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Writer Dawn Huddlestone heads out for a day of adventure at an Ontario Park that’s small in size but big on fun and adventure.
Mikisew Provincial Park, located near South River in the Almaguin Highlands of Ontario (and just north of Muskoka), is a hidden gem for day-trippers and campers alike. Just a short drive west of the town of South River on the shores of Eagle Lake, the park has everything you need for fun and adventure with family, friends, pets – or even on your own.
“Mikisew” is the Ojibwe word for eagle, so it’s no surprise that ‘Eddy the Eagle’ stands sentinel at the gates, greeting everyone. After checking in at the gatehouse and peppering the extremely friendly staff with questions, we started our day with a visit to the fenced, lakeside dog park. Our Labrador Retriever, Jackson, made instant friendships with 19-month-old Maximus and 8-year-old Molly (breeds unknown). The three of them charged through the water and around the park’s agility features – two climbers, a tunnel and a multi-level jump – only pausing occasionally to shower their human companions with a vigorous shake after a swim in the water.
The Mikisew dog park is adjacent to the day-use area which includes a horseshoe pit, beach volleyball court, a sandy, shallow swimming area and picnic tables. There was no shortage of activities to pass the time.
Rather than linger, but with a promise to return there for our picnic lunch, we trekked off to explore Mikisew’s five hiking trails. The first, Point Trail, starts at the day-use area. It follows a small spit of land that juts out into Eagle Lake and ends in a small clearing lakeside. (I regretting not bringing a book along to enjoy this secluded spot!)
Lakeview Trail begins from the other end of the day-use area and winds through the trees along the shoreline to the second of Mikisew’s three beaches. This beach was busy with campers who come to swim or launch canoes and kayaks. The park has PFDs (a.k.a. life jackets) for use free-of-charge, but you’ll need to bring your own vessel. Nearby Eagle Lake Narrows Country Store rents life jackets as well, along with paddleboats, rowboats and motorboats, by the day or the week. The store also has all the fishing supplies you might need. Anglers can try to land small or large mouth bass, walleye, lake whitefish, perch and northern pike.
The remaining three trail heads – Beaver Meadow, Maple Canyon, and Old Dog – are across the road from the main entrance. All are gorgeous woodland trails and you don’t want to miss the view from the bridge of the Beaver Meadow Trail. Bring your camera and keep an eye out for animals, too – we spotted a ruffed grouse and a blue heron. And don’t forget to stop in at the gatehouse to pick up a photo scavenger hunt sheet. You’ll be able to check off a whole bunch of items from your hike alone.
If you don’t want to explore the trails on your own, the park has regular guided hikes and interpretive activities – check at the gatehouse for a schedule or follow them on Twitter @MikisewProvPark for updates.
Also across the road are a disc golf course – we’d never played before and failed miserably in the scoring department but won for fun and laughs – and a sports field for playing a pick-up game of baseball or soccer.
Extended your stay and visit the charming communities of the Almaguin Highlands, which offer a variety of summer festivals, activities, shopping, dining, and historical encounters.
Mikisew has become a new favourite site for us, and we’ll be heading back to enjoy a weekend of camping soon. You should too – you won’t be disappointed!
To plan your stay at Mikisew Provincial Park in South River, click here. For more information on this region of Ontario, click here. For directions, click here.
For more vacation ideas in the great Canadian wilderness just north of Toronto, visit www.explorersedge.ca.
Guest Blogger: Dawn Huddlestone