The province of Ontario is both vast and beautiful. From south to north, Ontario is lush with an abundance of wild green spaces, much of it undeveloped. The Ontario parks system covers almost 10 percent of its land- more than 30,000 square miles, and Algonquin Provincial Park is arguably its crown jewel.
Established in 1893, the park was created in response to the threat of unregulated logging.
"There had already been logging going on for about 60 years or so, and in those early days of logging, it was really unchecked," said Rick Stronks, the park's chief naturalist. "They were clearing the land. They were taking the trees. They believed it was endless, and so they really didn't have a whole lot of regard for what they were doing."
Fortunately, a Royal Commission was formed to establish the park, and today Algonquin stands as a model for the rest of the world. The park attracts almost a million visitors a year.
"It's a huge landscape for being so close to so many people," explains Stronks. "We're a three hour drive from major cities like Toronto or Ottawa. In fact I think it's about ten million people that live within a three hour drive of Algonquin, so that makes it a very accessible, large, wilderness type of park."
The park has a dual nature. The Highway 60 Corridor borders the southern perimeter and offers day trails and tourist attractions, like their beautiful Visitor's Center. But for the more adventurous, there's the park's truly wild interior.
"The real Algonquin Park is this vast interior, 7,600 square kilometers, and the only access is really by foot, either with canoe or backpacking. We have approximately 2,400 lakes, and you can just paddle and portage and spend days or weeks in this back country."
Of course with all that wilderness, the opportunity for seeing wildlife is incredible. Park visitors are able to experience a wide variety of wild creatures, but Stronks says the main attraction are its large mammals.
"Algonquin is famous for the big animals: wolves, bear, moose, and deer, and there's no doubt moose viewing and the opportunity to hear a wolf, for example, it's a big draw for many people that come here," said Stronks.
Algonquin's combination of accessibility and remoteness make for an amazing and uniquely Canadian wilderness experience.
"I've had the privilege of working here for twenty years, and I haven't seen the whole park. It takes a lifetime to really explore all of it, and no matter what your interest, you can find something that you would really enjoy spending some time here with."