Killarney Village and Killarney Provincial Park

Killarney is situated at the north-east corner of Georgian Bay. It was accessible only by boat until 1962 when Highway 637 was built from Highway 69 to Killarney, about 70 km. Killarney has about 500 permanent residents but many more in the summer when tourists come to the many lodges and to Killarney Provincial Park.

Killarney is situated in a very interesting geological region which spans the border between pink Muskoka granite and white La Cloche quartzite. The La Cloche Mountains are very old, about 3.5 billlion years old, and were once higher than the Rockies. The area was very popular with artists, including the Group of Seven. Franklin Carmichael, Arthur Lismer, A. J. Casson and A. Y. Jackson painted many pictures here and were instrumental in saving the district from logging and mining by persuading the Ontario Government to make the region a provincial park. Killarney Provincial Park, established in 1964, has only one campground on George Lake as it is primarily for backcountry hiking and canoeing.

Because of its close connection with the Group of Seven artists, there is an art programme in the park, run by the Friends of Killlarney Park. They supply painting material and organize Resident Artists to lead painting courses,

Killlarney Provincial Park is located far from any large town or city. Therefore it boasts splendid dark night skies. A 25cm telescope and dome has been donated by Bruce Waters and family and a GoTo drive by Bill and Danielle Gardner. Bruce Waters had been giving astronomy lectures in the park for over 25 years. The park now has an Astronomer in Residence programme to show campers the night sky, let campers see interesting astronomical objects through the telescope, and give talks.

Killarney Village

Killarney Harbour
Killarney harbour with St. Bonaventure church in the background..

The Sportsman Inn situated directly on the harbour in Killarney.

Killarney - Sportsman Inn
Killarney - Herbert Fish and Chips
Herbert Fish & Chips: fresh-caught fish from Georgian Bay. One of the highlights of a visit to Killarney. Photo by Bill Sherwood.
Killarney Mountain Lodge. We stayed here on our first visit to Killarney in 2006 and again in 2011. Photo by Bill Sherwood.
Killarney Mountain Lodge
Killarney Mountain Lodge Pilot House
In 2011 we stayed in the Pilot House, directly on the Channel between George Island and the mainland. We had fabulous views of George Island and the Channel out to Georgian Bay.
While sitting in the Pilot House porch one evening in June 2011, we saw a black bear on the point near the Eastern Lighthouse. As it was 200 or 300 metres away, we could safely sit and watch it. Photo by Bill Sherwood.
Killarney - bear on point looking towards George Island
Canadian tiger swallowtail butterfly on marigolds
A Canadian tiger swallowtail butterfly on flowers beside the Pilot House. Photo by Bill Sherwood.

Nodding Ladies' Tresses orchid blooming among the rocks on the shore near the Pilot House. I did not realize at the time (end of August 2006) that this was a wild orchid. It was pure good luck.

Killarney - Nodding Ladies' Tresses wild orchid
Killarney Eastern Lighthouse

This lighthouse is at the eastern entrance to the channel between George Island and Killarney village..

Pink Muskoka granite near the eastern lighthouse.
Killarney - Pink Muskoka granite rocks
Killarney - Tarvat Bay - tar on rocks
The Tarvat Trail along the shore of Georgian Bay east of Killarney village. Here fishermen from Killarney dipped their nets in vats of hot tar and spread them on the rocks to dry. There is still tar on the rocks after two hundred years.
A pink lady slipper along the Tarvat Trail (June 2011).
Pink Lady Slipper orchid
Killarney - Indian Head rock
Indian Head rock, west of Killarney village.
In June 2011 we went on a sunset cruise on the yacht Stormy Night from Killarney Mountain Lodge. We enjoyed a lovely sail around the bays west of Killarney and were lucky enough to see a glorious sunset.
Killarney sunset


Killarney Provincial Park


Killarney - La Cloche from Granite Ridge
Killarney Provincial Park was founded in 1964 as a result of the efforts of the Group of Seven artist A. Y. Jackson to save from logging the La Cloche region where he and fellow artists Franklin Carmichael, Arthur Lismer and A. J. Casson had often painted. This photo is taken from the Granite Ridge looking to the La Cloche mountains.
The Killarney Park office and campground is at George Lake on Highway 637, about 10 km east of Killarney village. All other camping is interior.
Killarney Park - George Lake from bridge over Chikanishing River
Killarney Park - George Lake with granite left and quartzite right
The geology of George Lake is spectacular: the south shore is Muskoka granite and the north shore is La Cloche quartzite. Photo by Bill Sherwood.
A beaver dam and Cranberry Bog from the Cranberry Bog Trail which starts at the eastern end of the George Lake campground. Photo by Bill Sherwood.
Killarney Park - beaver dam and Cranberry Bog
Killarney Park - Granite Ridge Trail
The Granite Ridge Trail is located across Highway 637 from the park office. The trail gives splendid views of the La Cloche mountains to the north and Georgian Bay to the west.
The Chikanishing River flows out of George Lake at the western end of the campground. The La Cloche Silhouette Trail starts here. It is 100 km long and is 7 to 10 days of extreme hiking.
Killarney Park - Chikanishing River leaving George Lake
Killarney Park - kayakers on Chikanishing River
Kayakers on the Chikanishing River. The Chikanishing Trail follows the river from the end of Chikanishing Road 2 km west of the camp office to the river mouth on Georgian Bay but it is possible to hike all the way from the west end of the George Lake campground. It follows the shore of Georgian Bay then loops back to the end of the road. Photo by Bill Sherwood
The mouth of the Chikanishing River. There is a parking lot and boat launch for kayak and canoe trips on Georgian Bay. Photo by Bill Sherwood.
Killarney Park - mouth of Chikanishing River into Georgian Bay
Killarney Park observatory dome
Not far from the park office is the observatory. Opened in 2010, it is the only observatory in an Ontario provincial park.
The building and 25-cm telescope were donated by the Waters family. Bruce Waters has given talks on astronomy in the park for over 25 years. The Gardiner family donated the mount and GoTo drive.
Killarney Park - open dome and telescope
Killarney Park Astronomer in Residence poster
In mid-August 2011, Bill made comets at a lecture and the next evening we helped park rangers show over 130 campers the night sky through the telescope and Perseid meteors. We returned as Astronomers in Residence in July and August 2012. Bill gave a talk on comets and I gave one on stoneage observatories.
The Milky Way from Killarney Park observatory. Because Killarney is far from any large town or city, the night sky is very dark with no light pollution. Every clear night we were busy showing campers planets, the moon, double stars, star clusters and galaxies through the telescope. While waiting their turn at the telescope, campers watched for meteors and satellites passing overhead. We saw the International Space Station on several evenings. Photo by Bill Sherwood.
Killarney Park - Milky Way in Sagitarius from observatory
Killarney Park - Art in the Park - painters
Killarney Park also has an Art in the Park programme led by several different artists who donate their time. When we were there the artist was Pièrre Sabourin who inspired us to do the paintings below. The Friends of Killarney Park supplied the materials. Everyone was given red, yellow, blue, white and black paint and had to mix their own colours. Photo by Bill Sherwood.
Killarney Park - George Lake - the scene to paint
The original scene from George Lake beach.
Killarney Park - George Lake with a painting of the scene
The George Lake scene and a painting by someone in the group.
Killarney Park - my 1st painting of the George Lake scene
My first attempt. Acrylic.
Killarney Park - Bill's 1st painting of the George Lake scene
Bill's first painting. Acylic.
Killarney Park - Bill's 2nd painting of the George Lake scene
Bill's 2nd painting of the scene. Acrylic.
Killarney Park - Bill's  painting of close-up of George Lake scene
Bill's 3rd painting. A close-up. Acrylic.
Killarney Park - my painting of close-up of George Lake Scene

It was fascinating to see 20 or 30 people between 8 and 80 painting the same scene. Each painting was entirely different but still recognizable as the view in front of us. Even when Bill or I painted the same scene on different days the paintings were very different.
Bill does sketch occasionally but has always said he could not paint. I have painted since I was a kid. Bill had a crash course in how to block the painting, mix colours, and put what he saw in his painting with a super teacher. Now he is hooked.
The second week, I took my oil paints. The painting on the left is done with oils. I like them much better than acrylic - they don't dry so fast, giving me time to think and change my mind. The disadvantage is what to do with a wet painting when living in a tent. So the car smelled of turpentine which I like, Bill doesn't.

Killarney Park - George Lake with Turtle Rock
George Lake and Turtle Rock
Killarney Park - Bill's painting of George Lake with Turtle Rock
Bill's painting. Acryllic.
Killarney Park - my 1st painting of George Lake with Turtle Rock
My painting. Acryllic.
Killarney Park - my 2nd painting of George Lake with Turtle Roak and storm over La Cloche
Last day. It was raining over La Cloche and heading our way fast. Hurry and finish!
Killarney - West Lighthouse from Sunset Rock
Killarney village: western lighthouse from Sunset Rock.
Killarney - Bill's painting of West Lighthouse
Bill's painting from memory - he didn't have the photo with him. Acrylic.
Killarney sunset
Killarney sunset.
Killarney - my painting of Killarney sunset
My painting in oils from the photo on the left.
Killarney Park - raccoon
Killarney Park has a super nature programme with talks about the nature in the park. We learned about bears, bats, owls, and hawks. We took part in the summer loon count.
There was a coon family, mother and 5 kids, that often wandered along the ravine beside our campsite. It was great fun to watch the kids learning to climb up and down trees. Photo by Bill Sherwood.
We also had a couple of resident chipmunks. Here is one of them posing on the grill on the firepit. It was very dry and fires were prohibited so the chippy was not in danger of burning its toes. Photo by Bill Sherwood.
Killarney Park - chipmunk
Killarney Park - red squirrel on picnic table
The red squirrels were very agressive. We did not turn our backs when there was food on the table. We were continually scolded for not sharing but we remained firm - it is not fair to the animals to feed them. This summer a yearling bear began stealing food from campsites. It was caught, tagged and transported away from the camp. Four days later it was back. It was recaptured, tagged in the other ear and taken further away. If it came back again, it would be shot. Bad habits learned from careless campers could cost it its life. Photo by Bill Sherwood.
A black squirrel. Not as numerous as the red squirrels but much bigger. They did not leave many beech nuts for their smaller relatives. No wonder that the little red squirrels have learned to beg for food. Photo by Bill Sherwood.
Killarney Park - black squirrel on tree
Killarney Park - Banded Purple butterfly
While hiking the Granite Ridge Trail in August 2011 we saw this banded purple butterfly sunning itself beside the trail.
A broad-leaved helleborine orchid beside the trail to the showers. This orchid is not indigenous to Canada but is an import from Europe. Nevertheless it has established itself quite successfully here.
Killarney Park - Broad-leaved Helleborine orchid

A close-up of the broad-leaved helleborine orchid.
We saw lots fo bats catching insects at twilight while we were opening up the observatory but it was much too dark to photograph them.
We were not so successful photographing the birds and bigger animals. We heard lots of woodpeckers, owls and hawks but were not quick enough to photograph them.
We saw a deer beside the highway just east of the park office but it was gone before we could pick up our cameras. Bill saw two bears along the highway but again they had disappeared into the bush before we could stop the car. Maybe next year we will be nore successful.

Not only the plants and animals of Killarney Provincial Park are fascinating. The geology is spectacular. The silver peaks of the La Cloche range shine above the forest. Close-up the rocks show contorted layers of colour. These rocks are billions of years old. Photo by Bill Sherwood.
Killarney Park - close-up of contorted layers in quartzite rock
Killarney - George Island granite La Cloche in background

Pink Muskoka granite in the foreground and behind the white quartzite hills of La Cloche. The sparkling blue waters of Georgian Bay and the numerous lakes within the park. This is Killarney.

All photographs are my property or the property of the named photographer and
may not be copied or used without written permission.

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November 17, 2013
©copyright 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 Vicki Sherwood

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