Stunning Georgian Bay landscape, Ontario (Photo by Ethan Meleg)
A unique coastal landscape
As captured in iconic paintings by the Group of Seven in the early 1900s, the Eastern Georgian Bay Coast is today an integral part of Ontario's cultural heritage and includes incredible views of the Canadian Shield. It is one of North America's most exquisite and distinctive landscapes.
The mainland coastline, comprised of rocky shores, deep cut bays, wetlands and cobble beaches, is protected by the largest archipelago of freshwater islands in the world. With a total coastal length of more than 5,300 kilometres, including mainland and islands, the Eastern Georgian Bay Coast contains many attributes that are unique to the Great Lakes basin.
This includes the greatest number of islands — more than two thirds of all islands in the basin, the longest coastline, the highest quality wetlands and the most extensive coastal rock barrens.
The high biodiversity values inherent to this area make it a top conservation priority.
The coastal wetlands of the Eastern Georgian Bay Coast Natural Area, such as those found on Sandy Island, provide important habitat for colonial nesting waterbirds and have one of the highest densities of globally and nationally rare species and communities in Ontario.
The area also contains two identified Important Bird Areas and is a migratory corridor for waterfowl, shorebirds and landbirds, which concentrate along the coast in the spring and fall.
The coast contains a large variety of documented vegetation communities, disjunct species and breeding birds, and the greatest diversity of viable reptile populations in Canada, including many at-risk snake and turtle species and Ontario's only lizard, the five-lined skink.
Important amphibian populations, such as salamanders, frogs and toads also make their homes here. Wide-ranging and space-demanding species such as black bear, fisher and eastern wolf are relatively common as well.
Threats to these areas include incompatible development such as marinas and recreational homes, invasive species, water pollution and degradation, direct persecution of wildlife species and incompatible recreation such as the use of ATVs (all-terrain vehicles).
While there has been significant conservation of public lands within the area, many important places, particularly in southern regions, are not protected.
Georgian Bay Islands National Park was established in 1929 to protect the unique features in the southern portion of the bay, and the global significance of the area was recognized in 2004 through the establishment of the Georgian Bay World Biosphere Reserve.
NCC has a long history of working with partners in the Eastern Georgian Bay Coast, including Parks Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Georgian Bay Land Trust, the latter through the pivotal Georgian Bay Joint Venture program. Through innovative partnerships, some of the most remarkable areas of the Eastern Georgian Bay Coast are now protected for future generations of people, as well as the security of wildlife who live here.