Quetico Provincial Park has just announced it has been designated as an International Dark Sky Park. Located about 160 km west of Thunder Bay in Northwestern Ontario, Quetico is a world-famous destination for backcountry canoeing in its more than 2,000 lakes.
“Quetico is also renowned for its beautiful starry night skies that are free of light pollution,” says Trevor Gibb, Park Superintendent at Quetico. Beyond their remarkable beauty, dark night skies are important because many species of birds, amphibians, insects and plants rely on natural cycles of light and uninterrupted darkness. Introducing unnatural light pollution can destabilize everything from predator avoidance to breeding and migration.
To preserve Quetico’s pristine night skies and protect its nocturnal ecosystem, Gibb and Ontario Parks personnel worked for two years to earn the park’s Dark Sky designation, which is awarded by the US-based International Dark-Sky Association. The designation is reserved for public or private lands that demonstrate a high-quality starry night as well as a protected nocturnal environment.
Quetico upgraded all of its outdoor lights to dark sky-friendly colour temperatures, and lights are now also fully shielded and directed downwards to prevent them from radiating throughout the environment. In addition, Quetico developed a light management plan to ensure potential light pollution impacts are factored into any future developments in the park.
Along with Killarney Provincial Park and Lake Superior Provincial Park, Quetico is the third Ontario park to receive a Dark Sky designation since 2018. “All of our provincial parks are here to protect the natural environment and Ontario’s biodiversity,” says Gibb. “Naturally dark night skies are an important part of that protection.”
Gibb says visitors to Quetico can play their part in being dark sky-friendly campers by using outdoor lights only when necessary and shutting them off when they go to sleep. “We’re also asking visitors to avoid installing solar-powered garden lights and string lights in their campsites,” adds Gibb.
To maintain its Dark Sky designation, park rangers will regularly monitor Quetico’s sky quality every summer. “By continuing to be a Dark Sky park, we’re hoping to provide opportunities for the public to appreciate our star-filled night sky for many years to come,” says Gibb.