The Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve is one of Canada’s most scenic landforms. A massive ridge of fossil-rich sedimentary rock, the Escarpment was formed 450 million years ago as the outer rim of a shallow tropical sea.
- It is home to Canada’s longest footpath, the Bruce Trail (established in 1967), which connects more than 120 parks.
- It soars 510 metres (1675 ft.) at its highest point and stretches 725 km (450 miles) from Niagara Falls to Tobermory and outlying islands, at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula in Georgian Bay.
- It is a rich mosaic of forests, rivers and streams, waterfalls, farms, recreation areas, scenic views, cliffs, wetlands, rolling hills, mineral resources, wildlife habitats, historic sites, villages, towns and cities.
- It hosts some of Ontario’s finest skiing, fishing, camping, swimming, scuba diving, rock climbing, boating, hiking, bird watching and sight-seeing areas.
The Niagara Escarpment represents Ontario’s natural and diverse landscape. It hosts rich, lush and diverse ecosystems that support the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. With southern Ontario’s growing population and increasing urban development, it is important that these precious ecosystems are preserved for future generations to enjoy.
The Niagara Escarpment has the highest level of biodiversity among Canada’s 16 biosphere reserves and is home to:
- Over 300 bird species
- 53 mammals
- 36 reptiles and amphibians
- 90 fish
- 100 varieties of special interest flora
- 37 types of wild orchids
What is Biodiversity?
It’s the variety of life on earth and the complex essential relationships between all parts of the natural world: from the thousands of varieties of plants and food crops on the land, to countless species of animals, insects and aquatic life, to the microbes in our soils.
Why is Biodiversity so Important?
Because it’s the earth’s life-support system – and our world’s food supply depends on it. It’s also nature’s brilliant insurance policy against disaster. Variety spreads risk. It’s that simple. If something fails, there’s a back-up plan. And what a back-up plan we have in biodiversity!
Biodiversity is nature’s safety net, there to catch us as long as we protect it.
The Niagara Escarpment – a World Biosphere Reserve
Biosphere reserves are areas in the world that demonstrate a balanced relationship between humans and the biosphere. Collaborative efforts among people in the biosphere area promote the sustainability of local economies and communities as well as the conservation of the terrestrial and coastal ecosystems. In 1990, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) named the Niagara Escarpment a World Biosphere Reserve — an internationally recognized landscape. It is one of only 16 biosphere reserves in Canada and is part of a network of over 600 worldwide. Biosphere reserves strive to conserve the diversity of plants, animals and micro-organisms which make up our living environment and maintain healthy, natural ecosystems while meeting the material needs, desires and health of a growing population.
Tourism in the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere
Offering a diverse range of exciting activities ranging from wine and culinary touring to hiking and skiing, the Niagara Escarpment is one of Ontario’s premiere tourism destinations. The Niagara Escarpment’s proximity to urban centres including Hamilton, St. Catharines, Oakville, Burlington, Owen Sound and Toronto make it an accessible and attractive tourism destination for outdoor recreation. The Escarpment traverses one of the most urbanized regions of Canada and offers vital green space and recreational areas for residents and visitors. Each year, more than 400,000 visits are made to the Escarpment by day hikers, long distance hikers, cross-country skiers, canoeists, kayakers, wildlife enthusiasts, photographers and those who simply want to admire the glorious scenery of the Escarpment. The Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest and longest footpath follows the route of the Escarpment and offers outstanding hiking for beginner and experienced hikers. The Bruce Trail is maintained by dedicated volunteers, with nine regional clubs supporting the Bruce Trail Conservancy in managing this beautiful public footpath.