Mazinaw Rock is a 1.5km long rock that rises abruptly out of the waters of Mazinaw Lake (one of the deepest lakes in the province at 130m). Mazinaw Rock is a word from the Algonkian First Nation which means 'painted rock', it is the highest cliff in all of Southern Ontario rising a full 100m above the surface of the lake.
The Rock is meatamorphosed granite and is located on the southern ledge of the Canadian Shield. With many slabs, ramps and cracks marking its surface, it is one of the most popular climbing venues in the province. There are around 130 trad routes ranging in difficulty from 5.0 to 5.12. The popular routes have solid rock while some of the infrequently used routes are known for having pretty crappy rock. The Alpine Club of Canada (Toronto Section) maintains a cabin at the park which all club members are free to use.
Bon Echo Park is one of the most popular parks in the province. It receives somewhere in the neighbourhood of 150 00 visitors per year. The 6643ha park was originally opened in 1965 and since then has grown into a dramatically more popular spring-fall destination.
The park is home to some remarkably large old growth cedars. It is a nesting ground for the endangered peregrine falcon and it is not uncommon to see animals such as deer, moose, black bears, red fox and coyotes.
One of the parks feature attractions (other than Mazinaw Rock) are 260 native pictographs that can be found at the base of Mazinaw Rock, along the waters edge. This is the largest visible collection in the country and paddlers and boat tours flock to this area to see them. The paintings were done using red ochre pigments and depict men, animals and other unidentifiable creatures. This is a unique part of Canadian cultural heritage and it is always asked that all visitors refrain from touching the pictographs.
Another one of the parks feature attractions is a section of the cliff face that has one stanza of Walt Whitman's Song of Myself chiseled in large letters. The park's original owner Flora MacDonald Denison was a noted feminist, accomplished businesswoman and a devotee to Whitman's works. As a lasting testament she chiseled the words into the face of Mazinaw Rock furthering Mr. Whitman's already larger than life personae.
This section of the rock is known as 'Old Walt' and was dedicated in honour of the poet in 1919.
My foothold is tenon'd and mortised in granite
I laugh at what you call dissolution
and I know the amplitude of time
Also around this time 5 members of Canada's renowned Group of Seven painters frequented the park creating unique interpretations of Canadian landscapes on canvasse. Frank Jonston, Arthur Lismer, A.Y. Jackson, Franklin Carmichael and A.J. Casson all were regular visitors and helped bring this section of the province to the attention of Canadians around the country.
To get to Bon Echo park from Toronto take highway 401 east for about 2.2.5 hours until you reach Belleville. At Belleville follow highway 37 north until you cross highway 7 east. Proceed east on highway 7 until you reach Kaladar. Once you reach Kaladar take highway 41 north into the park. All tolled the trip should take between 3.5- 4 hours from Toronto depending upon traffic. On Sundays in the summer the phenomenom known as 'cottage country' sees a sickening number of people from Toronto returning from the north to the city... traffic at these times is ridiculous... so try to plan any trip around that.
The only way to get to the base of the cliff is via canoe (which runs about $15 Cdn for a half day) of via a tour boat known as the Wanderer tour boat, its as cheesey as you come by, but a worthwhile price to pay if you'd rather not rent a canoe to get to the scree slopes at the base of Mazinaw Rock. The price of the tour boat is $5.35 per person.
If one were simply seeking to hike to the top of the cliff to take in the views than you can take the Mugwump ferry across the 50m wide narrows (or just swim the damn thing) for a rip off price of $3.25. The 1.5km hike to the top takes no more than a half hour and the views from the top are spectacular. If you do decide to take a look around and ignore the signs try to leave no trace and avoid damaging the local trees and plant life as much as possible.
For day use of the park is $8 per car. There is an additional fee of (I believe) $12 per day if you are planning on rock climbing. Again it is asked that you stay away from the pictographs and Old Walt's wall.
The rules are pretty straightforward:
1) Don't sling off of trees
2) Please observe all route closures
3) No rappelling unless it is specifically called for on the route or in case of emergency.
When To Climb
The regular climbing season runs from April to October, though it is not uncommon for people to climb many of the routes year round as access over the winter ice on Mazinaw Lake is much easier.
There are two icefalls in the park with the largest being about 8m high and the other which is more suitable for learning and practicing is about 5m or so.
The most popular routes in the park range between 5.4 and 5.10.
Of these some notables are:
Great Leap Forward- 5.10
Spiderman- the only 5.12 in the park
Boris route- 5.5
Afternoon Delight- 5.4
Sweet Dreams- 5.9
Camping is allowed all throughout the park. There are 528 campsites: Of which 133 are electric, 365 are primitve and 30 are in the back country. It costs $25 per night to use one of the primitive or back country sites while it will run around $32 for a site with hook ups.
There are also 2 yurts which sleep up to 6. They are quite pricey, running about $65 per day with a 3 day minimum during the summer. Also the Cabin on the Hill is available as well. It is also costly running about $750 per week during the peak months and $85 per day during the off season with a minimum 2 day booking. The cabin has electiricity, running water, a stove and fridge and cutlery provided. So for those looking to camp in comfort this is the way to go.
To check the forecast for the park simply key in www.theweathernetwork.com and then search for their parks forecast. This will give you both current conditions and a five day outlook.
You can also call 1 613 336 2228 to ask park staff what the weather conditions will be like. As always they will be more than willing to help you out as they recieve detailed weather info. regularly from Environment Canada.
- Alpine Club: Bon Echo
The toronto alpine club's Bon Echo page. Everything you need to know about climbing at Bon Echo.