Kevin Callan
Credit: Kevin Callan

If you’re looking for bragging rights, or just a lot of time spent in true wilderness, then check out the new Ontario Parks Northwest Wilderness Quest contest.

There are prizes to be won, a cool parks badge to sew on your pack and a solid reason to get outside more.

Ontario Parks just launched the contest a few weeks back and it’s already gaining momentum—and that’s a good thing. The main reason for the contest is to get more paddlers into the isolated parks in Northwestern Ontario. It’s the carrot before the horse concept—and it’s working.

The rules are simple. Spend at least three consecutive nights in each of three provincial parks: Wabakimi, Woodland Caribou and Quetico. You have four seasons to complete the challenge. You have to a legal resident of Canada or the U.S., and at least 21 years of age at the time of your initial contest announcement. The quest began on May 1, 2016 at 12:00 a.m. (Eastern Time) and ends on October 15, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

If you’ve paddled the parks before, this is a reason to revisit them. And you also know why you should go back. They’re amazing. All three of them. All three offer incredible wilderness solitude.

Quetico Provincial Park, measuring over 475,000 hectares, is the easiest to access and most travelled, especially by Americans. Over 90 per cent of users are canoeists from the U.S.. They find it better than their own bordering Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Wabakimi is the second-largest provincial park in Ontario and measures over 890,000 hectares (2.2 million acres). It’s more boreal, less travelled, links to several other wilderness areas and the fishing is so good you literally just have to dip your toe in the water to catch a walleye or pike.

Woodland Caribou Provincial Park is over 486,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) and is the third-largest park in Ontario. I’ve only paddled there twice but I gotta say it’s my favourite of the three. The landscape is more prairie boreal, which means there are mounds of rock and tumbling rapids set in a primeval boreal forest. It’s incredibly unique, you probably won’t see another paddler, and there’s a good chance to catch a glimpse of the elusive woodland caribou. It also borders Manitoba’s Atikaki Park, adding to the expanse of it all, and has a Canadian Heritage River—the Bloodvein—flushing out of the northwest corner. The Bloodvein is a cultural masterpiece.

Make sure to head out to northwestern Ontario sometime in the next four years… and brag about you’re experiences for years to come. Better yet, got to all three this season and I’ll figure out a way to throw in more prizes!

Watch the Video Here: