Why You Should Visit Point Pelee National Park
Imagine a place in Canada that is as far south as not only Northern California, but Barcelona, Spain. And it’s right here in Ontario! Point Pelee National Park is home to Canada’s most southern mainland point. And while it may be one of Canada’s smallest National Parks, it’s the most ecologically diverse.
Point Pelee National Park is home to diverse habitats, from Carolinian Forests to sandy beaches. And an incredible 70% of the park is marshland. That’s one of the reasons why it’s a UNESCO designated Wetland of International Significance. Whether you’re looking for great places to experience Ontario nature or in search of a new Canadian National Park to visit, here are six reasons to visit Point Pelee National Park.
Arguably the most photogenic part of the park the Marsh Boardwalk is a must visit. You can walk the kilometre boardwalk that loops around the marsh. Or, you can rent a canoe or kayak to explore the marsh from the perspective of the water. If you prefer a guide the park runs guided canoe tours daily in July and August. This marsh is one of the largest last remaining freshwater marshes found on the Great Lakes.
Walk along the boardwalk and spot red-winged black birds precariously perched atop reeds. Try to catch sight of herons as they fish in ultimate stillness. And don’t forget to ascend the three-story observation tower. From the top of the tower, you’ll get a birds-eye view of just how expansive the marsh really is.
Visit the Southern Tip
When many people think of Canada they think cold. But did you know that Canada’s most southern mainland is on the same latitude as northern California? And a visit to Point Pelee National Park’s most southern tip will surprise you.
To reach the tip you can jump on a shuttle bus that leaves the Visitor’s Centre, or walk. The shuttle brings you to the top of the Tip Trail. From there, wander the one kilometre trail leading you through forest, along fragile beaches, and out to the tip. It’s urged to use extreme caution while on the tip, and no swimming, as the currents are strong and dangerous. And due to water levels, wind, and waves, the point is always changing.
Point Pelee is home to over half a dozen hiking trails. Many of the park’s trails will bring you through various habitats, from marshes to beaches. Hike in search of elusive birds or beautiful landscapes. A few notable trails, aside from those mentioned above, are; the Tilden Woods Trail, Cactus Field Footpath, and the Woodland Nature Trail.
The Tilden Woods Trail will take you through an enchanting swamp forest, along a winding boardwalk. The kilometre long trail also explores serene savannah and can be accessed from the Visitor’s Centre parking lot. The Cactus Field Footpath will bring together birdwatchers and botanists alike. Here you’ll discover the park’s impressive Eastern prickly pear cactus patch. And in the spring the trail is great for birding. The Woodland Nature Trail is the perfect hike through the oldest forest habitat in the park. This nearly three kilometre trail can be accessed from the Visitor Centre.
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Located in the middle of the park, the DeLaurier Homestead is where you’ll learn about Point Pelee history. In this historic homestead from the 1850’s are exhibits and artefacts showcasing the park’s 10,000 years of human history. There is also an approximate kilometre long loop trail that takes you through swamp forest, cedar savannah, and open fields. Be sure to stop at the observation tower to try and spot eagles near their nesting platform.
Did you know? The name Point Pelee comes from French Explorers who called it ‘Bald Point’, due to the bald eastern shores. Pelée in French means bald.
Point Pelee National Park is Canada’s most ecologically diverse National Park. It’s home to over 700 species of plants. Some of which are only found in the park. And the park is known as an incredible birding hotspot. Over 300 species of birds have been recorded here. Flocks of birders visit the park in the spring to experience the spring migration, where sheer numbers of birds pass through, darkening the sky at times. Point Pelee is also home to an array of mammals and reptiles, including the endangered fox snake and five-lined skink.
But don’t forget to visit in fall too for the fall bird migration. This is also when you’ll witness the breathtaking fall migration of Monarch butterflies.
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Dark Sky Nights
Explore Point Pelee during the day, from sun up to sun down, in search of its incredible wildlife and wild spaces. But there’s more to the park than what can be seen by day. Point Pelee National Park is also a Dark Sky Preserve. And on select nights you can visit for a whole new park experience, the night skies. During Dark Sky Nights astronomers point out constellations in a brilliant starlit sky. There are also other activities that include various nocturnal wildlife experiences where you can learn more about owls and bats, as well as enjoying the marsh by moonlight with a canoe ride.
Planning a visit? Check out the Parks Canada site for information on directions, entrance fees, and hours.
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