Description of Historic Place
Algonquin Provincial Park is a provincial park established in 1893. It is located on the Canadian Shield, northeast of Toronto and northwest of Ottawa. The terrain is hilly and heavily wooded, with five major rivers and numerous small lakes within its perimeters. The formal recognition encompasses 7571 square kilometres of land, 15% of which is water, and the various buildings, structures, roadways and pathways contained therein.
Algonquin Provincial Park was designated a national historic site in 1992 because of its contributions to park management; its pioneering development of park interpretation programs; and the role, as an inspiration to artists such as the Group of Seven, it has played in giving Canadians a sense of Canada.
The heritage value of this site resides in the cultural landscape, comprised of a large natural area of forests and water populated with indigenous flora and fauna, in occasional vacation structures and in its illustration of park management.
Established in 1893, Algonquin Park was the first provincial park in Canada. Originally proposed by Alexander Kirkwood of the Ontario Department of Crown Lands to preserve important headwaters and protect wildlife and forests, it achieved broader objectives.
Park management techniques developed at Algonquin were applied at national and provincial parks across Canada. Algonquin acted as a trying-ground for issues such as: wilderness protection versus recreation promotion; and forest conservation versus logging activity. The park reflects its three founding purposes: a forest reservation; a fish and game preserve; and a health resort and pleasure ground for the enjoyment of the people of Ontario. Forest management techniques have included logging regulation; fire prevention and control; and assisted reforestation. Wildlife management policies have banned, licensed or otherwise restricted hunting and fishing in the park and have applied various policies of intervention and conservation to the park's fish and game. A variety of facilities have been constructed to accommodate human enjoyment of the park.
Park interpretation was pioneered at Algonquin Park in the 1940s by biologist Dr. J.R. Dymond of the Royal Ontario Museum, and later applied at parks across Canada. A park museum, added in 1958, provided facilities for displaying the flora and fauna of the park and giving lectures by naturalists.
Algonquin's rugged lakeshores and wooded slopes have attracted cottagers, tourists, artists and wilderness enthusiasts, fostering intense affection for the park across the province and the nation. Accessibility began with a rail line through the park in 1896 and the consequent development and promotion of recreational facilities. Railway companies and other private enterprises erected hotels and lodges, individuals built summer cottages on leased land, and park management marked, mapped and maintained interior water-routes, portages and campsites for canoe-trippers and wilderness campers. When roads were developed across the park, automobile camping and boating facilities were added. The rugged beauty of Algonquin Park inspired many artists, including members of the Group of Seven, whose paintings added to the park's reputation.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minute, 1992.
The key elements that relate to the heritage value of Algonquin Park include:
- its natural assets, including: its hilly, rocky terrain; its numerous, clean rivers and lakes; its interesting mix of northern coniferous and southern deciduous forests; and the diversity of fauna associated with each type of forest
- its water resources, including the headwaters of five major rivers: the Petawawa, the Bonnechère, the Madawaska, l'Amable du Fond and the Oxtongue-Muskoka.
- its lumber resources, as a product for lumber and pulp industries
- evidence of fire prevention techniques, including: a network of fire detection towers built from as early as 1922
- evidence of assisted reforestation dating to the 1950s
- remnants of the Ottawa, Arnprior & Parry Sound Railway (later Grand Trunk Railway (GTR)) of 1896, and the Achray Railway Station
- hotels, lodges, cottages, camps such as Arrowhons, associated structures such as interior ranger cabins, the Park Administration Building, entrance gates on the east and west sides of Highway # 60
- landscape elements as illustrations of park management
- evidence of early park interpretation, including: nature trails; labelling of significant trees and plants, the outdoor logging museum, and the former Park Museum Building.