The Niagara Escarpment’s unique landscape is at the heart of many of the Blue Mountain and South Georgian Bay region’s natural attractions. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment a biosphere reserve in February, 1990. The Niagara Escarpment is one of only 16 biosphere reserves in Canada, and is part of a network of 610 reserves in 117 countries.
The Escarpment landform is a largely forested ridge of fossil rich sedimentary rock (dolostone), 725 kilometers in length that runs from Niagara Falls north to Tobermory. It reaches its highest point in South Georgian Bay at Osler Bluffs and rises 510 meters (1675 ft) above sea level. The UNESCO designation recognizes the Niagara Escarpment as an internationally significant ecosystem for its special environment and unique environmental plan.
To obtain UNESCO Biosphere Reserve designation, regions must actively foster economic and human development that are socioculturally and ecologically sustainable, contribute to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems and biodiversity, and provide support for research, monitoring, education and information exchange related to local, national and global conservation and land management. They are also beginning to focus on social enterprise, and strengthening their collaborations with indigenous peoples.
Rolling, glacially sculpted farmlands are interspersed with patches of deciduous forest, meandering rivers and creek valleys lined in dark green cedar. The rural countryside is dotted with farming homesteads. Every year, more than 400,000 visits are made to the Escarpment by hikers, cross-country skiers, snowshoeing enthusiasts, canoeists, kayakers, photographers and those who simply want to admire the glorious scenery of the Escarpment. The Niagara Escarpment Commission encourages exploration and enjoyment of the beautiful scenery, cultural heritage and recreational opportunities the Escarpment offers. From farmers’ markets to hiking to winery and culinary tours, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Visitors can enjoy hiking along parts of the 250 km of the Bruce Trail within the region. Rock climbing on “Old Baldy” and Metcalfe Rock in the Town of the Blue Mountains are also popular pursuits.