Quebec’s Parc Nacional d’Opémican, about 4.5 hours north of Toronto in the province’s southwest, opened the final of four unconnected sectors in June 2019, and after a super summer season, this 62,270-acre wilderness remains a best-kept secret.
“The jewels are its two major lakes,” said Dany Gareau, the park’s director, referring to Lakes Témiscamingue and Kipawa. “Témiscamingue has been rated the most beautiful in Quebec.”
In this vast expanse of nature, comprising mountains, cliff-edged lakes, and rivers, you can float down the Kipawa River, fish in one of many smaller serene lakes, hop aboard a rabaska (a traditional 12-person canoe) for an interpretive tour, and hike through old-growth, wildlife-filled pine woods. Winter activities reign in the colder months, including snowshoeing, ice fishing, and cross-country skiing.
While the most adventurous will find plenty of wildness in which to escape, the park strives to be accessible to all levels of outdoor lovers, especially families. One of the coolest activities offered, for example, is the canoe-bike-camping circuit to the Ile aux Fraises archipelago in the middle of Lake Kipawa, where campers spend the night on their own private island. Canoes and bikes are provided for a fee, with shorter and longer routes offered.
There are plenty of traditional campsites available, but you could opt instead for one of the 15 “ready to camp” tent-cabin hybrids that provide the ruggedness of camping—with such comforts as electricity, a refrigerator, and proper beds (though no toilet; you need to walk down the road to the group restroom for that).
All that said, there’s more here than the great outdoors. There’s also its cultural legacy, one of the main reasons the park was created. Aboriginal presence dates back to the 16th century, with fur traders arriving in the 17th, and timber merchants following in the next. Several historic buildings related to the lumbering history are in the process of being restored, including Auberge Jodoin, dating from 1883.
Davy, who grew up in the area, says that he loves to take his kids to the Kipawa River. But when he’s alone, he goes fishing by canoe on White Lake, one of the park’s many smaller lakes. “Here you’re alone, without seeing anyone for days,” he said. The park is, in short, a park for all seasons, for everyone.
Parc Nacional d’Opémican is open year-round, with services offered mid-June to mid-October.