If you’ve never been to see the Scarborough Bluffs in Toronto’s east end along Lake Ontario, it’s worth a visit. They’re one of the most beautiful parts of the city, filled with hiking trails, sandy beaches and home to Toronto’s only floating homes. They’re also rapidly disappearing, with parts of the cliffs falling off each year. If you want to plan your visit, make it sooner rather than later. To help you get started, here are five things you didn’t know about the Scarborough Bluffs:
1. They’re really old. They date back to the Great Ice Age.
The Bluffs form part of the old shoreline of the Glacial Lake Iroquois, which was formed after the last ice age. They’re over 12,000 years old. Interestingly, the eroded deposits from the Bluffs created a series of moving sand bars, which eventually settled to what would become today’s Toronto Islands.
2. They’re named after towns in England.
In 1793, the Bluffs became known as the Scarborough Highlands after a town called Scarborough in North Yorkshire, England. Elizabeth Simcoe, the wife of the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe, thought the cliffs reminded of her hometown. She wrote in her diary: “The shore is extremely bold and has the appearance of chalk cliffs, but I believe they are only white sand. They appeared so well that we talked of building a summer residence there and calling it Scarborough.” In 1796, the entire township took the same name, and over time, the cliffs became known as the Bluffs.
3. They’re actually made up of 11 different parks.
The Scarborough Bluffs stretch for around 15 km along Lake Ontario. But rather than being just large area, they’re actually composed of 11 different parks, each with their own trails, beaches, gardens and recreational facilities. The Toronto Floating Homes are located in Bluffer’s Park, which is also the only of the 11 parks with lake access. If you only have time to visit one park, we highly recommend Bluffer’s!
4. They’re disappearing a little more each year.
Unfortunately, the Scarborough Bluffs have been eroding a little more each year, largely in part to the residences that have been built at the top of the cliffs. While the million-dollar views have made the real estate highly desirable, they have come at a cost to the land. Over the years, large chunks of the Bluffs have collapsed on the beaches below, with visitors regularly warned of the safety hazards. Fortunately, the local authorities recognize the value in preserving the Bluffs and have embarked on several projects to safeguard the Bluffs for generations to come.
5. You might get stuck with the bill if you get stuck on the Bluffs.
Adventure seekers have been exploring the Bluffs for years, often going off of the marked trails to explore and capture pictures. But, the constant eroding makes it dangerous to ignore the signs and cross over the fences. Over the years, several hikers who were unable to get back to the marked trail have been forced to be rescued by helicopter. The problem became so frequent that the Toronto mayor suggested at one point making anyone who gets stuck because they ignore the signs pay for their own rescue.
The Scarborough Bluffs are a beautiful spot to get out and enjoy nature not too far from downtown Toronto. They’re definitely worth a visit – and stop by to see the floating homes while you’re there!