Sat. Feb 24th, 2024
What's in a name?  A historical look at six Northwest park names

Have you ever wondered how your favorite park got its name?

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

Sleeping Giant Park Sign

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park has not always been named after the landform that the park encompasses.

When the park was established in 1944, it was named Sibley Provincial Park in honor of Alexander Hamilton Sibley. Sibley was the president of the Silver Islet Consolidated Mining Company which operated in the area from 1869 to 1884.

Sleeping giant landform with sunset

In 1988, the name was changed to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. The Sleeping Giant is an iconic relief that resembles a giant sleeping on its back when viewed across the landscape.

Two people with backpacks standing on a shore looking at the relief through the water

The name change was intended to raise the park’s profile and clear up the misconception that the Sleeping Giant is an island in Lake Superior.

The Sleeping Giant is actually part of the Sibley Peninsula within the park. The way it juts out into Lake Superior, it looks like an island from some angles.

Wabakami Provincial Park

Two silhouetted figures in a canoe at sunset

Wabakimi Provincial Park is a natural park located near the town of Armstrong. Its backcountry canoe routes offer a network of options for paddling enthusiasts, and it is one of Northwest Wilderness Quest’s featured parks.

It is suggested that the word Wabakimi originates from the Ojibway word ““Waubishkaugimi” which means “white water”,”which refers to the river rapids in the park. Another possible origin is the word “Bishkegin” which means “the sheet is white,”which invokes the vision of a calm lake reflecting the sun.

Quetico Provincial Park

A guy climbing a slope in the forest.

Located approximately two hours west of Thunder Bay and bordering Minnesota, Quetico Provincial Park is an iconic natural park famous for its picturesque lakes and streams, pine and spruce forests, and rich cultural history.

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Lac La Croix First Nation shares the origin of the park’s name in the Quetico Park Management Plan:

“The name Quetico comes from the Ojibway word, ‘Gwetaming.’ This refers to how we view this sacred land. There is a place in the park called Lago Quetico. The lake is sacred, meaning it is occupied by living spirits who have been here since time immemorial.

Lake in the dark with the northern lights in the sky

You hear stories from our elders about unusual and unexplained events at this lake, which can only be explained by our spiritual paths. The Lake is very spiritual and sacred to us. We are told to be aware and respectful of the power it has. ‘Gwetaming’ It means that we sacredly respect that area for the spirits that dwell there.”

Neys Provincial Park

Blue green water with coniferous coast

Located on the north shore of Lake Superior, between the cities of Marathon and Terrace Bay, Neys Provincial Park features a stunning sandy beach, rocky shoreline, and stunning views of Lake Superior.

With a history involving indigenous people, travellers, prisoners of war, Group of Seven artists, loggers, fishermen, ship crews and railway workers, the landscape of Neys tells many stories.

Aerial photo of the coast with forest and lake.

The Canadian Pacific Railway runs along the northern boundary of Neys Provincial Park, where there was historically a railway siding. A railway siding is a section of track where trains might stop to refuel, collect water, and allow other trains on the same line to pass. Since this siding was called Neys, the park adopted that name when it was officially regulated in 1965.

High railway bridge over a river

It is suggested that the siding was named after one of the young men who worked as a rookie building the railway through the area in the 1880s. One source states that Neys is an abbreviation of the name Doheyneys, which may have been the name of the man.

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Aaron Provincial Park

White sand beach on a sunny and cloudy day

Just 15 minutes east of the town of Dryden, Aaron Provincial Park is a perfect stop for cross-country travelers. The park is located on Thunder Lake, a remnant of ancient glaciers that covered Ontario tens of thousands of years ago.

During the 1880s, the Canadian Pacific Railway was built next to the current location of Aaron Provincial Park and the area was opened for settlement.

View of the forest looking up from the forest floor.

In 1906, the land that is now Aaron Provincial Park was sold to John D. Aaron, after whom the park was eventually named.

Parking sign at Aaron Provincial Park

In 1935, the recreational value of the site was recognized and the Department of Northern Development established it as a roadside camping park for travelers and local residents. In 1958, the park was regulated as a provincial park.

Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park

View of the waterfall between some bushes in Sunet

This park is located 32 km west of Thunder Bay on the Kaministiquia River. Kakabeka Falls is one of the best-known natural features in northwestern Ontario and is the park’s main attraction. A boardwalk surrounds the top of the falls and provides access to stunning views of this 40m high waterfall.

In 1859, Paul Kane, a famous Canadian painter, wrote: “We arrive… at Mountain Portage, the falls of which surpass even those of Niagara in picturesque beauty… their height is almost equal, and the scenery around them is infinitely more wild and romantic.”

The base of the falls.

Kakabeka is said to be derived from an Ojibway word meaning “steep cliff” or “thundering waters.”.” The thundering waters of Ontario’s second tallest waterfall and the cliffs along the river are beautiful!

What does the name of a park mean to you?

The next time you visit one of Northwestern Ontario’s provincial parks, consider its name and where it might have come from.