Georgian Bay Littoral

This biosphere reserve encompasses the largest island archipelago of the North American Great Lakes. Known locally as “The Thirty Thousand Islands”, it is a complex association of bays, inlets, sounds, islands and shoals lying along the edge of the Canadian Shield bedrock which rises as low lying hills and ridges on the adjacent mainland. This topography supports a rich mosaic of forest, wetlands, and rocky habitat types with associated biodiversity. It also has high scenic values which attract large numbers of summer residents, cruising boaters, and seasonal visitors.


Designation Date: November 2004
Surface Area: 347,000
Administrative Division: Ontario

Human Activities

The main activities in the region are summer tourism (forboaters, cottagers, campers and outdoor enthusiasts), small service communities of up to 6,500 people, and sustainable forest management.  

Ecological Characteristics

The eastern coast of Georgian Bay has a complex topography with an extensive shoreline along the many islands, deep coves, fiords, and river mouths.

It is thought to be theworld’s largest freshwater archipelago with a mix of open waters, sheltered bays, coastal wetlands, exposed bedrockshores, sandy and cobble beaches, riparian vegetation and upland Boreal Needle leaf forests on the mainland. The resulting rich mosaics of habitats and interconnections among them, combined with the inaccessibility of much ofthe area, serves to support and protect a high level of biodiversity- over 100 species of animals and plants that are considered to be species at risk in Canada or Ontario.These include reptiles such as eastern massasauga rattlesnake(Sistrurus c. catenatus), eastern fox snake (Elaphegloydii), eastern hognose snake (Heterodon platyrhinos)and spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata).

Protection Classifications

  • 1 national park (IUCN Class II)
  • 5 provincial parks (IUCN Class II) natural environment ornature reserve types
  • Numerous provincial conservation reserves

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                                                                            Last update: May 2014

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