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A visit to Point Pelee National Park
Lens: DA 18-135 WR Camera: K-70 Photo Location: Point Pelee 
Posted By: Tako Kichi, 06-27-2017, 10:16 PM

Last weekend my wife's oldest sister came to visit, my wife hadn't seen her for a couple of years and it must be 5+ since I last saw her. We decided to visit the local National Park as it had been years since any of us had been despite it being only a 20 minute car ride away. Parks Canada have waived the normal entry fees this year as part of Canada's 150th Birthday celebrations so free entry was a great bonus.

Point Pelee Is Canada's smallest National Park in terms of area but one of the largest in terms of bio-diversity, two-thirds of the park is wetland and marsh and the remaining third is the last outpost of Canada's once huge Carolinian Forest. The park is also Canada's most southern and contains it's most southern mainland tip, an inhabited island in the middle of Lake Erie is the most southern landmass and the islanders are cut-off from the mainland (except for air travel) every winter as the daily ferry service has to stop when the lake freezes over.

Here's a map of the park to show you the layout and features:



We started our visit at the Marsh Boardwalk, a 1.4 km loop around a tiny part of the marsh area on a boardwalk that for most of the way floats on the surface of the marsh on pontoons. The walk is always fascinating regardless of season as there is always so much to see. Wildlife of all sorts is abundant and there are a wide variety of marshland plants to enjoy too.

Here's a shot looking back at the start of the boardwalk from one of the rest areas along the way:



This is looking the opposite way and in the distance you can just see the gazebo on the horizon that marks the mid-point rest area:



The open water is part of the numerous canoe routes and canoes can be hired from the shop at the start of the boardwalk. Here are a couple of teenagers enjoying the marsh in a hired canoe, their parents were in another canoe some way behind them:



Everywhere you looked there was something of interest, this guy (or gal) was quite happy to bask in the sun just 6 ft. from the board walk and wasn't at all bothered by the passage of visitors creating waves from the floating pontoons:



On the open water areas the lily pads were in full bloom attracting all sorts of insects:



Point Pelee Is famous for being a birder's paradise and twice a year the spring and fall migrations bring thousands of visitors in to see all the birds making the migration either north or south. The point is a vital resting spot for the birds as they have a 60+ mile open water crossing to make and they need to refuel before and after making the crossing. In addition to the birds the fall migration brings literally millions of monarch butterflies to the point as they gather the strength to attempt that same crossing on their way to their winter breeding grounds in Mexico while avoiding becoming some bird's lunch, although, as they are toxic to birds, most give them safe passage!

The point is also a vital breeding area in it's own right and many birds nest and raise families on the point itself.

Here are a few we spotted. First a lone red wing blackbird acting as sentry in the cattails, he wasn't the only one there but the rest were deeper down in the cattails either tending their nests or feeding their young. The sentry keeps a look-out and gives an alarm cry if danger threatens:



In the top corner you can see the mid-point gazebo again but despite the park being busy you can't see any other visitors as the cattails are well over 6 ft. (2m) tall!

We had seen a group of visitors ahead of us being dive-bombed by an irate black tern but by the time we got to the location she had settled back onto her nest and didn't seem at all bothered by us as we stopped to grab a photo:



At various places along the boardwalk notice boards provide visitors with relevant information:





After making the turn at the gazebo it was time for the 'dry' part of the boardwalk. Even though the park was busy with visitors it was easy to find solitude and empty spaces:



The final part of the boardwalk brings us back to the look-out tower and dry land!



I mentioned the canoe hire earlier and here is a giant canoe capable of holding up to 10 people!



After the boardwalk we jumped in the car and drove down to the main visitor's centre. We explored the various exhibits and the shop and then caught the shuttle to the point as private vehicles cannot go further than the visitor's centre during the busiest three seasons. One of the things we saw when we first got off the shuttle was a sign that took up the whole side of one of the buildings:



Visitors would do well to heed the warning regarding wading or swimming off the tip as several people have unfortunately lost their lives in the strong currents and vicious undertows!

Just a few yards from the tip reception area we found the answer to the ultimate question, the meaning of life, the universe and everything!.............



... well almost! The '42' in this case refers to the 42nd parallel..........



Most people think of Canada as the 'Great White North' and don't realize just how far south Canada extends. I know when I first visited Canada, prior to emigrating here, I was amazed when I found out I was as far south as Rome in Italy!

We decided to walk down the East Beach to the tip rather than the trail down the middle and I am glad we did. The beach was virtually deserted and the lake was calm and idyllic:



It's hard to imagine that all that water (and more behind me) eventually turns into a raging torrent that plummets over the cliff that is better known as Niagara Falls more than 200 miles (320 km) away downstream!

The stroll up the East Beach finally brought us to the most southern point in mainland Canada. Unfortunately the lake is at the highest level it has been in many years thanks to a fairly wet spring and the sand spit that normally extends for several hundred yards was completely under water. In this shot you can see that waves are breaking over the rocks and the difference between the calm east side of the point and the very choppy west side was very noticeable. As the two bodies of water meet they churn and spin creating the conditions that can be fatal for the unwary or downright foolish.



The sand spit is a transient being, changing it's shape according to the wind and currents and sometimes it's there and sometimes it's lost under waves.

We walked back down the west side of the tip and the difference from the east side was amazing. The wind was blowing and the water was extremely choppy with white caps as far as you could see:



On the horizon to the left you can just make out Pelee Island, the southernmost part of Canada.There are benches all around the park where you can sit and rest and admire the views but this bench was unoccupied on the day we were there, and for good reason! Anyone sitting there would have been drenched as the braking waves crashed over it at regular intervals.



It made me glad that I shoot Pentax and I didn't have to worry about the water spray as I got quite damp standing there waiting for a good wave to break over the rocks.

We continued our walk back to the tip reception area and I had time to contemplate all that I had seen, all the diversity in the flora and fauna, the beginnings of life amongst the nesting birds and the long established life in the forest areas and the wetlands and marsh and yet I was reminded that in life there is also death and this next shot summed that up for me:



This tree had obviously found somewhere to take root as a seed and had managed to survive for several years but unfortunately it did not fair as well as it's healthy neighbours and had succumbed to the harsh environment it found itself in.

We only visited a fraction of the areas at the point as there are more sites to see and several kilometres of hiking/biking trails that become snow-shoe and cross-country ski trails in winter but if you managed to get this far I hope you enjoyed my little travelogue and the time we spent at Point Pelee National Park.

BTW all shots were taken with my K-70 and DA 18-135 WR except for the large sign at the tip reception area which was taken by my daughter using her K-50 and DA 18-55 WR.

Last edited by Tako Kichi; 07-01-2017 at 11:44 AM. Reason: Fixing broken PB links
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06-28-2017, 12:55 AM   #2
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Wow, quite a trip! Thanks for the write up and the photos!
02-05-2019, 08:34 PM   #3
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My family went to Pt Pelee annually 1997-2003, then we moved away from Indiana, away from easy access to Pt. Pelee. In 2013, my wife and I moved back to Indiana, so in 2014 we resumed our annual trips. Nature has changed the place over the years, and when we returned in 2014, we noticed a definite change in how the professionals were managing/interpreting the place, but these photos are an excellent representation of the Pt. Pelee we have seen over those twelve trips there.
02-08-2019, 01:57 AM   #4
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This was an enjoyable series that reminds me of our visit to Kelley's Island in Ohio, just south of Pelee Island in Lake Erie. Very nice country but wow lots of bugs when we were there!

02-08-2019, 09:46 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by GeoJerry Quote
This was an enjoyable series that reminds me of our visit to Kelley's Island in Ohio, just south of Pelee Island in Lake Erie. Very nice country but wow lots of bugs when we were there!
Our normal trip to Pt Pelee has been at end of spring migration season, end of May, and it has always been nice {even when overcast}. We did stop by once during vacation in midsummer - it was really unpleasant because of all the black flies.
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