The Happy Camper: Algonquin Turns 125

Why do people love Algonquin Provincial Park so much? On its 125th anniversary, we take a look.

Algonquin Provincial Park celebrates its 125th birthday this year. So, what’s the big deal? Why do people love this place so much?

It was actually the crowds of tourists that initially helped protect Algonquin. It was the devoted anglers, renowned artists and the wealthy vacationers who arrived by train and stayed at lavish hotels. They all loved it there and grew concerned over the encroachment of agriculture and the depletion of fish and game. The dream was to protect the half-dozen watersheds that gave birth to the main rivers that flushed out of their familiar piece of paradise. They succeeded. Algonquin Park was formed in 1893.

At the time, it was considered the most significant wilderness park in all of Canada; a place that was twice the size of Prince Edward Island and was promoted as the largest tract of dedicated bush in the world.

Since its creation, Algonquin has more than doubled in size, from 3,797 square-kilometres to 7,630 square-kilometres; it’s changed names from Algonquin National Park to Algonquin Provincial Park (becoming Ontario’s first provincial park); and altered its borders eight times.

Along the way, the original intent hasn’t changed much. Park commissioners set out a plan well over 100 years ago to: maintain the watersheds, protect and encourage the growth and increase of the birds and animals, maintain the park in a state of nature (as far as possible), do field experiments in systematic forestry to a limited scale, secure a sanitarium or a place of health resort and to study the beneficial effects on the protection of a large forested area and climate.

Yep, seems it hasn’t changed much. And isn’t it interesting that they were concerned about people’s health and climate change even back then?

The popularity of Algonquin has continued to grow since its creation, and there’s no sign of it slowing down. The average visitation is well over half-a-million per year.

People literally worship this place. The devotion fans give to the park far exceed the loyalty others would give to their favourite rock band, hockey team, grade-school teacher or even lover. Songs have been written, art created, books published, poems scribbled, theatre performed, films produced, a symphony established, clubs gathered and websites generated.

Algonquin Park is world-renowned. Everyone seems to know about it. If you mention most other larger and wilder places in Canada, you won’t get the same response, the same fidelity that Algonquinites give to their park.

Simply put, this remnant piece of semi-wilderness, a mere two hour drive from Toronto’s International Airport, wouldn’t be here if so many people didn’t love it.

Check out the video of Algonquinites explaining why they love Algonquin so much.

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