Killarney’s Great Wilderness Guardians

By Emily Baillie

As modern life gets busier, immersing oneself in pure wilderness is more precious than ever. We might forget this because of our busy schedules, and we overlook some of the dedicated folks who protect and preserve our rich natural landscapes. It’s no secret that Killarney Provincial Park holds a bounty of natural riches—with world-class hiking, backcountry camping, kayaking and more. Yet Killarney has experienced some challenges that threaten the health of its delicate ecosystems, and the park administration needs local support. Who will help protect Killarney’s wild hiking trails, small sapphire lakes, quartzite ridges and Jack Pine forests for future generations?

Hiker in Killarney Provincial Park

Enter Friends of Killarney Park. This not-for-profit charitable organization is on a mission to preserve, protect and promote the educational, environmental and recreational goals of one of Ontario’s most popular wilderness parks. Friends of Killarney Park (FOKP) works symbiotically with Killarney Provincial Park administration to safeguard Northeastern Ontario’s most legendary hiking, camping and kayaking paradise for many to enjoy. By organizing Artist in Residence programs, backcountry rehabilitation, summer concert series, spring clean ups, winter snowshoeing weekends, FOKP captures the hearts and imaginations of all that visit Killarney Park.

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I recently got a glimpse into the dedication and expertise of the Friends of Killarney Park as I canoed through scenic George Lake with Friends of Killarney Park Executive Director Kris Puhvel. We paddled past spectacular pine-topped granite slopes and marvelled at a lone black bear roaming the shoreline forest. Kris’s deep affection for the park’s natural treasures was clear. “Killarney has some of the oldest rocks in the Canadian wilderness,” he proudly said. “Friends of Killarney Park has an excellent relationship with the park’s administration and for the past 30 years, we’ve been helping people of all ages enjoy enriching wilderness adventures here.”

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Group of Seven Legacy

Canada’s most famous group of artists created some of their their best works along Killarney’s granite slopes, pristine pines forests and crystalline lakes. Frank Carmichael, Arthur Lismer, A.Y. Jackson, and A.J. Casson—all members of the Group of Seven—famously sketched and painted the hills of Killarney.

Nellie Lake (1933) - A.Y. Jackson

Nellie Lake (1933) – A.Y. Jackson

The Group of Seven painters fell in love with Killarney in their heyday, and even helped advocate to establish the 49,325 hectare wilderness park in 1964. FOKP is dedicated to keeping the legacy of the Group of Seven alive in the park by providing a unique ‘Artist in Residence’ program featuring expertly-led outdoor art classes for adults and kids. The FOKP also host an annual art show and sale that showcases a range of spectacular local artists.

If you’re interested in more about the Group of Seven and their relationship with this beautiful region, see our primer here!

Summer Concert Series

After a day of hiking and paddling around the Park, live musical performances can lull you into a perfect nighttime relaxation. All summer concerts take place at the George Lake Amphitheatre and and are free of charge. Check out the Friends of Killarney Park website for current concert dates.

Backcountry Skills

Thinking of heading into the backcountry, but need to boost your backcountry skills? Friends of Killarney Park has you covered! Free backcountry travel education workshops are available for those who wish to learn how to plan safe, exciting and low-impact canoeing and backpacking adventures in Killarney’s spectacular wilderness.

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The FOKP also sells comprehensive map and trail guides to help day and overnight visitors navigate the park’s best trails, lakes and campsites. Drop into the George Lake campground store for maps, guides and Killarney souvenirs.


Interested in visiting Killarney during the winter season? Yurts and cabins are available for rent year round.