Point Pelee, Ontario on the map. National Park Point Pelee, Ontario on the map of Canada

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Point Pelee, Ontario on the map. National Park Point Pelee, Ontario on the map of Canada

Point Pelee, Ontario

Established: 1918   Acreage: 3840

Point Pelee, one of Canada's smallest national parks, resembles an inverted triangle, pointing southerly, like a long finger into the western end of Lake Erie. It is also an unusual park—it is a sandpit. Ten thousand years ago, glaciers deposited a ridge of gravel across Lake Erie. Sands eroded from the north shore of the lake were swept onto this base and formed Point Pelee, which owes its name to the French word 'Pelee,' meaning bare, presumably from the long treeless spit that forms the tip.

Although the marsh dominates the park, Point Pelee has a fascinating blend of forest, fields and beach. Spreading across two-thirds of the park, the marsh is a jigsaw arrangement of cattails and ponds. The remaining third of the park was at one time a dense southern forest, whose unusually large variety of trees included the hackberry, sassafras, sycamore, black walnut, honey-locust and blue ash. Surrounding the marsh and forest is a necklace of sand and pebble beach. This mix of marsh, forest, field and beach, combined with Pelee's location, attracts thousands of birds on their biannual migrations.

In 1799, the British declared the southern portion of the Point Pelee peninsula a naval reserve, establishing the basis for today's park boundaries. Over the next hundred years, squatters cleared areas for farming, trapped and hunted the marsh and established commercial fisheries on the lake. By 1900, a handful of naturalists recognized the area as an important stopover site for migrating birds. Point Pelee was the first park in Canada to be created on the merit of its biological value.

Below: The Marsh Boardwalk, a circular trail through Point Pelee, reaches into a sea of cattails and along the edge of ponds. Because the park is small, walking is an ideal way to explore it.

 

Point Pelee, Ontario on the map. National Park Point Pelee, Ontario on the map of Canada