Autumn in Algonquin Park

August 31, 2018 | Ann

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Courtesy Toronto Star Photograph Archive, 1991

September marks the transition from summer to autumn: shorter days, darker skies and chillier nights. Leaving the window open all evening may cause your fingers, toes and noses to experience those freezy tingles. Heavier and darker clothing including boots and galoshes start becoming required attire. The crisper air fills with the scent of cool wet leaves, earthy must and smoky wood. 

Not all is as bleak as it appears. Think of the warm fireplaces, the spicy dash of cinnamon in a sip of hot apple cider and the steamy wafts of baked pumpkin pie. Friends and family come together to enjoy the cornucopia of colours that is the Ontario harvest landscape.

Also, this is the time of year that Algonquin Provincial Park — Ontario's oldest provincial park — expresses its brightest red and gold hues through its trees. What better time is there to go visit this majestic landscape? The weather may still have enough warmth for you to explore these lustrous shades outdoors. Tourists flock to the beautiful park. In fact, a Fall Colour Report (made by The Friends of Algonquin Park) provides a timeline of the changing colours of foliage so you can perfectly time your trip.

Stunning images of Algonquin Park's recent past — like those featured below — are available on the Virtual Reference Library, Toronto Public Library's website for Ontario history and more.


Big camper with two canoes with a gorgeous Algonquin autumn backdrop
Courtesy Toronto Star Photograph Archive, 1991

Take out a full camper with two canoes strapped to the roof and camp directly on the land. This is an amazing, timeless experience.

Scarlet Maple coloured trees Highway 60
Courtesy Toronto Star Photograph Archive, 1986

Trekking through the terrain would also be gorgeous on a motorcycle, as long as you abide by the speed limit as the two officers in the above photograph would strongly advise. If you are willing to wait for the colours to deepen to rich red and golden yellow, late September to mid-October is a great time to visit — whether it's 1986 or 2018.

Brewer Lake in Algonquin Park
Courtesy Toronto Star Photograph Archive, 1994

Above is just another morning in beautiful Algonquin Park. The fall forest dazzles as does the rising mist from the central cauldron that is Brewer Lake. The scene feels so mysterious, mystical and mythical yet it is entirely natural. (National Geographic explains that, "Mist often forms when warmer air over water suddenly encounters the cooler surface of land.") The lake also features these amazing wooden stumps. It's name, Brewer Lake, certainly sounds like it might have an interesting history...


My Misty Morning in Algonquin Park

I was among the lucky few to access the Algonquin Research Facilities for hands-on field work during university. At the facility, we had a wealth of resources at our disposal.  Two botanical classes made the trip in the Spring of 1997 — the two topics were algae and and mycology. (Unfortunately, no images of this memorable trip are included here.)

In late September a bus picked up the two classes at the University of Toronto and drove up to Algonquin Park. Several hours later, we reached our destination. Evening descended over the landscape. Students were quickly paired up and pointed to their respective cabins. When my bunk mate and I pried the cabin door open, we had to locate a huge electrical switch at the upper left corner inside by the door and push the heavy switch up. Light filled the space and turned on the heating.

This adventure cabin below is located in Algonquin and is shown here for comparison. Imagine an empty interior other than two bare twin beds, two empty wooden shelves above and a narrow plank floor between the two of us. Our cabin was half the width of this one. with only one window pane between the two of us. It overlooked the sheer blackness of the lake. Our weekend of fungal and algal extraction and research began the next day.

Algonquin Park tourist cabin

Cabin in the woods, 2007 (image by Dave Kempcreative commons licence)

In the morning, we peered through the window to witness the mist above the lake. My roommate insisted that we take pictures by the lake before heading to breakfast. The scenes of the misty lake eventually disappeared to be replaced by the bright hues of red, green and gold trees encircling the wide expanse of the lake's deep blue water.


The Group of Seven in Algonquin

Not only do tourists and researchers come to take in the fantastic Algonquin Park scenery. In the early twentieth century, artists, including The Group of Seven, hitched up their canvasses and paint palettes to head to Algonquin Park to capture and express this cold and lonely forested region in landscape art. The McMichael Art Gallery in Kleinberg, Ontario as well as The Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto have The Group of Seven arts collection on display.

Group of Seven during their testimonial dinner

Group of seven artists honoured in 1965. From left: Edwin Holgate; Fred Varley; A. Y. Jackson; A. J. Casson; Lawren Harris Jr. (representing his father)

More images of The Group of Seven artistic collective are available on the Virtual Reference Library.

Sadly, one of the Group of Seven artists Tom Thomson perished on Canoe Lake and his early death has remained a mystery.

Tom Thomson Artist of the North


Algonquin Park contains so much history, colour, artistry and mystery. Enjoy your fall journeys and consider Algonquin Park as part of your travel plans.

Read more about Algonquin Park's history in my colleague's post made for the Virtual Reference Library.

Red car heading into Algonquin Park's autumn domain
Courtesy Toronto Star Photograph Archive, 1993