Happy 60th Anniversary Algonquin Outfitters!
Algonquin Outfitters has a total of 12 locations spread out across Algonquin Provincial Park and the neighbouring cottage country, making it the largest outfitter for the province’s oldest park.
It started off fairly small, however. First-time owners Bill Swift Sr. and Dave Waiman opened the doors of their first shop in 1961 at Oxtongue Lake, bringing in a fleet of cedar-canvas Chestnut canoes.
Dave Wainman was a park warden at the time and Bill Swift Sr. ran Camp Pathfinder on Source Lake. Bill soon sold Pathfinder to put more time and energy into the outfitters and eventually bought Dave’s share of the business.
Algonquin Outfitters stayed pretty much the same for the first 30 years, running seasonally out of the Oxtongue location. Canoes were rented and paddlers were outfitted for the interior. You could also buy a pre-trip t-shirt and other souvenirs—and order a burger and fries after your trip. Gord Baker has managed this historic location since 1992. He became the first year-round manager for AO.
Things have certainly changed. Burgers are no longer served up at Oxtongue, but there’s a lot more to purchase at the store than canoe tripping memorabilia; and the fleet of cedar canoes have been mostly replaced by lightweight models. Bill Swift Jr. started up Swift Canoe Company in the 1980s.
The company also started expanding their range in the 1980s. Legendary Algonquin paddler, Jake Pigeon, managed over the Brent Store on remote Cedar Lake. He’s still there, and so is the nasty elongated dirt road that gets you there.
The Lake Opeongo store was added in 1989 and managed by Jerry Schmanda, who is now managing Lake of Two Rivers Store. Austin Bonvivere took over the reins at Opeongo.
An Algonquin Outfitter store was added to the downtown core of Huntsville in 1994. This was, once again, a dramatic change for the business. They went from canoe rentals to selling mountain bikes, snowboards and SUPs. It’s now managed by Nate Smith.
To help the company celebrate their 60th anniversary I took a road trip, circling the park (a total of 760 kilometres) to visit and interview all the main managers of Algonquin Outfitters. Check out the full video on my KCHappyCamper YouTube channel.
Also check out the cool contest Algonquin Outfitters is running for their 60th. Take the quiz and if you answer correctly, you have a chance to win some amazing prizes, including a $1,000 Algonquin Outfitters gift card.