The Muskoka parks of Ontario are diverse and no vacation to the Georgian Bay Lakelands, of which Muskoka is a part, would be complete without exploring all the wildlife, waterways, hiking, fishing, canoeing, forest and fauna that these magnificent parks offer.
Over the years Muskoka’s popularity as the preferred cottage destination for the well-heeled urbanites of Toronto, southern Ontario and points abroad has led to extensive development along the more popular and accessible shorelines of the cottage country lakes. Millionaire’s Row has become a tourist attraction in itself with steamship cruises taking visitors along the lakes where many of these gorgeous boat houses are located.
But don’t let the affluence of this area mislead you into thinking that the wilderness and natural beauty of this area is gone. When you have had enough of civilization and the excesses and trappings of the material world just look a wee bit further – to the Muskoka parks.
Escape to the dozens of parks in a canoe or a kayak or on foot. In the winter you might prefer snowshoeing, cross country skiing or snowmobiling for mobility. There are dozens of parks in this region some of which are world renowned outdoor recreation paradises.
Explore the natural world on backcountry trails, in conservation areas, or nature reserves. Sling a creel over your shoulder and take your rod and reel to a secluded bend in the river, to a deep clear pool where trout are resting.
Stare at stars that you never imagined existed and leave the stresses of life behind as a loon serenades you or the hypnotic drone of gurgling rapids take you away to a relaxing place. Silence can be your companion and the silky waters your spa.
Marvel at majestic stands of old growth pine (Ontario’s provincial tree) and hemlock or smell the delicate fragrance of pink grass, sundew, pitcher plants and the white fringed orchid.
Whatever you do, don’t over look the Muskoka parks in this part of cottage country as you travel through this wonderful part of Ontario.
Classes of Parks
We have a list of most of the parks in the Muskoka area for you to check out for yourself as you plan your trip. You should know that Ontario has created a class system for parks based on their usage. The classes are recreation, nature reserve, historical, wilderness, natural environment and waterway parks.
These are parks whose primary purpose is for visitors to enjoy outdoor activities. They offer camping and most if not all the related amenities you would expect. These recreation parks are the most common types of parks that travelers will encounter.
These are smaller areas developed for the purpose of allowing people to experience the wilderness of nature and usually include visitor centers. The visitor centers are an information service where you can learn about any unique characteristics of the environment and what kind of outdoor activities are best.
These parks have been created to protect unique biological or geographic areas of Ontario and are great for day use activities like hiking trails but not camping because of there higher sensitivity. In fact, most nature reserves do not provide camping facilities but there are usually day use facilities and toilets. Some are not regularly maintained and therefore rely on the visitor to assist in maintaining the beauty of the reserve.
These parks are very limited for services or facilities. Their primary purpose is to preserve the natural environment of the area. There are some non-operating provincial parks which also have the same goal but they do allow fishing, camping or paddling. The newer reserves tend to be regulated but it’s an ongoing process so some still remain unregulated. Think of a conservation reserve as a park designed for you to see the uniqueness of an eco system but not interfere or stress it. And if certain activities are permitted, do so with care an appreciation.
These parks are another often overlooked area but are great for experiencing nature at its best. The authorities have purchased lands in sensitive areas to preserve or maintain the natural area of the park. Management programs have been established that regulate public usage which varies from day use to full camping from one area to the next.
Theses areas are usually heavily visited by people and there is a need to ensure that the high use can be supported and sustained by the environment. You can camp in some of these parks whereas others only allow day use. But these parks offer some of the best outdoor experiences in Ontario.
And lastly, if you are a hard core outdoor enthusiast, and willing to rough it a bit, one of the finest places to experience the wilderness is not in any defined park but the crown land throughout the Muskoka area. Unlike parks, crown land can be rugged and primitive but pristine. Get out and enjoy these areas but be sure to practice low impact camping.
Ontario’s Finest Parks in Muskoka
- Algonquin Provincial Park
- Arrowhead Provincial Park
- Axe Lake Conservation Wetland Reserve
- Balsam Lake Provincial Park
- Bass Lake Provincial Park
- Bear Lake Peatland Conservation Reserve
- Big East River Provincial Park
- Bigwind Lake Provincial Park
- Cardwell Township Old Growth Conservation Reserve
- Cognashene Lake and Point Conservation Reserve
- Copeland Forest Resources Management Area
- Crane Lake Forest Provincial Conservation Reserve
- Dividing Lake Provincial Nature Reserve Park
- Draper Township Provincial Nature Reserve Park
- Dutcher Lake Conservation Reserve
- Eleanor Island National Wildlife Area
- Freeman Township Sugar Maple Forest Conservation Reserve
- Georgian Bay Island National Park
- Gibson River Provincial Nature Reserve
- Hardy Lake Provincial Park
- J Albert Bauer Provincial Park
- Kahshe Lake Barrens Conservation Reserve
- Killbear Provincial Park
- Long Lake Lancelot Creek Conservation Reserve
- Loon Lake Wetland Conservation Reserve
- Lower Moon River and Moon River Conservation Reserves
- Massasauga Provincial Park
- McRae Lake Conservation Reserve
- McRae Point Provincial Park
- Moreau’s Bay Conservation Reserve
- Morrison Lake Wetland Conservation Reserve
- Muldrew Barrens Conservation Reserve
- Oastler Lake Provincial Park
- Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park
- Rugged Falls Oxtongue River Provincial Park
- Sequin Chutes Conservation Reserve
- Severn River Conservation Reserve
- Shack Creek Wetland Conservation Reserve
- Six Mile Lake Provincial Park
- Torrance Barrens
Our list of Muskoka parks is growing and our goal is to strive to give the most comprehensive list available. If there is a particular park we missed or you think deserves mention, let us know. We’d love to hear from you.
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