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Frontenac Arch Biosphere

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Worldwide, the image of Canada is the rugged "north", windswept pines atop rugged granite ridges, sparkling lakes, and forest wildlife. The Frontenac Arch is this quintessential Canadian landscape, here in eastern Ontario and upper New York State.

The Frontenac Arch Biosphere, one of Canada’s 16 UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves, celebrates this unique region, leading sustainable development projects for a healthy environment, a rich culture, vibrant society and robust economy. The Frontenac Arch is an hourglass-shaped granite bridge a quintessential Canadian landscape between the Canadian Shield and Adirondack Mountains.

What You'll See

  • A billion years ago, massive mountain ranges towered skyward here. Over millions of years these mountains weathered down to their roots, which is now the rock you see today in the Frontenac Arch.
  • During the last glacial period, glaciers bulldozed the basins for the Great Lakes. As the glaciers melted the lakes filled to the brim, and overflowed on their seaward race. Released from the weight of glacial ice, Lake Ontario tipped gently eastward, and the water rose up the western flanks of the Frontenac Arch. The lake spilled between thousands of granite hilltops, actually the roots of the ancient mountains, to create the Thousand Islands as you see them today.
  • The intersection of the Frontenac Arch and the St. Lawrence River Valley is the greatest natural crossroads on the continent. The Arch connects the Canadian Shield’s boreal forest to forests of the Adirondack and Appalachian Mountains. The St. Lawrence valley connects the Great Lakes to the forests of the Atlantic Coast. The Thousand Islands is at the centre of that intersection. It’s here that you can see five great forest regions of the eastern continent meet. Many species are at range limits. Many are remnant populations from forests altered by climate change and evolving landscapes. The result is one of the greatest diversities of plants and animals in North America.
  • These natural migration routes were also trade and migration routes for First nations peoples. You can see archeological finds such as copper knives from the far north, shells from the southern coasts, projectile point stone from the west, and pottery from several regions.