Quetico Provincial Park is an immense area of pristine lakes, pine trees, and granite rock located in southern Ontario, Canada along the U.S./Canadian border. The park is relatively unknown to the masses, yet the adventure travelers who have experienced it are extremely devoted to the park and return year after year.
Hiking and Canoeing
The park combines hiking and canoeing. It is like the recess peanut butter cup of outdoor places as it mixes the two popular past times. There are hundreds of lakes in this vast wilderness and after canoeing a lake, paddlers will take all of their possessions out of their canoe and hike a trail carrying their loads to the next lake. These hiking links between lakes are called portages. The portages vary from a short hundred feet pull over around a waterfall to one to two mile hikes. Most of them are under a quarter of a mile.
For those interested in this type of adventure, consider camping in the park at least four to five nights, and if you have time even longer. There are no motors allowed inside the park and no flight drop offs in the interior, so the only way to penetrate the wilderness is by the human muscle. The farther into the park you get the more amazing the scenery, the fishing, and the experience.
Brief history of Quetico
The canoe and hiking trails have been used by man for centuries. Native Indians first paddled these waters on the way to their favorite hunting and fishing grounds. Evidence of their existence is adorned on several Quetico cliffs in the form of pictographs. Pictures of paddling and animals appear painted in red on many cliffs. Maps of the area indicate where these ancient drawings can be found.
The area was first settled by the French and the canoe and hiking trails in Quetico and beyond became an important trading route mainly for furs during the 17th, 18th, and 19th century. French-Canadian traders called Voyageurs (French for traveler) paddled huge canoes laden with their goods as they traveled back and forth between Canada and into the Great Lakes.
Canoeing and hiking are not the only adventure activities one can do inside the park. The fishing is absolutely amazing. Northern pike, walleye, lake trout, and smallmouth bass all team in the crystalline waters of Quetico. There is nothing as tasty as a fresh fish shore lunch after a morning of fishing.
Pros and cons of high fees
Ontario parks charge a high fee for entering and staying in the park. It costs $20.00 U.S. dollars per person per night to camp and stay in Quetico. These fees keep a lot of families and younger people out of the park. This is unfortunate, but for those who want to ante up the experience is second to none. It is likely you will go days without seeing another human.
Quetico permits can be purchased five months in advance on the phone or through an outfitter. The permits are a $100.00 non-refundable fee. The permits actually do not cost extra though as the $100.00 is deducted from the daily fees upon entry into the park.
Quetico abounds with wildlife. You are guaranteed to see common loons and bald eagles. It is likely you will see river otter, osprey, and beaver. Moose used to be common in the park, but numbers have unfortunately declined in recent years. This might be due to the rise of the wolf population, but it is more likely a natural ebb and flow of their population. Black bears are also found in the park, so it is strongly suggested you hang food packs. Bears are rarely encountered in the wild.
Where to rent equipment
Most travelers will need to rent equipment if they are interested in a Quetico adventure. If entering the park through Grand Marais, Minnesota then check out Voyageur Canoe Outfitters and if entering through Ely, Minnesota then try Canada Border Outfitters. There are also outfitters if going through Aitokokan, Canada. The fees are actually less expensive if entering the park through Canada.
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