Point Pelee National Park is located in Essex County, 50 kilometres (30 miles) southeast of Windsor, Ontario and a short distance from Leamington, Ontario. Located in a peninsula of lush Carolinian forest and wetlands the park is 20-square-kilometre (8-square-mile) with a tip sharply extending out into Lake Erie. The park sits atop a deposit of sand up to 70 m thick left by glacial meltwaters on a submerged limestone ridge.
Point Pelee is the southernmost point of mainland Canada. Middle Island, located a short distance south of Point Pelee Island is the southernmost point of land in Canada and is now part of Point Pelee National Park.
Early French explorers had named the peninsula "pointe pelée", meaning bald point. Recent geological findings show that when it was first explored by the French in the mid 1600's, the tip was much longer than it is now, with little vegetation. During the early 1800's Point Pelee was inhabited by a group of Chippewa First Nation people who lived in wooden shanties and cultivated corn. The largest archaeological site found at Point Pelee is thought to have been occupied between AD 700 and 900.
Prior to the park's establishment in 1918 a small group of bird enthusiasts set up a camp where the visitor centre is located today to study bird migration at Point Pelee, eventually leading to the formation of the Great Lakes Ornithological Club. In 1913 the famous bird enthusiast Jack Miner visited Point Pelee and realizing it's environmental importance, petitioned the federal government to create Point Pelee National Park.
Point Pelee is an important stop over for migratory birds and also one of the best bird watching locations in Canada. Over 350 species of birds have been recorded at Point Pelee with peak bird watching activities taking place in the spring and fall.
The moderating effects of Lake Erie within this band of Carolinian Forest have allowed southern plants and animals to flourish that are very rarely seen this far north. Point Pelee has more species of reptiles and amphibians than anywhere else in Canada.
About three quarters of the park consists of wetlands, marshes and ponds. The remainder is mostly deciduous forest with over seventy different species of trees such as as shagbark hickory, sassafras and hackberry. Many Carolinian floral species that are rare in Canada occur within the park boundaries. The park contains more than 750 native plant species, of these 8 species are considered to be rare, endangered or threatened in Canada.
Parking is available at the Visitor Centre, Marsh Boardwalk, Group Camping Area and at all picnic and beach facilities. The Tip area is open to private vehicles from November to March, but is accessible only by a shuttle service, which is included in admission fee, from April to October.
Pets are allowed on a leash inside the park and on the shuttle service to the tip.
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