Scenes From Algonquin Park – Highway 60 Corridor

Ontario’s First Provincial Park

Algonquin Park was established in May 1893, the result of a Royal Commission to create “a wildlife and forest preserve, a health refuge, and field laboratory for scientific study.” It is the first provincial park in Ontario, a system with over 300 parks today. Algonquin Park is the province’s premiere location to take in fall colours, but more importantly, the park has an illustrious past and present to be discovered.

Algonquin Park. Source: Google Maps

Native Land

The Eastern Gate of Algonquin Park has an arched drive-thru entrance and a Parks Ontario store where permits are purchased here as well. It also has the Peace and Reconciliation Totem Pole. It was presented to Algonquin Park by the Algonquins of Ontario in 2015 and is beautifully carved from a century-old pine tree by Dan Bowers. The totem pole is traditionally associated with Nations in what is now Western Canada, but the artist wished to use the medium to pass on Algonquin culture.

It is a reminder that the park’s name is not just a name and should refer more to more than hiking, canoeing, camping, fall colours, or any other park activity or sight. It refers to the Algonquin peoples, a nation with rich culture and history whose traditional territory encompasses the park with active claims to the area.

An Industrious Past & Present

J.R. Booth was a logging baron who had a lot of activity in Algonquin Park’s rich forests. Logging in the Park stretches back to the 1800s and is a critical part in its history. To aid in transportation, Booth had a heavy hand in creating the Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway (OA&PSR) in 1897. The route ran across central Ontario and the south portion of Algonquin Park.

The Algonquin Logging Museum is a main structure and a 1.5km trail of outdoor installations which the story of the people, events, technology of the logging industry, including the friction between preservation and industry. It is also a history that continues: logging is still allowed in the park today.

By Highway & Railway

Highway 60 winds its way through the southwestern portion of Algonquin Park over and between rivers, lakes, and hills. It runs from west to east from Huntsville in Muskoka to Renfrew near Ottawa. The Algonquin Park portion is named the Frank MacDougall Parkway. Highway 60 was completed through Algonquin Park in 1936. While there were smaller “roads” within the park connecting lakes, there was no main corridor passing across the park before the construction of Highway 60.

Before the main road, the main access to the park was the railroad. In 1905, J.R. Booth’s Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway was sold to the Grand Trunk Railroad (GTR). The GTR was in turn absorbed in the the Canadian National Railway (CNR) in the 1920s. The railway ran in a rough northwest-southeast orientation, crossing Highway 60 near Cache Lake, an area which served as the Algonquin Park Headquarters for many years and hosted a popular GTR hotel, the Highland Inn. The Park’s Highlands proved an challenge for the railway as many trusses over waterways were required as well as blasting through the Canadian Shield terrain. The railway survived until sections were abandoned by CRN between 1940 and 1959. A section of the old railway serves as a bike trail near Cache Lake at the Track and Tower Trail.

Algonquin Park in 1914. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Welcome to Algonquin!

The Algonquin Visitor Centre opened in 1993 to mark the park’s centennial. It has a shop operated by The Friends of Algonquin Park, a not-for-profit organization who purpose is to advance educational and interpretive programs in the park. They also publish self-guided tour books of the major trails in the park.

The building also has an exhibition which details the history of Algonquin Park. The lower level of the space details the natural history while the upper levels contains the cultural human history. It contains one of many references throughout the park to Tom Thomson, the famed early 20th century Canadian Painter who carried Algonquin Park as a muse for his works.

The Visitor Centre also opens up to a lookout spot and has a mini Fire Tower Trail, both which overlook Sunday Creek.


The Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail is a gentle, relaxing 1.5 km walk. It runs over boardwalk and forest and showcases the diversity of environments within Algonquin Park. A keen eye while walking this trail should produce some interesting flora and fauna, like mushrooms and the Spruce Grouse (in the spring months).

A Trail with a View

The Lookout Trail is a look through millions of years of pre-history of Algonquin Park. It is a grueling 2 km loop, the first half of which is a steep uphill climb. Along the way are giant boulders which were deposited in the last Ice Age as the ice retreated from this area and left this rolling landscape of hills, lakes, and rivers. For this reason, the topography gives the area the name “The Algonquin Highlands”.

The apex of the climb produces a worth-while, breath-taking view of the Park and the Lake of Two Rivers. The elevation and cooler climate of the Algonquin Highlands allow for this colour change much earlier than latitudes to the south around Toronto.

It’s Art!

The Algonquin Art Centre celebrates the artistic legacy of Algonquin Park. This of course begins with “The Legacy Path”, an outdoor exhibit about Tom Thomson’s life and time in the Park.

The museum building itself is a beautiful 1950s construction of wood and stone which actually served as the park’s first visitor centre. The indoor exhibition space in 2021 featured “The Spirit of The Group of Seven”, a collection of inspired works of the noted artists.

Tom Thomson & Canoe Lake

Canoe Lake’s modern association is in part with its namesake, day-long or multiple-day long canoe trips across its waters and between its islands. The facility at the lake outfits visitors with the essentials to make trips around the waterway.

Historically however, Canoe Lake is associated with the activities of Tom Thomson. The artist spent a good part of four years in Algonquin Park between 1914 and 1917. He spent his winters in Toronto (at the Studio Building) while exploring and painting the park during the more temperate months. Thomson arrived in the Park by train, getting off at the Canoe Lake Station on the north end of the lake.

Canoe Lake Station. Source: Friends of Algonquin Park

Thomson stayed in the milling town of Mowat on the northwest shore of the lake during the summers. He painted many of his artistic scenes from around Canoe Lake. He even took jobs in the Park, such as being a fire ranger in the summer of 1916.

Tom Thomson’s “Canoe Lake, Mowat Lodge,” 1914. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Thomson disappeared in the summer of 1917. His upturned canoe was found in the north end of lake on July 8, 1917 with no sign of the painter. Nearly week later, Thomson’s body turned up as well. Although the reported cause of death is by drowning, the events leading up to his death are a mystery even today as Thomson was an expert paddler and swimmer. Today there are several tributes to Tom Thomson, such a cairn (whose inscription is also viewed in the Visitor Centre) and totem pole near where he passed and a several plaques on the south shore of the park.

A visit to Algonquin Park is a sobering connection with the millions of years of natural history and the thousands of years of human history with the people who have inhabited, worked in, and enjoyed the Park’s many offerings.

Further Reading

“Algonquin Provincial Park: Ontario, Canada.” The Friends of Algonquin Park,

The Country Connection Magazine Story: Algonquin Park — Ontario’s Wilderness Legacy,

Kate, and Kate. “Paddling after Tom: A Canoe Lake Adventure.” The Great Canadian Wilderness, 27 July 2021,

Mackay, Roderick. “Establishing Algonquin Park, a Place for Promoting Health and Recreation.”, 6 June 2019,

“Mowat (Tom Thomson Murder).” Ontario Abandoned Places,’s%20town,largest%20town%20in%20the%20Park.

“Riding the Old Railways Bike Trail.” Algonquin Outfitters – Your Outdoor Adventure Store, 6 Aug. 2017,

ttlastspring, Author. Tom Thomson’s Last Spring, 23 Aug. 2020,

Vipond, Patti. “Wilderness Art in the Woods – the Algonquin Art Centre.”, 6 June 2019,

“Welcome to the Algonquin Park Archives and Collections Online.” The Friends of Algonquin Park : Online Collections,

Fifty Years Since The Fire: Memories of The Tam

The Tam and its golf and country club was a beloved local Toronto landmark in Agincourt and Scarborough, which served not only as a hub of sporting activity for golf, hockey, skating, and curling, but also as a social gathering place.

October 3rd, 2021 marks 50 years since a fire that devastated the recreation centre of the Tam O’Shanter Golf, Curling, and Skating Club.

The historical events of the fire and preceded and proceeded it have been documented, but what stands out are the associated memories by its patrons. Here are some of them:

“The thing about the Tam that made it so beloved was that it was a public club that you could pay as you play. You could join a membership but you could also swim and picnic all day for 25 cents. Agincourt in those days was so rural but kids could roam safely all the over the farm lanes and village streets back in the day when you had to be in by dark. The golf course “Newton’s” as Johnny Evelyn the golf pro used to call them, were everywhere collecting golf balls, working in the pro shop, caddying and dreaming of being a golfer. So many were characters in their own right. Every Saturday there would be 3 or 4 weddings which my Dad [Alastair “Big Al”] oversaw ( in either his kilt or his dinner suit/ tux) in addition to all the other sports, banquets and bonspiels so it was always a mad house of get it ready, run it, tear it down set up for the next one. My Mum [Elizabeth “Libby”] did flowers, booked the waitresses and bartenders. In the early days she would sit at the door and take tickets. On New Years eve 1955 my Dad was in a pickle because my Mum was the event hostess and called him just before it was to start saying too bad I’m in labour… and the joke goes he asked her if she could just “hold it for a few hours”.”

“Another thought that will stir up memories is that the Tam had the best toboggan hill anywhere !!! Super steep and fast and the best part there was the creek at the bottom. At one time or another we all went for a dunk and had to walk home as total icicles when winter was real winter. No parents , we were all free range. Across the road was Patterson’s lane between old farmsteads and it was a short cut back to the post war subdivisions that had sprung up around the schools (Agincourt public and Collegiate/ North Agincourt PS. and others). My mum says you should ask for memories of people who were married at the Tam … lots of great tales I’m sure.”

“The golf ball was right at the corner of Kennedy Rd and Sheppard. My mum told me someone cut it down as a Halloween prank and it was never re-erected.”

Kandie Learmonth

The following Tam promotional material are by the Peterborough Post Card Co. and Canadian Post Card Co, as provided by Kandie Learmonth.

The following photos are courtesy the Toronto Telegram, as provided by Kandie Learmonth.

Bill Sparkhall in front of aerial view of The Tam
Clan snackbar and dining room
Curling lounge, Mike Housey (2nd Left) and my dad Alastair (3rd Left)
The Golf ball with William Sparkhall and my dad Alaistair

“I grew up on Birchmount Road between Shephard and Finch in the late 50s to about mid 60s.  Attended L’Amoreaux Public School and later started high school at Sir John A MacDonald before having to move from Birchmount due to a subdivision being built in place of our nice open fields …..  One house down with a field in between was a tee-off for the Tam O’Shanter.  Many weekends (especially during the summer) were spent either being a caddy for the golfers up to the next hole, finding lost golf balls in the field (and at times pretending we didn’t see them and standing on them until golfer gave up looking), then taking those same balls and putting them into the ball washer and reselling them to the next set of golfers.  Remember specifically one weekend raising an extra $10 so my best friend and I could go to the CNE (when you could survive on $10/day and free food at the food building).  There was a little house that I believe was part of Tam O’Shanter at this Tee-off, and was rented out to various families over the years and an apple orchard right next to this.  We’d climb the trees, pick the apples (even if green, we’d take a salt shaker to eat them).   Not too far down from that was a creek that ran under Birchmount where I would take pickle jars and collect tadpoles and bring home and watch them develop.  Also after a rain I’d go out onto road and collect the tiny little toads that would come out.  Once at the creek I caught a snapping turtle, brought it home and kept in our sub-pump hole in basement until it bit me and I took it back.  Right down the back of my house was a small ‘forest’ which we used sometimes to go over to the Tam to go swimming, etc.   I took a pickle jar down to this ‘forest’ one day and caught a bat which was hanging upside down on a branch, and brought it home.  That was the first time I saw my mother’s hair stand straight up.  She made my brother return it.  I also picked my mother a bouquet of Trilliums and she nearly fainted.  She rushed me in the door to make sure no one saw me.  Apparently was not supposed to pick this type of flower.  LOL   At the Tam we would go swimming regularly, I joined a bowling group there one year.   I remember they had, I believe, two St. Bernard dogs (one being named Tammy) who regularly came over to our tee-off on Birchmount with the workers when they came to clean up.”

Pat Woodcock (nee Everingham)

Tam O Shanter played a big part in my life.  I was a junior member there in the early sixties and learned most of my game.  My dad was a real estate salesman and he would drop me off at 8am.  He would return as late as 9pm and John Evelyn the pro or Doug Day the assistant would tell him where I could be found..usually with my “shag bag” around the third green where I practiced chipping till dark.

When the hockey school was on I used to have lunch with Peter Mahovolich and Kent Douglas.  Can you imagine what a thrill it was for a 11, 12, and 13 year old boy to lunch with those guys.

I had a friend who was three years older than I was and he worked on the course.  He met a figure skater there and they have now been married over 50 years!

I remember the fire.  I parked on a hill overlooking the property and watched part of my youth disappear.  It was very sad.

Dave Beaven

A hole in one at the Tam O’Shanter, 1961
Courtesy: Dave Beaven

Often the Tam burned down a new restaurant went there. It was called Zum Kloster Keller. I don’t think it’s still there. In October of 1978 I was married from that restaurant. My dad was the chef there. It was emotional reading all the posts. I grew up from aged 10 in the Warden and Huntingwood area. Went to Holy Spirit then Leacock. My brothers and I were air cadets at the portable on the Leacock parking lot. Moved to birchmount and Shepherd in later high school. Thanks for the post and the memories

Diane E Webb

For more information and memories on the Tam O’Shanter, read here.

Do you have a memory to share? Leave a comment below or email