In 1909, Quetico Forest and Game Reserve was established to protect wildlife values, while in the adjacent American state of Minnesota, the Superior National Forest was founded. Quetico Provincial Park was regulated as a provincial park in 1913, and was classified as a wilderness park in 1977 (O. Reg. 630/77). The park’s abundant waterways, its rich cultural history, its wild, undeveloped landscape and relative lack of mechanized travel, all contribute to its reputation as an area of unparalleled wilderness canoeing opportunity.
Quetico Provincial Park is located in the judicial district of Rainy River, and falls within the Fort Frances District of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Quetico Provincial Park encompasses some 4,758 square kilometres (475,782 hectares) of rugged Canadian Shield with numerous lakes and streams. The park occupies a zone of transition between the Boreal forests to the north, the mixed forests to the south and the Great Plains forests to the west and southwest. The southern boundary of the park is contiguous to the Canada-United States (U.S.) Boundary, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) and the Superior National Forest, while Voyageurs National Park abuts the international boundary to the west of Quetico. These American roadless areas share recreational and interpretive themes with Quetico. In 1996, the Canadian side of the waterway along the international border was also designated by the Canadian federal and Ontario provincial governments as part of the Boundary Waters – Voyageur Waterway, a Canadian Heritage River.
The Township of Atikokan is located immediately north of Quetico, has a population of 3,300 and serves as base for park administration. The Neguagon Indian Reserve 25D (Lac La Croix First Nation) abuts the southwest boundary of the park, where it spans 62.1 square kilometres along the northern shore of Lac La Croix (INAC 2007). This community of 271 is home to the Lac La Croix First Nation, and serves as a western administrative area.
Visitors access the park through a series of entry points spread along the park boundary, controlled by a daily quota. Most of the entry points are water accessible; however, road access is available for a few lakes. Mechanized travel is not permitted in the park. However, through the Agreement of Co-existence between the Lac La Croix First Nation and the Province of Ontario, limited use of motor boats is currently allowed on 21 designated lakes. These lakes are located within wilderness zone 2 (W2) in the western portion of Quetico, and are for use by the Lac La Croix Guides Association. The remainder of the park area east of the W2 zone comprises wilderness zone 1 (W1), where only non-mechanized forms of recreational travel are permitted.
Quetico Provincial Park provides both interior (backcountry) and campground-based opportunities for residents and non-residents of Ontario. The Dawson Trial Campground was established in 1957 on French Lake and presently provides 107 car-campsites, 49 of which have electricity, as well as yurts, comfort stations, the heritage pavilion/visitor centre, day use areas, interpretive, hiking and cross country ski trails and other amenities. Interior use is controlled through the entry quota and the interior of the park on average sees approximately 26,000 annual visitors with 120,000 camper nights. The location of Quetico on the Canada-U.S. border leads to historically high usage by visitors of U.S. origin particularly in the south end of the park. For most of the park’s history, southern entries comprised a large majority of entries to the park, while more recently southern entries have averaged about two-thirds of total entries. Similarly, non-resident use of the park has been historically dominant but in recent years the proportion of resident use has grown to an average of 25% of total use. In 2004 non-residents comprised 75% of Quetico visitors; 58% of entries were from the south side and 42% of entries were from the north side.
The initial Quetico Provincial Park Master Plan was approved in 1977. The approved plan provided an expression of how the government intended the park to be developed and managed over a period of time. Reviews of the 1977 plan were undertaken in 1982, and in 1988, to ensure that the park management plan remained current and relevant and to address specific issues. A major amendment proposal by the Lac La Croix First Nation was initiated in 1992 which resulted in the Lac La Croix Agreement of Co-existence and the Revised Park Policy (1995). This agreement will provide opportunities for employment and economic diversification.
Preparation of the new park management plan will be guided by existing, approved secondary plans. In 1997, the Quetico Provincial Park Fire Management Plan was approved, providing a framework for allowing fire to play a more natural role in the ecosystem of the park. Fire management in Quetico guides which fires are extinguished, which are allowed to burn and which are deliberately ignited. The 2006 Fishery Stewardship Plan for Quetico provides direction for fisheries management, while a draft Research Plan sets a context for park-based studies.
Preparation of a park management plan requires comprehensive public involvement. Methods of involvement include advisory groups, open houses and direct notices to interested and affected parties. The park management plan will include, but not be limited to, consideration of:
• goals and objectives;
• zoning (e.g. creation of nature reserve zones, new access zones);
• policies for resource stewardship, operations and development for natural resources (i.e. fisheries management, wildlife management, fire management, vegetation management);
• cultural resources (i.e. First Nation values (e.g. spiritual sites, pictographs) historical sites (e.g. Cabin 16, King Point));
• operations (Natural Heritage Education (e.g. interpretation, information services));
• research (e.g. wildlife, natural fire, fisheries);
• recreation management (e.g. motorized travel in W2, carrying capacity and quotas, new recreation activities, shoulder season and winter uses, staffing);
• Atikokan-Quetico Tourism Recommendations;
• tourism services (e.g. outfitting,);
• marketing (e.g. partnerships, relationship with Atikokan);
• development (economic development (e.g. Lac la Croix and Atikokan));
• new access points (e.g. locations, facility requirements);
• roads (e.g. Batchewaung Lake);
• other (e.g. backcountry hiking / skiing trails); and
• implementation priorities for stewardship, operations and development as well as social and economic impact analysis (e.g. job creation, infrastructure).