Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Toronto Gem: The Scarborough Bluffs

It always shocks me how tourists often seem to know so much more about what there is to see and do in a city they're visiting than the locals do. Maybe it's that locals miss out on reading the guidebooks, or maybe it's just that we get so caught up in our day-to-day lives and the mystique of travel that we forget to stop every once in a while and appreciate what's around us. In Toronto especially, I think we also get tripped up by the fact that the rest of our great country has such stunning landscape on offer (particularly in the west) and assume that anything we could have must pale in comparison. While we don't have any Rocky Mountains here, that doesn't mean our landscape isn't just as stunning (we are, after all, home to the Niagara Falls).

One of the estuarine inlets at the base of the bluffs. They'll full of fish, frogs and other life forms.

Proof that some good things do, indeed, come from Scarborough, perhaps one of my favourite oft-missed spots in the city are the Scarborough Bluffs - a 15km long escarpment running along the northern coast of Lake Ontario that reaches up 90m (or 25 stories) at it's highest point. Wonderful to visit in any season (though the beach can get quite crowded in the summer), I recently had the chance to explore them again with a friend who was visiting from Scotland in early September.  

A view of the bluffs from the beach.

The views of the bluffs are just stunning - but no more so than is suggested by its history. The bluffs are what remain of the eroded shoreline of Glacial Lake Iroquois, which covered an enlarged area of Lake Ontario and sat at the base of a large northern ice sheet during the last ice age (approximately 13,000 years ago). Surprisingly, the bluffs actually represent the last remaining geological record of this period in North America, making them incredibly important geologically. Unfortunately, due to their sandy nature, the bluffs are eroding fast - at a rate of about one meter per year. This isn't all bad though, one of Toronto's major attractions, the Toronto Islands, were actually formed by erosional deposits from the bluffs that were swept westward into the lake during a large storm in 1858

Looking out toward Lake Ontario. We were lucky enough to be there when it was warm.

There are a number of places from which you can enjoy the Bluffs, but two of my favourite (and two of the most easily accessible) are Bluffers Park at the base of Brimley Road and the Scarborough Bluffs Park above it east of Midland Avenue. Parking at Bluffers is free Monday-Friday before 5pm. To get there using public transit, take the number 12 or 12B Kingston Road bus to Brimley and then walk the 2km (10mins) south to the park. Just remember that the route in heads down, so you'll have quite the uphill on the walk back - it's definitely worth it though!

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