The town of Killarney, Ontario, turns 200 years old this year. Wow. That’s something to celebrate. My first book, which was about Killarney, turns 30 years old as well. Two great excuses for me to paddle across the park.

I did it in style this time. I had Killarney Outfitters transport me up to the western border of the park by boat, along Georgian Bay’s Baie Fine. Captain Tom, a Killarney local, entertained me along the way with stories of the town’s rich history, and even caught me a lake trout for my supper just before he dropped me off on a rocky point, surrounded by the steep mounds of white quartzite called the La Cloche Mountains.

photoCourtesy of Kevin Callan

I set up camp, cooked my fresh trout and then fell asleep to the sound of wolves howling up on the ridge behind my tent. It was good to hear the wolves again. I was just a kid (25 years old) when I paddled through the same area working on my book. I’d been wind bound during the day and had started paddling during the evening calm. Up on a mound of quartz, I spotted a solitary black wolf. It sent out a drawn-out howl and then disappeared into the thick bush. What an incredible experience.

photoCourtesy of Kevin Callan

Day two of my trip I took on several short but steep portages that link Artist, Muriel, O.S.A. and Killarney Lakes. This was a favourite hangout for four members of the Group of Seven artists (Franklin Carmichael, Arthur Lismer, A.Y. Jackson and A.J Casson).

Lismer was the first to paint in the area I camped in. In 1927, he produced a series of paintings, including the notable “Happy Isle.” He believed it was a paradise for painters and in 1931 convinced A.Y. Jackson to paint in the area as well. Jackson went in towards Killarney Lake by the same canoe route I took. On his way, he met a caretaker of the Spanish Lumber Company who told him that his employer was planning on logging the shores of O.S.A. Lake (then called Trout Lake). Jackson couldn’t bear the thought of the logging company removing the great pine along this scenic lake. When he returned from his canoe trip, he gathered his artist friends—the Ontario Society of Artists—who then went to the government to stop the logging. They were successful. The Spanish Lumber Company logged another area and Trout Lake—now named O.S.A. Lake (Ontario Society of Artists)—became a park.

Killarney Provincial Park itself didn’t form until 1964. It protects 48,000 hectares.

photoCourtesy of Kevin Callan

My campsite on Killarney Lake looked out across the turquoise-tinted water and the southern range of the La Cloche Mountains. It was absolutely gorgeous. Loons gathered in front of my campsite just before dusk and the sunset was amazing. 

Not much has changed since I first came here, except the park seems busier since my book “Killarney” was published 30 years ago. The quartz hills are still stunning; the old-growth pine and oak still majestic; the water still shimmering; the night sounds just as soothing.

photoCourtesy of Kevin Callan

Before bed, I heard the wolves howl again—almost as if they were welcoming me back to Killarney to help celebrate this ancient landscape. Lismer was right. This place is a paradise.

Check out my video of my trip on my KCHappyCamper YouTube channel. And a big thanks to Ted East, owner of Killarney Outfitters for helping make my celebratory trip happen.