The oldest provincial park in Ontario and the first provincial park in Canada, Algonquin Provincial Park (established 27 May 1893, 7723 km2) is located 250 km north of Toronto. The area, which lies across the southern edge of the Canadian shield between Georgian Bay and the Ottawa River, consists mainly of Precambrian granites, smoothed and gouged by ice sheets that receded 10 000 years ago. The rolling topography is dissected by numerous rivers and some 2500 lakes which provide access by boat to the interior.
Poor soils, a harsh climate and fires have produced a varied and changing second-growth forest, including pine, fir, birch and poplar. The park is famous for its wolves, and other species (eg, deer, moose, bear, raccoon) are common. About 240 bird species have been recorded, including the gray jay, spruce grouse, brown thrasher, scarlet tanager and loon. The cold, deep, nutrient-poor lakes are especially suited to trout, and small-mouthed bass, pike, muskellunge and walleye are also found.
Extensive logging, especially for white pine, began in the 19th century; today over 70% of the park is still subject to controlled logging. Recently land use pressures and park planning have led to considerable public debate regarding the appropriate use and designation of the park. Much research has occurred in Algonquin. An astronomical observatory situated in the park was closed in 1987.
Facilities include lodges, campgrounds, scenic drives, trails and 1500 km of lake and river canoe routes. A new visitor centre complete with bookstore, museum and restaurant was opened in 1993 to celebrate Algonquin's centennial.