark were then placed into the groove to guide the sap to flow into a makuk (a bucket made of birch bark) at the base of the tree. The sap was then heated by transferring hot rocks from the fire into the makuk. This crude way of heating the sap was the only method available as clay pots could not withstand the lengthy cooking required to reduce the sap to sticky syrup.

The first European settlers and fur traders introduced wooden buckets to the process, as well as iron and copper kettles. It was the First Nations who showed French settlers how to tap the trunk of a tree, harvest the sap and then boil it to evaporate some of the water. This custom quickly became an integral part of life in the colonies as other types of sugar were hard to find and expensive. Maple sugar and syrup was as common on the table as salt is today. Maple syrup production methods have made some important improvements over the past 200 years, but surprisingly production basics remain the same. The sap still must be collected and then boiled carefully. Producers never add flavouring, colouring, preservatives or chemicals.

There are countless sugar shacks and maple festivals in southern Ontario and Quebec. Spring is a traditional time to get outside and enjoy the signs of spring! Melting snow, tree buds opening, robins singing… and the wind-chime sound of sap dripping into metal buckets.

Visit a maple syrup festival this spring and enjoy a taste of our heritage.
1540 – First written account of maple trees
1557 – First written account of maple sap
1606 – First written account of “distillation” of maple sap
1796 – Fur traders brought iron kettles
1818 – Maple sugar selling for half the price of cane sugar
1860 – First metal spout patented
1875 – Metal sap buckets replacing wooden ones
1884 – Early patent for sugar evaporator
1959 – Plastic pipeline system patented
1965 – Maple leaf unifying symbol for Canada – new national flag.

How to Enjoy the Dog Days of Winter

Ontario Parks Insider

If you are finding yourself stuck inside pining for spring, don’t fret, there is a cure. Although ice and snow have covered the lakes and trails we enjoy in warmer weather, it also offers up some invigorating activities. Spirited winter activities – such as skating, skiing, tubing and snowshoeing – each with their own kind of rush, can help melt away the final days of the season.

For diehard skiers and winter fanatics, this is nothing new. With a healthy supply of warm weather grip wax they extend the winter season as long as possible without any encouragement. But for those of us who occasionally strap on the skates or take a few runs on the tobogganing hill with the kids, this time of year is particularly difficult. What’s needed is something fresh. Something different. Not extreme, but something rejuvenating. That something is dog sledding!

Dog sledding is the perfect way to mush your way through the final days of winter. A classic Canadian experience that is enjoyed by so few. Luckily Ontario has a host of dog sled operators with the Algonquin region being a top destination.

Thoughts of spring will quickly fade as you discover the thrill of driving a team of Siberian Huskies. And a new take on winter will be gained as you glide over snow-covered forested hills, frozen lakes and past blue icefalls.

Several experiences are available in Ontario, from half day trips to full weekend getaways with lodging. To discover a new lease on winter visit Ontario Travel’s outdoor website.

If you happen to have your own dog sled team or have ever thought of hitching up Rover to a sled there are two dog sledding trails for you to try out at Algonquin.

We have extreme dog sledders too. Ontario’s own Winterdance Dogsled Tours Race Team is off to the Iditarod - a race over 1150 miles of the roughest, most beautiful terrain in Alaska. Follow their progress on Facebook.

Other ways to experience winter at Ontario Parks....

  • Did you know that MacGregor Point has a unique skating oval (video) that allows you to tour around a campground on ice?
  • Arrowhead is in the spotlight this season after having just hosted the Ontario Winter Games 2010 Cross Country Skiing events. But you can also try out tubing or snowshoeing at the park.
  • The Sleeping Giant Loppet will be held on March 6 and features a Mini-Loppet for families and recreational skiers
  • For the latest cross-country trail conditions, check out the Ontario Parks Ski Report.

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Ontario Parks Insider

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