Photography Journal by Heidi Csernak
Pillars of Nature
Once you arrive at Bon Echo Provincial Park, there is only one thought consuming the mind - and that's getting a first look at Mazinaw Rock.
But before you've even seen the cliffs, you'll be struck by how tall the trees are - the roads and trails are hemmed in by an incredible, awe-inspiring, towering forest.
There is an incredible view of #MazinawRock when you're standing on the beach near the tour boat launch. Even from that distance, it's easy to marvel at its impressive size.
The 100-meter (330foot) tall rock extends along 1.5 km of Mazinaw Lake's shoreline and dominates the view with its majestic presence.
Much of the cliff face is below water level, going straight down 245m (804 feet) to the lake's bottom.
All that will separate you from the big rock is The Narrows - it's a shallow channel where the waters of upper and lower Mazinaw Lake meet.
From this vantage point 100 feet away, the cliff face is so immense that it completely fills your field of vision.
The Visitor Center
One of the original rental cottages from the Bon Echo Inn, Dollywood, houses the Visitor Center.
Inside, you'll learn about the Inn's construction in 1899, the various owners, the inn's closure in 1928 to its end in 1936 when it was struck by lightning. The resulting fire left nothing behind but ash, memories, and the old dinner bell that called guests to in for the evening meal, which now resides in the Visitor Center.
Exhibits in the old building take visitors back through the history of immigrating settlers in the area, from loggers to maple producers, and miners.
There are displays about the pictographs on Mazinaw Rock and a replica of one the paintings.
You'll also find numerous photos with information explaining what they are believed to represent and the meaning of the spiritual dreams painted on the rocks.
The Visitor Center also aims to educate newcomers about the fauna and flora of the park, with skulls and scat, animal pelts and displays. Informational plaques and photos describe some of the most common wildflowers and plants you might discover in the park.
Tree trunks that had once been bug hotels, provide another great way to learn about life in this wild and beautiful landscape.
A section of the centre educations visitors about the natural history of the area, how faulting changed the landscape, creating Mazinaw Lake and Mazinaw Rock.
Greystones Gift & Book Shop
From gifts, apparel and toys to camping essentials you may have forgotten like water or bug repellent, to fulfil campers and hikers needs. There is also a gallery within Greystones with beautiful artwork celebrating the beauty of Bon Echo that will definitely catch your eye.
Here, you'll purchase tickets for the Wanderer Boat Tour, and the Mugwump Ferry ride to the Cliff Top trailhead. Don't forget to return to Greystones after your adventures to purchase your well-earned hiking and exploration badges!
The store and gift shop is run by Friends of Bon Echo so all proceeds go right back into the park.
Wanderer Boat Tour
45-minute interpretive tour
This boat tour will take you along the shoreline, while the guide talks about the history of Bon Echo Provincial Park.
You'll see the Visitor Centre, Greystones, Cabin on the Hill and a few campsites from the water. The boat coasts past rocky outcrops, kayakers, and campers out for a swim before crossing Mazinaw Lake to the cliffs.
Returning along Mazinaw Rock, the tour guide talked about the natural history of this region, pausing beside the pictographs so you can have a closer look at the paintings.
There are many incredible rock formations to stare at, but make sure to have a look Turtle Head - it's easy to see where its name came from!
There are some incredibly small and ancient trees whose roots are clinging to life on the bare cliffs.
As your gazing at the hardy plants growing on the rockface, you might be astounded to catch a glimpse of the tiny rock climbers or hikers waving to you from up high on Mazinaw Rock - those little people really give perspective as to how big Mazinaw Rock really is.
Kayaking on Mazinaw Lake
Launch your own watercraft or rent a canoe, kayak or peddle boat from Bon Echo Outfitters at the lagoon.
When you paddle through the channel toward the north end of the lake along the length of Mazinaw Rock, you'll encounter some big waves and heavy chop caused by the deep waters of the lake rising up to the shallow Narrows.
Two hundred and sixty pictographs have been painted the rockface. You might not be able to spot them all, but certainly, take the time to appreciate the ones you can find!
If you're looking for an extra challenge, try the Kishkebus Canoe Route (1.5km portage/21km paddling loop, moderate to difficult) around the rock to the nature reserve on the east side.
Other paddlers report that this is an all-day adventure, taking on average seven hours, so make sure you set off early! Also, depending on the time of year - and beaver activity - there may be unmapped portages to navigate low waters and dams.
Sunset on Mazinaw Rock
Watch a natural wonder unfold before you as the granite's hues are warmed by the sun, increasing its colour saturation until the rock is glowing golden before it fades into darkness.
At this point, many campers and hikers might turn back for the walk back to cars and campsites, but you should stick around even after the sun dips below the horizon.
Soak in the beauty as the dying light sends streaking colours across the sky, casting beautiful reflections across the waters and wait...
You'll be rewarded by the incredible sight of Mazinaw Rock lighting up with a last crimson glow. The fiery display lasts but a few minutes, but you'll remember it forever.
Mazinaw Rock Cliff Top Trail
moderate to difficult, 1.5km
Only accessible by water, you can paddle, boat, or buy a ticket to ride the Mugwump Ferry to reach the Cliff Top Trailhead.
Climb up steel, wood, and natural root stairs, over boulders and walk on exposed rock faces. There is flat terrain but this is a 100m ascension over a 750m trail, so there is always an angle to the hike.
Dogs are allowed on this trail, but not on the Mugwump Ferry. I can honestly say that all the doggies we did encounter were petrified of the metal grate stairs, of which there were many. Unless you can carry your furry friend up and down many flights, please leave your pooch behind, pet parents!
If you're not breathless from the ascent, when you reach the top viewing platforms, there's an incredibly breathtaking view of the Narrows and both Mazinaw Lakes.
I recommend staying on the marked trails, and using the designated three lookout platforms not only protects our park, ensuring the wild landscape remains beautiful but also to keep you on the safe path!
Bring water and stay hydrated! If you need to use facilities, there is an outhouse halfway through the hike, on a short side trail with signage to point the way.
High Pines Trail
moderate, 1.7 km loop
Walk through various stages of forest growth, along wetlands then up to a high point where there would've been, at one time, a lookout over Mazinaw Rock and the lake. The forest, however, has all grown in to obscure the view.
These towering trees were casting beautiful lacey shadows across the trails. The sun filtering through the leaves were spotlighting gems in nature; the pine cone, the acorn, fallen oak leaves on lichen, and a pine tree caught in the rays of light.
The wild beauty of the mixed forests and tall pines along this hike was so rewarding, especially in the afternoon's golden glow.
The Shield Trail
moderate, 4.8km, backcountry
Follow the Old Addington Road, deeper into this southern region of the Canadian Shield.
The moderately difficult trail takes hikers through a rugged landscape where settlers, miners and lumbermen once tried to carve out a living.
Most of the evidence of their lives here has been reclaimed by nature. 🌲
Walk on pine needle carpets and rockface, over roots and around boulders while admiring the varied wilderness.
Pass through hardwood forests, cedar lowlands, marshlands, and near a beaver swamp along your journey through Bon Echo's beautiful backcountry trails.
The Abes & Essens Lake Trail
moderate to difficult, backcountry
3 interconnecting looped trails
Clutes 3.5km, Essens Lake 9.6km, Abes 17km
This was the most challenging trail that we attempted during our time at Bon Echo Provincial Park.
Trekking poles were incredibly handy to navigate the paths in the wilderness, including some steep areas, rock obstacles and natural steps that required a real stretch to reach.
A midafternoon hike under the filtered light of the thick forest canopy, with long shadows running across the trails made it feel like the evening is quickly approaching.
There are five backcountry campsites along the Abes Trail, and the Essens Lake Trail for those looking for a camping adventure in the wilderness of the Canadian Shield.
From Hiking and Paddling to Glamping and Backcountry Camping
Not only does Bon Echo Provincial Park have a plethora of activities for day trippers, but there are also many choices for overnight adventures!
There is Cabin on the Hill and other cabins for glamping, camper sites and campsites from easily accessible to hike/paddle access only backcountry sites. With such a variety, you'll be able to find the right site for your level of comfort and exploration goals!
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