Storyteller Scroll: Algonquin

  • Published on Jun 03 2011 |
  • This article is tagged as: storyteller

By Jennifer Gautreau, volunteer Storyteller

This past Victoria Day long weekend my husband and I had the pleasure of taking our two young children to a place close to my heart. We went camping in Algonquin Park. Some of you may think that this is no big deal but I hadn’t been in over a decade. In my former life, before children, interior camping was the norm for me, my husband and my friends. We didn’t do any really intense trips, just two or three nights at a time, a couple of easy portages and then we’d enjoy the absolute peace that only the interior of Algonquin Park brings.

Being able to sit by a campfire, on the shore of a beautiful lake, listening to the sounds of the forest is something I’ve always considered a privilege. I’ve been to most of the provincial parks in the Ottawa Valley, and Algonquin inspires me in a special way.

We camped at Achray Campground on the East side of the park. This campground is small, offering only 40 or so sites, most of which are right on the shores of Grand Lake. Compared to the Highway 60 corridor, this part of the park is remote and quiet. The boat launch at Achray is used primarily as a jumping off point for interior campers. So if you’re looking to car camp but still be in touch with the wild side of Algonquin, this is the place to go. And from there you can access my most favourite place in all of the Ottawa Valley.

A short paddle across Grand Lake, over a quick 30 metre portage, paddle to the end of Stratton Lake and you’re at High Falls. This stunning set of rapids and pools ends in, you guessed it, a waterfall. But in between the lake and the falls is nature’s playground. On a hot summer day you can stumble on dozens of people waiting in line to go down a natural water slide. It’s kind of surreal, paddling in near solitude, to find ten or twenty canoes looking like flotsam on the shore. Then a short walk through the bush and you’re at this paradise. People line up, waiting their turn to slide down bedrock made smooth by tonnes of water rushing over the same spot for millennia. Where else could you find people congregating in the middle of nowhere?

Unfortunately when we brought our children the black flies were so horrendous that we ate a quick snack and beetled out of there. They didn’t quite get the same experience that we have had in the past. But they were able to appreciate the beauty of the tumbling water, the rocks to jump over and the stunning views, even if it was through the haze of a bug hat. As I stood there, listening to the pounding water, watching it swirl and eddy, I was transfixed, just as I was the first time I had set foot on those rocks. This part of the forest was the same today as it was hundreds of years ago and I was able to see it in a pristine state. If it wasn’t for ordinary people fighting for what they think is special, these places would no longer exist. The landscape of High Falls would be drastically altered.

CPAWS-OV has been working for years to raise awareness and prevent logging within Algonquin Park. The road to the park boundary passes through forest that has been selectively logged. It looked naked and torn, an unnatural, altered landscape. Without a doubt this is what the entire park would like if it weren’t for dedicated individuals and organizations working to save all of the treasured places in Algonquin Park. In recent years the percent of park lands that can be logged has declined. Today only

51 % of Algonquin Park is open to logging as a result of the Lightening the Footprint initiative between the Government of ON and the Algonquin Forestry Authority. CPAWS was actively involved in this process in 2008 and 2009.

The summer camping season is now in full swing. As I prepare for our next adventure, I’ll be thinking of what I can do to help preserve not only Algonquin, but all of the other places that are special. I’ll also be sending out a quiet thank you to all of those who have fought so hard to preserve them. Our parks are worth protecting and I’m glad that organizations like CPAWS are here to stand up for what is right.