Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: July 2021
Petroglyphs Provincial Park features the largest known concentration of Indigenous rock carvings, which are commonly known as petroglyphs, in Canada. This sacred site contains carvings that represent aspects of First Nations spirituality, including turtles, snakes, birds, humans and more. It is known as Kinoomaagewaabkong, which translates to “The Teaching Rocks”. Petroglyphs is a day-use park and features a Learning Place Visitor Centre along with three hiking trails that weave through the forests and marshes along the Canadian Shield.
We spent the night at the cabin and left first thing in the morning. From the cabin it’s about an hour and a half drive to get to Petroglyphs. When we arrived at the park, we drove towards the Learning Place where the Petroglyphs Site is located along with the trailhead for two of the longer trails in the park.
In the parking lot, there was a sign to indicate that every visitor is required to register their vehicle at the Learning Place, even if you have a park pass or day-use permit. Unfortunately the Petroglyphs Site was closed due to COVID, but the gift shop in the Learning Place was open. It’s a short trek, a few hundred metres, from the parking lot to the Learning Place. After we registered our vehicle and picked up a park patch, we walked back to the trailhead.
The trailhead marks the start of two trails: the Nanabush Trail (5.5km, rated easy, signed with red markers) and the Marsh Trail (7km, rated moderate, signed with blue markers). We decided to first hike along the Marsh Trail. For the first few hundred metres the two trails overlap and are marked by a combination of red and blue markers.
The trail splits off, but we continued to follow the blue markers for the Marsh Trail through the red pine forest. The path is relatively flat and quite scenic. The forest of dense pines provided pretty decent coverage from the sun. The trail loops through the forest and around a marsh, however, we couldn’t really see much of the marsh.
After about a kilometre or so, the trail overlaps with part of the West Day Use Trail, which leads to McGinnis Lake. We planned to stop here for lunch on the drive out of the park, so continued to follow the blue markers.
The trail then involves a few steep ups and downs before reaching a junction, which conveniently contains a map of the trail system. Here the trail overlaps with the Nanabush Trail again. This time we followed the red markers.
The trail winds around the shore of Minnow Lake and over rocky outcrops. The terrain on this portion of the trail is a bit uneven in places, but the views of the lake just get better and better.
Once we finished hiking around the lake, the trail overlaps with the Marsh Trail again and leads back to the trailhead. We followed the red and blue markers through the forest and over a boardwalk that crosses a wetland.
Once we wrapped up our hike, we drove to the west day-use area which is located near McGinnis Lake. McGinnis Lake is one of the few meromictic lakes in Ontario. In most lakes the warmer, oxygen-rich water at the top of the lake mixes, or turns over, with the cooler, oxygen-poor layers below. This turnover happens once in the spring and again in the fall. A meromictic lake is one in which the different thermal layers never mix.
McGinnis Lake is located in a steep-sided basin and is sheltered from the winds. The lake generally has three distinct layers, defined by changes in temperature and oxygen content. The bottom layer has no oxygen, which means that organics that settle to the bottom don’t decay. For this reason, this lake is used by researchers who collect samples of the sediment to learn of the ecological and climatic changes that have occurred in this area since the end of the last ice age.
In order to preserve the meromictic nature of the lake, swimming, boating and fishing are prohibited to prevent accidental mixing of the lake’s layers.
This seemed like as good a spot as any to have some lunch before we hit the road and drive back home. And that concludes the end of our road trip.
My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here