Archibald M. Campbell, "The Algonquin National Park of Ontario-Its Resources and Advantages", The Ottawa Naturalist, June 1901

[ Building the Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway through the southeast section of Algonquin Park ]

Building the Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway through the southeast section of Algonquin Park, Unknown, 1894, Algonquin Park Archives, APMA 128

The Parry Sound division of the Canada Atlantic Railway renders readily accessible for the first time one of the most remarkable regions of lake and stream, primeval forest and rugged rock that can be found anywhere. It lies between the Ottawa River and Georgian Bay, and is a compact territory over forty miles square, with an area of nearly 2,000 square miles, comprising eighteen townships and six half townships in the District of Nipissing, and representing in the aggregate a million acres of land and water. The Ontario Government has set apart and reserved for all time to come, “for the benefit, advantage and enjoyment of the people of the Province,” this Algonquin National Park. In it, the citizens of Canada have a possession, the value of which they have not yet remotely realized. It is in reality a huge game preserve, a fisherman’s and sportsman’s paradise, a source of water supply, a field for reforestry operations, and a natural sanitarium which bids fair to outdo the Adirondack region and other noted health resorts of America.


In the valleys, between the rocky ridges of the Laurentian formation, are the fountain-heads of the Muskoka, Magnetawan, Madawaska, Petawawa, Amable du Fond, and South rivers–all important streams, emptying into Georgian Bay, the Ottawa and Mattawa rivers, and Lake Nipissing. [...] The interests of the lumberman, who annually floats large quantities of timber to market down their waters, of the manufacturer for whose mill-wheels they supply the motive power, and of the farmer to whom a continuous supply of water in spring, well and stream is an absolute necessity–all required that provision should be made to keep the hills and highlands of this inland plateau covered with a heavy forest growth. […]


This region forms part of the great forest which formerly covered the whole Province, and which here consists of white and red pine, hemlock, tamarac, balsam, spruce, cedar, birch, maple, beech, ironwood, ash and basswood. All the lands embraced in the Park limits are now covered by licenses to cut timber, and on certain of them, pine has been cut for nearly half a century. Bush fires and lumbering operations have made serious inroads upon the supply of pine, but it will still be many years before the Park can, under existing contracts, be freed from these operations. There are no other vested interests in the reservation, so that eventually the Crown will have sole ownership and control of all its products and resources.


For canoeing and camping, the Park offers unexcelled facilities and attractions. The rangers have already made over a hundred miles of trails and portages, and have cleared obstructions from, and otherwise improved the navigation of, many of the streams. This work will be continued until the comparatively free navigation of the more important routes through the reservation has been secured. As a rule, the portages are short and easily made, and are generally welcomed by the canoeist, giving him a chance to stretch his legs. Forty or more log huts or cabins have been erected at different points throughout the Park, and this number is to be yearly increased. They are intended to furnish shelter to the rangers and others in their canoe trips through the reserve, and vary in distance from seven to ten miles of each other–the limit being a day’s journey on snowshoes in the winter.


[...] The following extracts from the “Report of the Royal Commission on Forest Reservation and National Park,” may be of interest:

“Of the fur-bearing animals, the beaver is by far the most valuable. On the shore of every lake in this district are to be found old beaver houses, and there is scarcely a brook in the whole territory on which at short intervals their abandoned dams may not be seen. Now one may travel for days there without seeing a single fresh beaver sign.

“There are two reasons why this industrious and harmless animal should be preserved from destruction. First, because its skin furnishes us with one of our richest and most valuable furs; and, second, because from its habits it is perhaps the greatest natural conservator of water. […]"


The land comprised in the Algonquin Park is in general of little use for agricultural purposes, being, as might be expected from its situation on a watershed, for the greater part rough, broken, and stony. There are a few high hills, the surface being mostly composed of rocky ridges, alternating with valleys, swamps and marshes. The rough ribs of the Laurentian formation everywhere protrude, and in granite or gneiss dip at all angles to the southeast, the strike of the strata being northeast by southwest. No limestome, so far as the writer knows, occurs, and the indications of mineral hitherto found are few, consisting principally of traces of iron. Mining exploration or prospecting for minerals within the Park is prohibited except under certain conditions and provisions. The working of mines and the developing of mining interests would be regulated in the same way.


Much might be said about the possibilities for useful experiment in forestry which such a region affords. The re-planting of burnt areas, the re-filling of gaps in the original forest, the obtaining of accurate information anent the soils, localities and exposures suitable for certain trees, the discovery of the best method of obtaining from a forest the maximum amount of product which it is capable of yielding without at the same time trenching upon its capacity, and the solution of the problem of destroying the branches and tree tops left on the ground by the lumberman during the culling of a pine forest, are all experiments of a great probable value which might advantageously be made. […]


Owing to the altitude of this region, and its bracing atmosphere–redolent with the resinous odours of the pine and balsam, it is a great natural sanitarium, where consumptives may recover lost health and vigor. The idea has been shown to be well founded that pine forests are of specific value in the cure of a lung disease. The old Romans sent sufferers of this class to Libra, where, by breathing the balsamic emanations of the pines which there abounded, they are said to have received much benefit. [...] there can be little doubt but that a sojourn in the pine forests of this Nipissing upland, with its pure air, good water and aromatic breezes, would be beneficial to many afflicted with weak lungs.


The Park headquarters were at first situated on Canoe Lake, but, for various reasons, Cache Lake was considered a more suitable spot for them, and they were removed thither. Suitable buildings for the accommodation of the superintendent and his staff of six or seven rangers, were erected during the summer of 1897 on the lake shore just south of the railway track. The rangers are supposed to be traveling about most of the time, in order to keep a sharp lookout for trespassers and poachers, and against fires, and to watch especially the waterways and usual entrances to the Park. They incidentally erect shelter-lodges, make other improvements, and wage war on wolves and other noxious animals.

On a rocky point, about fifteen feet above the water, and so embowered in birches and spruces that one might paddle by unconscious of its presence, stands “Fort Necessity”—one of the shelter-lodges. It is a small, rustic, one-roomed cabin, containing a sheet-iron stove, rude stools and table, and a platform bed the width of the building. The latter will accommodate, if necessary, six men, three at one end and three at the other, lying feet to feet. […]

Source: Archibald M. Campbell, "The Algonquin National Park of Ontario-Its Resources and Advantages," The Ottawa Naturalist XV (June 31, 1901): 80-89

Return to parent page