Two people wearing PFDs paddling a canoe towards a forested shoreline

Introducing Bigwind Lake Provincial Park!

We’re absolutely over the moon to announce we are taking steps to create the first new full-service operating park in 40 years…

…Bigwind Lake Provincial Park!

People need parks

If the past few years taught us anything, it’s that Ontarians LOVE our parks!

staff greeting car at park gate

In 2020, the start of the pandemic underscored just how precious our parks are, and how critical they are to our mental and physical well-being.

By the following year, our parks saw 12.4 million visits – a 29% increase over 2012!

As a result of this increased demand, more and more of our parks (especially in southern Ontario) began to reach capacity during peak season.

two women in a red canoe on a lake

With Ontario’s population projected to continue growing (again, especially in southern Ontario), we anticipate more visitors than ever wanting to pass through our gates in the coming decades.

Turning Bigwind Lake into a full-service park — the first in 40 years — will help us be ready to welcome them!

Where did Bigwind Lake come from?

Bigwind Lake is no stranger to Ontario Parks. In fact, this non-operating provincial park used to be a junior ranger camp in the 1960s.

Our task over the next few years will be to turn it from a non-operating park into an operating park.

a forest peninsula sticking out into a lake

Non-operating provincial parks, like Bigwind Lake, offer limited recreational experiences, fewer facilities, and generally no dedicated staff or fee collection.

Why choose Bigwind Lake?

A lot of careful thought went into the location. After all, it’s been four decades since we welcomed a new operating park to the family!

Located about an hour south of Arrowhead Provincial Park (and about 1.5 times bigger than that fan fave), Bigwind Lake has all the charms of the area.

It boasts beautiful lakes, meadows, marshes, and upland forests of Sugar Maple, Eastern Hemlock, and Yellow Birch.

aerial shot of a canoe on a lake surrounded by evergreen forest

Basically, it’s a breathtaking Muskoka paradise.

It’s also within reach of our southern visitors, located only 2.5 hours from downtown Toronto.

What kind of facilities will Bigwind Lake have?

We want your help to design our next full-service provincial park!

Our goal is to create a truly modern, innovative, and sustainable space, while holding on to the features that have made our parks beloved through generations. What would this space look like to you?

OP125 pin on uniform

Here are some of the things that we are envisioning:

  • a park design that incorporates elements like low-energy buildings and amenities, such as electric vehicle charging stations and green technologies
  • a central visitor services area, to act as a hub for all of the park’s activities
  • a park store with rentals
  • space for backcountry and campground campers, as well as roofed accommodations
  • areas for hiking, paddling, and cycling

three people heading into the forest for a hike with their backs to the camera

We anticipate Bigwind Lake being a four-season park, so we’ll be planning for the snowy season, too.

Sounds great! When can I book my trip?

Not quite yet. Great things take time, and we have a lot of love and care to pour into Bigwind Lake first.

Our first step is hearing from you.

We want to hear from all Ontarians, including park visitors, about what they want to see at Bigwind Lake.

This month, we’ve also started the process of consulting with Indigenous communities and stakeholders.

two staff members consulting a clipboard

While we compile feedback, we also have a lot of research to complete, from environmental surveys to infrastructure assessments.

We’ll be considering things like where to run electricity and water, and where to establish trails and campgrounds.

And, of course, we need to understand the park’s ecosystems and species, so that our actions can be undertaken as sustainably as possible.

A moose standing amid greenery looking at camera.
The park is located in the southern-most range of moose population. It’s also home to a wide variety of other wildlife, including a wealth of birds and over 200 vascular plant species.

Next, that work will all be distilled into a park management plan, which will lay out the future of Bigwind Lake. We’ll start working with all the wonderful people — architects, scientists, planners, tradespeople — who will help design and build the park’s systems and infrastructure.

We know you’re excited as we are!

This is just the start of a multi-year journey, but don’t let that dampen your excitement or enthusiasm!

The big news: we’re starting work on a new operating park into which we’ll pour everything we’ve learned and everything we hope our parks could become.

We look forward to sharing each step with you over the next few years, and to welcoming you to Bigwind Lake when opening day comes!

Join us as we start this journey to create the first new full-service provincial park in Ontario in 40 years. It’s going to be adventure!