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The sandy bottom makes the beach area perfect for splashing. The sandy bottom of Bon Echo beach is great. It gets a little weedy further out. The area surrounding the beach is busy on weekends and features a number of picnic tables and charcoal bbq pits for cooking, so the beach alone is a whole day destination for many visitors to Bon Echo Provincial Park. Pro-Tip: The beach area and picnic tables can fill up fast.

If you plan on spending the day there, arrive early to ensure you get a good spot. Bon Echo Provincial Park camping is excellent. The campsites in the park are a bit close in some spots. But the sites are large, relatively flat and offer great coverage. After drying off, we headed back to our Bon Echo campground for dinner. Unfortunately, the area was suffering from a drought, so a fire ban was on.

But with a portable bbq, we were able to cook up some spaghetti and sausages and topped it off with some uncooked smores before calling it a night. Our campsite was large and relatively secluded from the other campsites. We stayed in a non-electric, radio-free zone. But some campsites in Bon Echo Provincial Park have electrical access and allow music. Pro-Tip: When camping, be prepared to bring your own cooking stove.

A fire ban means that no fires of any kind are allowed in the park. Bon Echo Provincial Park has car camping , as well as 30 backcountry campsites. The backcountry campsites in Bon Echo include both hike-in and canoe-in campsites. Some of them are even located on sandy beaches. There are also 5 backcountry sites located along the Abes and Essens Lake Trail on the cliffside of the park. For those looking to camp on Pearson Lake, canoe access may be difficult in low water. Bon Echo also has both cabins and yurts for those looking for a more comfortable nature experience.


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Bon Echo also offers cabins and permanent tents for those looking for something a little less down-to-earth. From backpacks to kid-carriers, you can check out our favorite travel gear here. Or you can check out some of the best camping gear below. While Bon Echo Provincial Park is not as large as many Provincial and National Parks in Canada, it packs a tremendous amount of beauty into a small area. A weekend visit makes it tough to take all of the top things to do in Bon Echo. The Mugwump Ferry is a 12 passenger pontoon boat offering a quick trip across the narrow Mazinaw Lake.

It docks at Mazinaw Rock, the starting point for the Mazinaw Rock cliff hike. The ferry is small, but the boat rides in Bon Echo run regularly throughout the high season. And it includes a knowledgeable guide who can help to prepare for the hike along the Bon Echo Cliffs. The pontoon boat for the Bon Echo Boat Tour is covered. That helps to keep the hot summer sun off of your head for a while. Each of the rooms has both a fridge and a microwave. Each cabin has a full kitchen. They have a great selection of boats. And they are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The canoes are light Life jackets, paddles, and safety gear are all included in your rental. Bon Echo Outfitters has life jackets and paddles for both children and adults. The top things to do in Bon Echo Provincial Park include activities for all ability levels from beach bums to adrenaline junkies and everything in between. You may also be interested in checking out the 5 National Parks in Ontario. You can read about those here. Bon Echo Provincial Park is one of the best family campgrounds in Ontario. If you are looking for great family camping in Ontario, Bon Echo should be right near the top of your list.

Have you ever been to Bon Echo Provincial Park? Tell us your favorite part of the park in the comments below. Or swing by our Facebook page and share a photo. Wandering Wagars is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon. Your adventures always reminds me why we love traveling so much, you get to see the most amazing places! What a beautiful park! Sounds like it was a great place to go for the kiddos and adults!

I have always wanted to visit Ontario. We spent a lot of time splashing in the water. Bon Echo Provincial Park looks like an adventurous weekend getaway and the scenic natural beauty is just breathtaking! Loved your video! You are going to laugh at me though. I Google Mapped it to see how far it is from Seattle, Wa… yeah 40 hours.

Maybe one day though! I am sure your family had an amazing time!! That would be really cool to see those pictographs up close — I understand why the kids were excited about that! Bon Echo Provincial Park looks so scenic and relaxing. I would love to spend a weekend there camping. I would love to go camping there! As a kid, my family used to rent an RV, but tent camping is so much more adventurous and I would have loved to do that as a family. This is a great thing to do with children. The park looks great as well! Reminds me of many places here in Gippsland where we can go camping, Forests, lakes hiking and such.

We love pitching a tent and having a good camp fire. Always makes me laugh how North Americans refer to anything with sand near water as a beach. In Australia a beach is technically only by the ocean lol. Hahahaha, I hear you. So many options and things to do in this park! Great pics with the family! Thanks for sharing.

I enjoyed so much watching at the video! How did you manage the aerial view? I guess children had fun camping there…. Love these photos! What awesome memories for your little ones to have. Thanks for sharing these lovely photos! Everything about this park looks great-camping, canoeing, hiking, the beach! Making a mental note. What a wonderful way to adventure and cool off in Ontario. Bon Echo sounds like such a great place for a family outing. I know that you guys love to spend the time out of doors during the warm months.

Keep treasuring that family time it doesnt last long. I love this concept of camping in the wild. The place seems very kid friendly too. Great captures. I would have liked to have more time when I was in Canada and get a chance to visit a national park too.

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The kayaking sounds lovely, especially when you can get so close to the murals. And who can say no to a bbq in nature? The lagoon seems a great place to have lots of fun with the family. I always love the choice of the places where you go with the kids. I am sure they will grow up to be well rounded personalities because of the early and great experiences you are providing them.

Wow — this park looks gorgeous. This place almost looks a bit floridian to me for some reason. Will add that to my radar! Beautiful place! That lagoon reminds me of my recent trip to Crescent Lake in the Olympics National Park — calm and beautiful water. Absolutely love reading about your nature adventures.

Bon Echo Provincial Park

So lucky to have so many national parks. I think Thailand has quite a few but all a bit far from where we live. We either need a long weekend or need to fly down even then not enough time. A weekend is never enough! I wish companies would give 3 days weekends. That would be perfect. I love that lagoon! I wanna try SUP and this place looks perfect for it!

It reminds me of the camp sites I used to visit when I was a kid. Your kids looked like they had loads of fun!! Bell-Smith to Mazinaw Lake in the hope that he would be inspired to capture the grandeur of Bon Echo in paint. History, legend and archaeology aside, the Bon Echo Rock is an object of impressive grandeur, particularly in the rays of the setting sun.

Among the other well-known artists who sketched at Bon Echo during the Flora Denison period though not necessarily as her guests were the political cartoonist J. Bengough, C. Jefferys, best known as an historical illustrator and muralist, and J. Beatty, who taught several generations of Canadian painters at the Ontario College of Art. Unlike these two younger artists, Bell-Smith returned to Bon Echo on several occasions. He was present in August to witness the dedication of the Rock in honour of Walt Whitman on the centenary of his birth.

Both Flora and Merrill Denison, her American-born son, were devotees of this poet and champion of democracy. Flora tried to emulate Whitman's ideals by creating a colony at Bon Echo modelled on that of her friend Elbert Hubbard's Roycrofters, an arts-and-crafts community he operated as a successful business at East Aurora in upstate New York. She hoped to attract like-minded writers, artists, architects, musicians and theatre people, as well as fellow feminists, socialists, spiritualists and advocates of free love, to her Bon Echo Inn retreat. To realize her dream, Denison founded the Whitman Club of Bon Echo in , the same year that she joined the newly established Canadian branch of the Whitman Fellowship.

The following year she held the first meeting of the Whitman Club and launched the first of six issues of the 'house' magazine, The Sunset of Bon Echo , a curious blend of promotional and inspirational prose and poetry in which she advertised her resort and her favourite causes with equal enthusiasm. For a time she even managed to persuade the Canadian Pacific Railway to distribute the journal through its travel agencies. The attractive front-cover design was the work of a talented young illustrator and painter named Frank H. Johnston, who had met Merrill Denison at the University of Toronto and later renewed his acquaintance in Pennsylvania.

Johnston, one of the original members of the Group of Seven, would later design some handsome advertising brochures for Denison. The culmination of Flora Denison's efforts at Bon Echo was the celebration she organized there in August for the Whitman centenary. Although she had even more ambitious plans for her property, including a Whitman library, she did not live to realise these idealistic schemes. She died on 21 May of pneumonia, which was blamed on an unseasonable snowstorm during her last visit to Mazinaw Lake.

Merrill Denison inherited the inn and its debt-load. His work as a playwright-in-residence at the University of Toronto's Hart House Theatre and his membership in the Toronto Arts and Letters Club brought him into contact with a younger generation of painters and writers, many of whom accepted his invitation to stay as guests at the inn. In exchange for free or reduced room and board, Denison acquired artwork for promotional materials from several of these colleagues, who bought time to paint by working weekdays as commercial artists and designers in Toronto.

The authors of the letterpress for these brochures and pamphlets were Denison and Muriel Goggin, herself a journalist who later became a successful writer of children's books.

Bon Echo

Jackson, Franklin Carmichael and A. Group of Seven founding member Arthur Lismer , his wife and daughter paid two artistically productive summer visits to Bon Echo in and In honour of their stay, the Denisons named one of their guest cabins the Lismer Cottage. Although he moved on to other, more rugged Ontario landscapes, Lismer remained closely associated with Merrill Denison, acting in his play From their Own Place at its premiere and designing the sets for his Mazinaw-based The Weather Breeder in , again at the Arts and Letters Club.

Jackson spent several weeks during the winter of at the inn with Denison, painting a number of snow-bright oil landscapes in his characteristic manner, as well as helping his host lay out some advertising materials. On his return to Toronto he began work on a commissioned poster, which was printed by Rous and Mann from a tempera design, using the new silk-screening process introduced to Canada by the firm of Sampson-Matthews.

The result is one of the most striking examples of applied graphic design produced by a Canadian artist during the s. Ironically, this brilliant publicity stroke was to hasten the downfall of the inn as a business, for the Denisons' inability to pay the printer's bill led to a lawsuit that resulted in bankruptcy. This did not prevent Merrill Denison from begging a brochure and letterhead design from Jackson, who by then had largely abandoned commercial art for full-time painting. In that same winter of , Denison also enjoyed the company of the wildlife painter-illustrator Arthur Heming, who fancifully incorporated aspects of the Mazinaw landscape in his popular survivalist yarn, The Living Forest , published in New York and Toronto in At one point in the s Heming, who exhibited widely, could boast of being the best-known Canadian artist outside Canada.

The last and perhaps most effective brochure was designed for Bon Echo Inn by the youngest member of the original Group of Seven, Franklin Carmichael, an extraordinarily gifted hand-letterer and designer, as well as one of Canada's best practitioners of the exacting medium of watercolours. Produced in by Sampson-Matthews, this publicity piece features interior line drawings by Carmichael and a dramatic nocturnal impression of the Rock in stencil-like blues and blacks.

The summer of also saw the return to Mazinaw Lake of Doris Huestis Mills, a self-taught woman painter from Toronto, who had visited the previous year without trying her hand at any landscapes. Buoyed by the encouragement of her friends Lawren Harris and J. MacDonald, two senior members of the Group of Seven, Mills used her stay at the inn to fill a small sketchbook with simple, schematic drawings, which she worked up into oil panels, canvases and linocut prints in her studio.

Though clearly the work of a gifted amateur, her images convey something of the spiritual dimension of the landscape. Her poster-like flattening of forms illustrates the degree to which the bold palette and radical simplifications of the Group had come to dominate Canadian landscape painting by the mids. Another Toronto-based artist who responded to the visual stimulation of the Mazinaw landscape was the Scottish-born Charles F.

Comfort , who emulated Harris, Carmichael and others not only in depicting northern subject matter but in financing his painting career through commercial art.

Bon Echo Provincial Park

Comfort may first have visited Mazinaw Lake in with the objective of producing a poster or brochure for his friend Merrill Denison, but for some reason — possibly the forced closure of the business in the Crash year of — his two art-deco-style designs went no further than the maquette stage. However, Comfort had fallen in love with Bon Echo and its mysteriously compelling cliff, the subject of his intensely coloured Great Rock, Bon Echo.

Mazinaw Lake remained in Comfort's thoughts over the next few years, though he was unable to revisit the site of his first 'northern' sketching trip. He even evoked the place in a studio canvas in entitled Young Canadian , a portrait of his painter friend Carl Schaefer as a victim of the Depression, and one of the iconic images of the s.

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Close examination of this powerful work reveals a stylized version of the Great Rock looming in the upper right. In , the year of the inn's destruction by fire, Comfort returned to Bon Echo with his wife, Louise, his studio-partner and sketching companion, Will Ogilvie, and the painters Bobs Cogill Haworth and Peter Haworth.

Mysteriously, no sketches or canvases by any of these artists have come to light from that visit, but the trip is recorded in colour photographs taken by the Comforts. Although unable to paint again at this locus of inspiration until fifty years after his discovery of the lake, Comfort resorted to memory and imagination in painting Promontory , an unlikely nude-in-the-landscape against the Big Rock, which he later destroyed.

But first he used it in in the background of a portrait of his sculptor friend Emanuel Hahn. Comfort chose to edit out the frame around the painting by cutting down the canvas, which in effect placed Hahn in a landscape he seems never to have visited in person, but with which he would have been in tune. In Comfort made another visit to Bon Echo. Following this, he had slides printed from the roll of colour film he had shot at the lake in This led to an attempt to salvage more of the memories evoked by this exercise through a painting entitled Whitman Monument , based on his sketch panel Bon Echo Rock.

In making this version he 'heated up' the cool blue hues of the source image to create a dreamlike vision of the cliff swimming in sunset glow. Ten years later Comfort and his wife would make a nostalgic last pilgrimage to Mazinaw Lake on the fiftieth anniversary of the painter's first exposure to this memorable landscape.

Casson , who replaced Frank Johnston when he quit the Group of Seven in , followed the pattern of his older studio-mate, Franklin Carmichael, in coming to Bon Echo in as a commercial artist. He was not able to return until the summer of , but then he made up for lost time by executing a number of ambitious, highly structured watercolours.

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The unusual vantage point of Lake Mazinaw places the viewer dizzily atop the cliff, looking straight down and out across the windswept water. A more conventional composition, but strong and subtle in colour, is an oil-on-canvas from entitled Bon Echo Rock. Frederick Hagan b. The following year he was appointed instructor of arts and crafts at Camp Mazinaw, an 'alternative' summer boys' camp before its time. This northern-Ontario native, strongly influenced by German Expressionist painters and printmakers, ranged over the local landscape, making lithographs, watercolours and ink drawings more varied in subject than any other interpreter of this terrain, its inhabitants or its often-ignored history of fur-trapping, lumbering and mining.

Hagan last painted at Mazinaw Lake in In August the painter, by then in his early 80s, was on hand for the unveiling in Bon Echo Park of an Ontario Heritage Foundation plaque honouring the artists and writers who helped put the place on the cultural map. He too painted the Rock from various angles, chiselling its declivities into severe, geometrical planes that reflect a knowledge of Cubism as well as the influence of Lawren Harris and Charles Comfort.

Though a close friend of Merrill Denison, Harris seems never to have stayed at Mazinaw. The Bon Echo property entered a new phase in its cultural history when Merrill Denison transferred the deed to the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests in to preserve it from development.

Certain buildings and lakefront were reserved for the use of the Denisons until their death. By the late s landscape painting was not favoured by younger artists, who had switched their allegiance to the New York-based Abstract Expressionist School. Since then, Bon Echo has largely escaped the attention of image-makers other than amateur photographers, though there are welcome traces of reviving painterly interest.

Mazinaw Country began its return to the literary map when Stuart MacKinnon, a poet and librarian, 'discovered' the Mazinaw story while sorting the Merrill Denison Papers at Queen's University.

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In he published a poetry collection entitled Mazinaw — another remarkable example of the power of the Rock to inspire artistic production. For a concluding image to this survey of the art of Bon Echo, Robert Stacey approached the American-born, Toronto-based photographer, writer and multi-media artist David Hlynsky in the hope that he would agree to visit the lake to record his own impressions. When he learned about the Big Rocks pictographic picture gallery, he leaped at the challenge of adding to his recent series of photo-generated northern-Ontario landscapes by creating two virtual 'pictomyths'.

Hlynsky and Stan Bevington, the genial doyen of Toronto's Coach House Press, modified the resulting image so as to create a twentieth-century version of the primitive, mysterious picture language of the first inhabitants of this land.


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  • Hlynsky describes his computer-drawing as an electronic map: a diagram for a simple crystal radio whose essential parts could have been fashioned from stone similar to this one. With this truly magical assemblage I might hear the disembodied voices of distant friends and the echoes of ancestors I am certain that they are always here Pictographs and Petroglyphs, prehistoric paintings executed with the finger in red ochre pictographs , and carvings petroglyphs incised, abraded or ground by means of stone tools upon cliff walls, boulders and flat bedrock surfaces.

    They have been discovered throughout Canada. No foolproof method for the precise dating of rock art has been discovered, other than speculative association with stratified, relatively datable archaeological remains. While the tradition of rock art was no doubt brought into Canada by the earliest Indians some 25, years ago, it is most unlikely that examples of antiquity will ever be found.

    Rock art in much of Canada is linked with shamanism, a widespread religious tradition in which the shaman's major tasks are healing and prophesy, along with the vision quest; and with the search for "helping" spirits. Vastokas in The Canadian Encyclopedia , Animals, men, deer drawing sleds, hunting scenes, and various devices are clearly depicted in red, to a scale of one-fifteenth the original size. But what seems strange is that one of the pictures is that of a veritable camel, bearing armed men; ahead of the camel is a dead-fall; and to one side are some armed men waiting in ambush There are some other odd pictures, but they were submerged by water at the time we visited the rock in June, Through a little current and over four miles of that lake we sped with eager dip, and an overcoat for a sail.