The Niagara Escarpment adds a unique visual quality to Ontario's landscape as it crosses the province from Queenston, on the Niagara River, through Hamilton, Milton, Orangeville, Collingwood, Owen Sound and Tobermory to Manitoulin Island and St Joseph Island.
The escarpment marks part of the shore of an ancient sea centered in Michigan, which extended west from Rochester, NY, across Ontario to Michigan, then down the west side of Lake Michigan into Wisconsin. Water erosion and glaciation molded its striking features. Water continues to shape the landscape through the rivers which flow through it and from its more than 60 waterfalls.
Historically, the escarpment's waterfalls, forests and rocks provided power and building materials for a young province. In time, however, its archaeological sites, rich fauna and flora, and outstanding potential for recreation - such as hiking on the Bruce Trail, skiing and nature study - created a demand for measures to preserve its scenic splendour.
To resolve the complicated jurisdiction of municipalities, regions, counties and conservation authorities, the Niagara Escarpment Commission produced a plan to preserve the escarpment's ecological integrity and a Niagara park system of more than 116 units. In 1990 the escarpment was recognized as an internationally significant ecosystem when the United Nations designated it as a biosphere reserve.