Heart of the Continent sustainable tourism partnership to host winter meeting on edge of Quetico

Skiing in Quetico Provincial Park’s Sawmill Lake Tour. (Photo courtesy Ontario Parks).

The Heart of the Continent Partnership will host a quarterly meeting near Atikokan, Ontario on January 17, with winter fun in the wilderness of Quetico Provincial Park planned for the next day.

A roundtable gathering will include discussions on land management and the future of the partnership, as well as a presentation about achieving sustainable tourism in the region, an update on the collaborative effort to achieve International Dark Sky designation, and a talk about groundbreaking research on the forest fire history of the region. The Heart of the Continent Partnership is a Canadian-American coalition of land managers and local stakeholders working together on cross-border projects that promote the region’s economic, cultural and natural health of the lakes, forests and communities.

Winter at Quetico Centre. (Photo courtesy Quetico Centre via Travel the Heart).

The event will be hosted at the Quetico Lodge and Conference Centre located on Eva Lake, 2.5 miles north of Atikokan, just minutes from the park’s Dawson Trail Campground. The meeting timing and location are all part of promoting the area’s underappreciated recreational opportunities during the snowy season.

“Known for it’s unparalleled canoeing opportunities, Quetico is rarely thought about for winter recreation, but for the few that will venture there, they will find an enchanting winter wonderland,” the organization says. In addition to the 1.2 million-acre wilderness, Quetico includes lodging options and 14 kilometers of groomed ski trails, including 3.5 km groomed for skate skiing.

Brian Jackson (QPP Biologist) and Jared Walter Stachiw (QPP Assistant Biologist) surveying the shoreline of Kawnipi Lake for a stand of red pine to investigate for fire scars. (Photo credit: Jill Legault, Quetico Foundation).

Fire findings

Quetico Park biologist Brian Jackson will give an evening presentation about recent research using analysis of tree rings and fire scars to reconstruct centuries of wildfires that have burned throughout the region.

“Currently, Quetico Provincial Park is interested in better understanding the role of fire in Quetico’s ecosystems, and how it can be used as a management tool to promote ecological integrity,” reads a blog post from the Quetico Foundation. The research is conducted by examining fire scars on red pines, and cutting stumps to reveal the rings of trees that can be hundreds of years old.

Dr. Kurt Kipfmueller (University of Minnesota) and Biology Intern Jared Stachiw counting the fire scars on a red pine snag. (Photo credit: Dr. Evan Larson).

Quetico Foundation’s Biology Intern, Jared Stachiw, taking a section of an old red pine stump for future dendrochronological analysis. (Photo credit: Dr. Evan Larson).

The study was inspired in part by similar research in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, where Dr. Evan Larson of the University of Wisconsin used the science of dendrochronology, dating tree rings, to reveal new insights about fire on the American side of the border. His findings showed that indigenous people and early European immigrants ignited many fires for a variety of purposes.

“Mature old growth red pine stands, which are seen by many as icons of the wilderness nature of Quetico, may in some cases be the result of fires started by human activity and this activity may be important in maintaining their current presence in the park,” reads a 2018 flyer from the park about the research.

Data from fire scar and tree ring surveys across Quetico will ultimately be interpreted in partnership with the Lac La Croix First Nation, and used to develop the park’s next management plant.

Skiing the Sawmill Ski Tour. (Photo courtesy Quetico Provincial Park).

Backcountry ski tour

The following Saturday, the Sawmill Lake Classic Tour is scheduled to take skiers on a backcountry adventure through Quetico.

“The narrow twisty trails will have skiers meandering through mixed forests along side the Pickerel River, over creeks and through lowland bogs to Sawmill Lake,” the event description reads. “The tour is not a race and if you carry your lunch and drinks on your back, you can enjoy them around an open fire before the last half of the loop back.” The return route follows an old logging road that is now a narrow trail with flat sections and gradual hills. It ends back at the Heritage Pavilion at Dawson Trail Campground.

Other winter activities, including groomed ski trails, will also be available at the campground for those not doing the ski tour. Later this winter, the park will host the Cross Quetico Lakes Tour, with a tentative date set for March 21. It includes multiple routes of considerable length, and the Reel Paddling Film Festival afterwards.

More information:



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