Thu. Feb 29th, 2024
More than 75 years in development

In 1944, Algonquin Provincial Park decided to try something new.

They hired Professor JR Dymond, director of the Royal Ontario Museum of Zoology, to offer guided walks to park visitors. Those early interpretive programs were a success and what would become the Ontario Parks Discovery Program was born.

More than seventy-five years later, approximately 300 Discovery employees across more than 70 parks continue to engage visitors with stories of Ontario’s natural and cultural heritage and encourage them to explore further.

New discoveries

It sounds cliché to say that a lot has changed since Dymond offered his first guided walk, but it’s true.

For example, in the last 75 years, technology has completely changed the way we learn and interact with the world, both physically and socially.

1953 – Doug Roseborough speaking to a group. Photo: Algonquin Park Museum

Before portable devices such as cell phones and laptops, Discovery staff were often the only source of information about a park’s natural and cultural heritage features. Now visitors have Google in their pockets and can find the answers to their curiosities almost instantly.

So does the Discovery show still have something to offer you?

Here are some reasons why you might want to watch a show this summer:

  • to improve your connection with the park – Discovery staff often go to great lengths to plan and present interactive programs that meaningfully connect you to special features protected in the parks.
  • to improve your overall experience – Discovery programs aim to offer fun, social and unique experiences that can enhance your trip.
  • to empower you to contribute and protect these special places participating in citizen science initiatives
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Enhanced discovery program

More than 20 parks (see list below) offer an enhanced range of programs and services, including:

  • guided walks led by staff
  • kids program
  • theatrical evening programs
  • canoe walks
  • bioblitzes
  • Products for own use such as trail guides and signs.
  • Visitor Center Exhibits
  • And much much more.

canoeSamuel de Champlain Provincial Park Visitor Center (an example of self-use products at one of our enhanced Discovery Program parks)

These parks are staffed by a full team of Discovery staff, led by experienced naturalists and interpreters. They have expertise in a variety of areas, from birds and amphibians to history, and are ready to answer your questions in person or via #AskanOPnaturalist.

Exploration stations

Other parks (see list below) have one or two Discovery staff students who specifically offer exploration stations for families with children.

Discovery program lead staff

These drop-in tours offer a flexible time frame for families to stop by, pick up tools and tips to explore the day’s topic (like Amazing Amphibians!), and explore along with our Discovery Guides.

Programs typically focus on the summer months of July and August. However, some of our enhanced Discovery Program parks offer additional programs in the spring and fall.

The best way to find out about programs before visiting a park is to check the park’s social media platforms for program posters, visit the Ontario Parks events page, or simply call the park.

2018: A discovery guide and visitor observing an insect during an exploration station at Silent Lake Provincial Park

Enhanced Discovery Program Parks:

Exploration Station Parks:

Happy exploring and discovering this summer!