Killarney Provincial Park offers rich wilderness, natural beauty

Art Weber

        South of Sudbury, Ontario, in the shadow of the world’s second tallest chimney, is one of North America’s most unusual and beautiful natural areas.
        Killarney Provincial Park is a rich wilderness to be enjoyed from a canoe or on day hikes, even better on extended backpacking trips. It is a park of wolves and loons on Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay, sporting 200-some pristine lakes in the rocky folds of 182 rugged square miles.
        It’s all outshone by the stunning bright white face of the LaCloche mountain range.
        Yeah white. Not kind of white, not white with a bunch of colors mixed in, in many places its pure white. The mountains are quartzite, orthoquartzite to be exact. Sandstone.
        Geologists say today’s large, rounded ridges were once as high as the present-day Rockies. Their present look is the product of grinding and polishing through four ice ages over the last four million years. Glacier after glacier attacked and pulverized them.
        The LaCloche Mountains aren’t very high anymore but they’re still impressive. Their blinding whiteness has earned them the nickname Canadian Alps because they appear to be snow-covered year-round.
        The mountain and ridgetops are, naturally speaking, an inhospitable environment. Gnarled and stunted red oaks, red maple and pine have managed to hang on, enduring poundings from rain and wind, surviving on meager rations of water and nutrients, and facing the occasional ravages of wildfire.
        As the quartz tops fall away to the lands below, old and healthy stands of sugar maple, yellow birch and hemlock are nestled where deeper soils have collected. Lines of white, red, and jack-pine stand on dry sites, often alternating with poplar and ash in the moist depressions.
        It all adds up to a feast for the eyes at any time of the year, but especially in fall when the white ridges give way to rolling pockets of reds and yellows standing out against the green of the pines. Clear blue wilderness lakes dot the landscape, matching the deep blue of the Canadian sky.
        The scenery makes a compelling argument for the claim that Killarney is the crown jewel of Ontario’s provincial parks. That’s saying something in a province that includes the likes of Algonquin and Lake Superior Provincial Parks. Moose, deer, wolves, bobcat, marten, and beaver inhabit the wilderness, while over 100 species of birds either nest or rest during migration.
        Short trails provide glimpses of the park’s beauty, but the real experience is tackling Killarney head-on on the LaCloche Silhouette backpack trail, a strenuous but extremely rewarding seven- to ten-day 46-mile hike. It’s common for hikers to underestimate the difficulty of the terrain, which demands hiking experience and conditioning.
        “That’s true of any wilderness area, but particularly true in Killarney,” said Bet Silieff, who worked for Killarney visitor services at the time the LaCloche Trail first opened in 1987. “There’s a good deal of risk involved here, especially if you hike the entire trail.”
        The LaCloche Silhouette Trail loops from the edge of the George Lake Campground – the only front country camping in the park – northwest overlooking “the Pool,” a favorite yacht anchorage since the late 1800s, and follows the ridges until it tumbles through The Crack, a ten-foot-wide opening where the earth simply falls away in a dramatic plummet down a boulder-strewn trail.
        Another less strenuous option is taking an excursion up Baie Fine, a fjord-like finger of deep water jutting from Georgian Bay along the eastern edge of Killarney. Take it and you’ll understand why it’s considered one of the top yachting destinations in the world.
        Killarney is a 14-hour drive from Toledo via Sault Ste. Marie. For more information start with


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