Winter in the Wild, a new one-day Family Day festival at Algonquin Provincial Park is the perfect way to experience Ontario’s oldest provincial park in a new way. The February 18th all-day event celebrates the park’s winter wilderness by encouraging families to try winter park activities, even some that have never been offered before. Festival events take place at different Algonquin Provincial Park locations along Highway 60. Most are free (excluding meals) with the purchase of a Daily Vehicle Permit or Camping Permit (excluding meals).
On quiet winter days, you can hear the birds at Algonquin Provincial Park. Winter specialties include the Gray jay, Spruce grouse and Boreal chickadee. Even larger birds like the Golden eagle winter here. A park naturalist will lead visitors on a 10 am walk of the park’s Spruce Bog at km 42.5. Binoculars are recommended and can be borrowed from The Friends of Algonquin Park but supplies are limited so if you have your own, bring them. Multiple layered clothing and winter footwear are required for the walk which will last about one and a half hours.
The café at the Algonquin Provincial Park Visitor Centre plans to sell a hot Chili (vegetarian and beef) lunch from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm at km 43. The Visitor Centre is the spot to take a break from outdoor activities. Besides the café, there are interesting exhibits that highlight the park’s natural and human history and a theatre that tells the park’s story. There is also a bookstore and a viewing deck with a spectacular park view. Even though the Visitor Centre is open year-round, it does have reduced winter hours, so check the park web site if you plan to visit.
The Visitor Centre also has an amazing Collection Room. The room is not usually open to the public, but park staff is making an exception for Winter in the Wild visitors. Justin Peter, the park naturalist who will lead the Collection Room tour, says the room is full of interesting stories. Like the one about Alice the Moose who made her way to the park all the way from the Adirondacks. Hundreds of natural history specimens collected by park staff over the last 80 years are housed in this room.
Learn to snowshoe and identify wildlife tracks on a guided snowshoe hike leaving the Visitor Centre at 1:30 pm. The hike will follow a trail that doesn’t see a lot of travel in winter. A limited number of rental snowshoes are available for the hike which is open to all ages. Moderate physical fitness is required and multiple layers, hat, mitts and appropriate footwear are recommended.
A big bonfire and BBQ is planned at Mew Lake Campground at km 30.6, from 4-6 pm. Bring your skates if you want to try Mew Lake’s new skating rink. Park staff will be on hand to demonstrate winter camping tips and to sell hotdogs, beef and veggie burgers and cold drinks (cash only, please). Complimentary marshmallows and hot drinks will also be served.
Park staff have saved the best for last. Algonquin Provincial Park’s first-ever Fireside & Night Hike Wolf Howl will begin at 6 pm with a talk around the bonfire about park wolves. From there, park naturalists will lead you to a place where they will imitate wild wolf howls. If you’re lucky, the real wolves will respond! Participants should dress appropriately in multiple layers and wear a hat, mitts, and appropriate footwear. The total walking distance round trip will be about 2 km. Headlamps/flashlights are recommended.