Niagara Escarpment

Designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 1990, the Niagara Escarpment is an internationally recognized landform and is home to hundreds of Ontario’s Species at Risk, vital watersheds, and agricultural areas.


Photos: Niagara Falls, Niagara Region; Rattlesnake Point, Milton, Halton Region; Bruce Peninsula National Park, Bruce County

The Niagara Escarpment was formed 450 million years ago as the outer rim of a shallow tropical sea. It runs predominantly east/west through New York, Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ilinois.

In Canada, it is 510 metres (1675 ft.) at its highest point and stretches 725 km (450 miles) from Niagara Falls to Tobermory and outlying islands, at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula in Georgian Bay.

In southern Ontario, it spans the Niagara Peninsula, closely following the Lake Ontario shore through the cities of St. Catharines, Hamilton, and Dundas, where it takes a turn north in the town of Milton toward Georgian Bay. It then follows the Georgian Bay shore northwestwards to form the spine of the Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island, as well as several smaller islands located in northern Lake Huron.

The Niagara Escarpement is also home to Canada’s longest footpath, the Bruce Trail, which was established in 1967 and connects more than 120 parks. In southern Ontario, the Bruce Trail runs the length of the escarpment from Queenston on the Niagara River to Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula. By car, Highway 401, Canada’s busiest highway, crosses the escarpment, beginning its long descent through rolling hills, farmland, and towns west of Milton. Driving along Highway 26 from Owen Sound eastwards towards Meaford, Rock exposed on the face of the escarpment can also be seen.

The Niagara Escarpment is most famous as the cliff over which the Niagara River plunges at Niagara Falls, for which it is named. The escarpment includes forests, rivers and streams, waterfalls, farms, recreation areas, scenic views, cliffs, wetlands, rolling hills, mineral resources, wildlife habitats, historic sites, villages, towns and cities. It also has some of Ontario’s finest skiing, fishing, camping, swimming, scuba diving, rock climbing, boating, hiking, bird watching and sight-seeing areas.

The below map shows the route of the Niagara Escarpment through 8 of the 49 regions of Ontario: Niagara Region, Hamilton Region, Halton Region, Peel Region, Dufferin County, Simcoe County, Grey Count, Bruce County

If you visit the Niagara Escarpment Commission website, you can learn how it works on behalf of the people of Ontario to preserve the Niagara Escarpment as a continuous natural landscape.

You can also visit the UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in Ontario page to learn more about Ontario’s three other biosphere reserves.