Crystal clear waters brimming with walleye, smallmouth bass and northern pike tumble over a series of seven waterfalls in the midst of a boreal forest.
The majestic beauty and allure of Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park is no secret. Talented scribes such as Sam Cook at the Duluth News Tribune and Montevideo native and author Jon Nelson of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, have all done justice in describing it for large audiences.
What’s missing from this scene?
Like the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness it borders, the Quetico Provincial Park is a canoe-country wilderness of over 600 pristine lakes and roughly 1.18 million acres of forest.
Usage is down in the Canadian park, and one of its rangers is paying attention as to why. Park Ranger Janice Matihuk told us that the park is seeing fewer young visitors than in previous years.
We enjoyed a two-week canoe adventure recently in the park starting at the Cache Bay Ranger Station that is the entry point for what is known as the Falls Chain. It’s a popular destination for those who come to enjoy the waterfalls or continue downstream to Kawnipi Lake and its famous fishing opportunities.
Matichuk is serving her 29th year as a ranger at the Cache Bay station. No other Quetico ranger has served at an interior station as long as Matichuk. A cabin on an island in Cache Bay is her home for the summer months.
She started her work at the Cache Bay Ranger Station in 1985. She told us that many of the visitors she welcomed in their 40’s and 50’s are still returning, but are now in their 70’s.
Matichuk is still welcoming plenty of men and women in the 40’s and 50’s, but she said it is apparent that there are fewer people in their teens and 20’s visiting the park.
She knows all of the challenges. Life is much more structured for youth today than it was when she began her career here. They are committed to summer sports camps and other activities. There are more activities and plenty of electronic distractions to keep them from the outdoors.
Yet by the same token, one thing hasn’t changed. It still takes someone to introduce young people to the outdoors. Take the time to do so while you can.