Plan an exotic winter adventure at Ontario Parks

Summer campers love Ontario Parks but many have never experienced their favourite park in winter.  Ontario Parks aims to change that. Nineteen provincial parks are open this winter season with cross-country trails to ski.  Thirteen have groomed or track-set trails. And eight of the nineteen have comfortable roofed accommodation for rent. Designated snowshoe trails are in many parks. Some have skating and tubing too. Three parks will host ski loppets. Another will host an annual snowshoe race and at least five plan to celebrate February’s Family Day weekend with special events. Below are tips to help visitors plan their own exotic park adventure this winter:

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Famous shipwrecks in or near Ontario Parks

There is a fascinating book called, “Mysterious Islands: Forgotten Tales of the Great Lakes”.  It mentions thousands of wrecks that lie at the bottom of the lakes which have been sailed since the 17th century. Many Ontario Parks are near these huge ship graveyards and in one park visitors can actually visit a wreck dating back to the War of 1812.

 

Illustration of the HMS Speedy

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Flocking to Wasaga Beach

Many people flock to Wasaga Beach Provincial Park for the sandy beach… but so do the birds!

Piping Plovers are small shorebirds seen scurrying along sandy shorelines or backs of beaches where water has pooled, searching for insects and small crustaceans.  Although well camouflaged, Piping Plovers are identifiable by their short orange bills and bright orange legs.  These shorebirds may be little, weighing about 2 ounces and 6 inches in length, but they are mighty.  Twice a year they migrate approximately 2,000 miles to the Atlantic Coast of Mexico.

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Pet-friendly Ontario Parks

While all Ontario Parks are pet-friendly, some offer more than others when it comes to camping with a canine traveling companion. Twelve Ontario Parks offer designated pet exercise areas and beaches. Seventeen more have one or the other. Below is a sample of pet-friendly parks in different parts of Ontario with designated pet-friendly beaches, exercise areas, or both.  For a complete list of all parks with pet exercise areas and/ or beaches PLUS a dog owner’s list of do’s and don’ts, visit our Dogs and Pets in Ontario Parks post.

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August 2014 at Ontario Parks

Here are some of the cool events happening this August at Ontario Parks.

For a complete listing, visit our Calendar of Events

Near Toronto

Wasaga Under Siege at Wasaga Beach Provincial Park

This is the year to visit!  Many extra-special activities have been planned for this 200th Anniversary of the Sinking of the HMS Nancy.  Enemy forces are planning to attack Wasaga Beach! Our Peaceful shores have not seen this many cannons, muskets and bayonets since the HMS Nancy sank in the Nottawasaga River in 1814. Join us on the battlefields, or at the encampment on the Nancy Island Historic Site where hundreds of re-enactors attack and avenge the demise of the HMS Nancy. A weekend full of events for the entire family. www.wasagaundersiege1812.com

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Wasaga Under Seige

Wake up and smell the gunpowder at Wasaga Under Siege bicentennial Aug. 14 – 17

If the kids give you a hard time about actually heading outdoors this summer, take them to Wasaga Under Siege this August at Wasaga Beach Provincial Park, about 90 minutes north of Toronto. Tell them it’ll be like watching a video game, only for real.

Between August 14 and 17, designated areas of Wasaga Provincial Park will be transformed into an 1812 battlefield, complete with soldiers firing canons with real gunpowder, troops dropping on the battlefield and a narrator giving a play-by-play of all the action, just like Hockey Night in Canada. How cool is that?

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Wasaga Beach Provincial Park Piping Plover Program Won ECO Award

Congratulations to Wasaga Beach Provincial Park (WBPP) staff, the many volunteers and the Friends of Nancy Island and Wasaga Beach Park for receiving the prestigious Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s (ECO) 2013 Recognition Award for their role in protecting the endangered Piping Plovers.

Listed as an endangered species in Canada and the United States, the arrival of the Piping Plovers at Wasaga Beach in 2006 marked a significant turning point as this species had not successfully nested on the Canadian Great Lakes for over 30 years, and had no breeding success at the park in over 70 years.

The Wasaga Beach Provincial Park Piping Plover Program has been helping to foster awareness, appreciation and understanding of the plight of the Piping Plovers in the Great Lakes region for six consecutive years. The program attracted support from many volunteers and community partners. Together the WBPP staff and the Piping Plover Guardians, a group of 40-80 volunteers who work three-hour shifts, monitor the Piping Plovers and protect them from predators daily. And, they do it every day in the middle of one of Ontario’s busiest beaches from spring until late August.

Last year there were 66 breeding pairs in the Great Lakes population of which five were on the Canadian side in Ontario with two nests at Wasaga Beach. Thanks to the tireless efforts of WBPP staff, the volunteers and the community partners, the 2013 program’s success rate was the highest since its inception: 63 per cent of the eggs hatched into fledgling chicks. This is a vast improvement over the 25 per cent average survival rate of Piper Plovers in the wild.

Keep up the great work!

Did You Know?

  • The ECO’s Recognition Award acknowledges ministries that best meet the goals of the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR) or use the best internal EBR practices.
  • WBPP staff monitor the entire 14 km of beachfront starting early in the spring watching for the arrival of piping plovers. Once pair bonds are established, staff monitor courtship and breeding.
  • After a single, sand-coloured egg is discovered; staff set up a perimeter fence and the area is closed for 50 metres either side of the egg. A predator enclosure is installed after the fourth egg is laid – this ensures the nest is protected from predators.
  • Park staff and Piping Plover Guardians then monitor the plovers on a daily basis from 8 am – 8 pm until the plovers’ departure in late August.

Provincial park wardens: protecting what you value most

“Hey you there, squirrel? Do you have a license to store those nuts?”  Such was a day in the life of Ranger Smith from ye old Jellystone Park where keeping Yogi Bear and other park dwellers in line was job one.

In real life, the job of a provincial park warden is serious business.  Trained to give visitors the safest, most secure visit possible while safeguarding park resources, wardens perform a variety of functions that most visitors may not even be aware of, including:

  • Enforcing the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act (PPCRA) and other related legislation;
  • Protecting park resources by enforcing legislation, providing education and increasing public awareness;
  • Resolving conflicts;
  • Working with other government agencies when necessary;
  • Preparing court documents and testifying in court proceedings, if needed;
  • Ensuring public safety. Continue reading Provincial park wardens: protecting what you value most

Where to swim at Ontario Parks

This summer has been fantastic for swimmers. And nothing beats a cool dip on a hot summer day so we asked park staff where they think the best swimming is in Ontario: Continue reading Where to swim at Ontario Parks