31 May 1971

Four Seasons As A Canoe Ranger: Algonquin PP, ON

Location: Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
Four Seasons As A Canoe Ranger

I spent 4 seasons employed as an Algonquin Park Canoe Ranger with the Ministry of Natural Resources in Ontario from 1971 - 1974.

I only have a selection of very poor photos taken with an old instamatic camera and scanned. Some of these are real old - where I can, I have identified the location or the person. We were required by the MNR to keep journals of our trips and work schedules...and I did have copies of these, but unfortunately they were burnt in a garage fire. The following record that I have written was made about 30 years after this time period.

Our typical work season ran between 'school's end' in the late spring until mid-late September. I worked directly under Jack Borrowman and Danny Cotnam out of the East Gate. I paddled, portaged, hiked and worked with several partners...Gillis Mackey, Rob Gamble, Lawrence Cohen and Peter Croal in addition to a number of others whose names I have forgotten. We flew with Dave Campbell and Dave Croal using Beaver aircraft that departed from Pumphouse Lane in Pembroke and from Smoke Lake in the Park.

I began working in my first season with Gillis and Rob on the routes that started on lake Opeongo and headed out rom there. We worked throughout Opeongo - Happyisle - Merchant - Big Trout - White Trout (Trout Lake) - Burnt Island and Otterslide lakes to the west, Dicson - Wright and Booth Lakes to the east and Redrock, Big Crow and Proux to the north.

During my fourth and final season, I was given the responsibility for an area of my own .. the watershed of the Tim and parts of the Nipissing and Petawawa Rivers in the central west sector of Algonquin. The larger lakes maintained included Tim - Rosebary - Longbow - Devine - Little Trout, Queer and Butt and all the smaller lakes and ponds in between. We also ventured north of Tim Lake to trip through part of the Nipissing River and south of Butt and Big Trout Lakes. There are some photos of one of the fly-ins to the Tim River. Because of the semi-remoteness of the area a fly-in was the quickest way in, either that or a multi-day paddle. We followed the interior canoe routes and built bridges, cleaned up garbage, brushed portage trails, put out fires, maintained camp-sites, checked up on campers, erected toilets and dug pits.

Rob Gamble (read link) and I used our 4 days off one time to paddle a loop that departed from Cache and included: Head, Harness, Lawrence, Bonnechere, Big Porcupine, Ragged, Smoke, Little Island and Tanamakoon Lakes. There is also a small group of photos taken during a canoe trip with Dad, Tom and Wayne, but I can't remember where we went. 


  1. I too was an Interior Trail Cutter with the Dept of Lands and Forests out of there East Gate.
    The first year I worked with Jack Borrowman and the next three seasons I cut trails with one of my partners..Grant Mask that must have been over 68 at the time but a long time interior park ranger that used to have shoot outs with mink poachers back in the day. I also flew out of the Pump House Lane dock in Pembroke on Sundays before I went into the bush for 10 days...and also with Dave Cambell and Dave Croal as bush pilots using DeHaviland Beavers and twin engine Otter aircraft I believe Dave Campell flew Spitfires during the second world war. We called the Twin engine Otter "Thumper" since we could here those two huge rotary engines coming to pick us up at least 10 miles away.
    We cut many of the portages in the Misty Lake area for the first time between lakes.

    Mike Doman Park Ranger (Interior Trail Cutter 1968 until 1971)


    1. Thanks for the comment Mike, quite unexpected. Seasons spent in Algonquin Park were a defining moment in my life; they imprinted me with a passion for paddling and nature. I have to ask how you ever found your way to our website and to a blog post that dates back to 1971. We must have just missed each other at the East Gate Garage crew gatherings and breakouts, I honestly can't remember your name, but do recall all the others in your comment. Your last season there seems to have been my first. I have stayed in touch with Peter Croal (nephew of Dave Croal)a partner of mine. I dropped in to see Jack Borrowman a couple of times over the years. I worked with Gilles Mackey for 3 seasons then had a crew of my own. I slowly lost touch with Rob and Jim Gamble, Peter Ward, Wayne Langley, Doug Simpson, Peter Heney and others. I still live close to the Park but don't spend much time there any more ... it's not like it used to be, now more the Banff of Ontario, busy and noisy. How did you end up in California?

      Dann O'Kane - Canoe Ranger 1971 to 1974


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