Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment is a working countryside and a cornerstone of Ontario’s Greenbelt.  It is a protected area, recognized provincially and internationally as a significant landform with a system of development control in place to guide development in its area.

Provincial objectives and land use control for the Niagara Escarpment are achieved through the Niagara Escarpment Plan, “Canada’s first green plan,” a visionary environmental land use plan conceived by the Ontario government in 1973 through the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act. 

The Niagara Escarpment is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, designated for its unique landform characteristics and the presence of a provincial land use plan to guide development in its area. It is one of only 16 biosphere reserves in Canada, and is part of a network of 598 in 117 countries.

Facts at a glance:

  • The Niagara Escarpment is a massive ridge of fossil-rich sedimentary rock which began its formation 450 million years ago as the outer rim of a shallow sea known geologically as the Michigan Basin.   
  • The Escarpment soars 510 metres (1675 ft.) at its highest point and stretches 725 km (450 miles) from Niagara to Tobermory.   
  • It is a rich mosaic of forests, farms, recreation areas, scenic views, cliffs, streams, wetlands, rolling hills, waterfalls, mineral resources, wildlife habitats, historic sites, villages, towns and cities.   
  • The Escarpment is home to more than 300 bird species, 53 mammals, 36 reptiles and amphibians, 90 fish and 100 varieties of special interest flora including 37 types of wild orchids.   
  • The Escarpment is home to almost 40% of Ontario’s rare flora.  
  • It includes some of Ontario’s best skiing, camping, swimming, fishing, boating, hiking and scenic viewing.   
  • The Escarpment is home to Canada’s longest and oldest footpath, the Bruce Trail, established in 1967.  
  • The Niagara Escarpment Plan Area encompasses 194,555 hectares or 480,747 acres.


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