Healthy Parks, Healthy People: Why outdoor exercise really is better for you

Ontario has had one of the coldest winters on record with ridiculous amounts of snow and frigid temperatures so getting outside to exercise has been a challenge for most of us. Still, if we could only push ourselves to get outside and move … feel the sun shining on our skin, the breeze blowing through our hair, the sights and sounds of nature guiding us, we would actually start to feel better. Mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

A multitude of recent studies from around the world show that exercising outdoors is like winning the health lottery. We simply feel better “taking it outside.” So the next time you’re tempted to walk or jog on the old treadmill, think twice and maybe head outdoors. You will really feel better for it!

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Canada jays at Algonquin: winter breeding phenom is underway

Get out your binoculars, cameras, smart phones and pack a baggie full of bread, cheese and raisins. The fascinating world of the winter Canada Jay breeding season is underway at Algonquin Park. And if you’re lucky (as most Canada Jan fans are), these delightfully social birds will feed right off your hand.

“Canada Jays are a fascinating bird,” says retired Algonquin Park naturalist Dan Strickland.  “They are very confiding and quickly learn that people can be a source of food and so they come to people, rather than the other way around. They are often tame and will land on your hands.”

“This visitor to Algonquin Park is delighted to have a wild Canada Jay calmly land on her video camera. Canada Jays in Algonquin are the subject of one of the world’s longest running field studies, part of which involves giving each bird a unique combination of coloured leg bands. These permit it to be individually recognized, even from a distance, as it goes about its business on its large year-round territory in patches of boreal forest.” CREDIT: Gord Belyea

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Book your Ontario Parks summer campsite now

Did you know Ontario Parks is now taking campsite reservations for summer 2015?  The provincial park agency has a 5 month advance booking window. This means that anyone planning to camp in late June, for example, can book their campsite now.

During the busy five month advance reservation period, Ontario Parks processes about 102,000 reservations (3o% of its total reservations for the year).  The peak weeks for booking five months in advance are mid-January to March 31. Pinery, Algonquin, Sandbanks, Killbear and Bon Echo Provincial Parks are the busiest. Ontario Parks suggests trying a new park in 2015 and offers some excellent alternatives to its busiest five. Check this Ontario Parks blog for new parks to try, online tools to help you choose a park and much more.

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Ontario Parks to visit in 2015

Because of the 5 month booking window at Ontario Parks, to reserve a specific (and popular) campsite for the August Civic long weekend, reserve now. Over 40% of reservations made by the end of March are for the most popular parks. Park staff suggests these provincial parks as alternatives to Ontario’s busiest five.

 

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Ever flap an owl’s wing or held a century-old insect? You can at the Algonquin Park Collections Room!

The century-old skins, skulls and specimens inside the Collections Room at Algonquin Park live like little hermits in the basement of the Visitor Centre, stunningly preserved and rarely seen by anyone except park naturalists and visiting scientists.

Yet every now and again, the doors swing open and the public is invited to visit this treasure trove of natural history dating back 50 to 100 years.

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Family Day & Valentine getaways at Ontario Parks

February is a popular month to visit Ontario Parks. Five provincial parks plan Family Day events and affordable Valentine getaways in roofed accommodation at many parks are also a big draw. Valentine’s Day and Family Day are on the same holiday weekend this year, February 13-16. While holiday weekend accommodation is already booked, mid-week dates are still available. A total of twenty-six parks across Ontario are open this winter. Eight have roofed accommodation for rent. Nineteen have groomed ski trails and snowshoeing and several offer skating, tobogganing and tubing. The Ontario Parks Ski Report has the latest trail conditions. This Park Blog snowshoe post includes parks with designated trails.  For more on Family Day events and Valentine getaways, please see below.

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Memories are made of this…

The sun is shining, the gentle breeze is cutting the heat, and the soft waves are colliding against the shoreline behind you.  This is it, the perfect spot to start a new beginning, a perfect spot to get married.  Many people seek out the amazing backdrops of Ontario Parks to create unforgettable memories built upon laughter and smiles with family and friends while experiencing nature through camping, hiking, swimming, etc.  So, why not have that perfect backdrop for one of the most important days of your life?

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The cold hard facts about ice fishing rules and regs

Do you dream of skimmers, tip-ups, pop-ups and giant pike or walleye?  Do you measure the days of winter by the increasing thickness of ice on your favourite lakes? Or are you just excited to try out your new ice fishing rod for the first time?

Imagine setting your line in with little to no one else around, in middle of nature!  Ontario Parks are able to offer you amazing and seemingly endless ice fishing opportunities.   No matter where you decided to take your auger, it is important to check you have all your fishing and safety equipment, you have let others know where you are and you dress in layers to keep warm.  Another imperative step is making sure you know your local fishing regulations!  As parks are specially protected areas, so are the fish.

Following these regulations, and understanding why they exist, is an important part of maxing out your time on the ice, while ensuring you are helping maintain a sustainable ice fishing practice.

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Wolf, caribou scat offers vital clues to migration, possible renewal

Scientists are combing the backcountry of Ontario this winter scooping up samples of wolf and caribou scat, hoping the DNA-rich pellets will provide precious clues into the lives of these endangered species.

The collection is part of ongoing efforts to capture the important data far less invasively than by trapping or collaring the animals. Every winter for the past few years, scientists have flown by helicopter over parts of the province and landed where they have spotted certain tracks. They then follow the tracks on foot and bag the scat along the way. That way they can capture the samples they need without ever having to frighten or interact with the animals in any way.

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