Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
What makes the Great Lakes so great?

In today’s blog, Discovery Project Program Coordinator Jessica Stillman reflects on our mutual relationship with the Great Lakes.

Our human history is reflected in its waters.

The Great Lakes capture our past, influence our present and inspire our future.

Imagine the stories they could tell..

These bodies of water are called Great Lakes for a reason: FFrom their size (the largest surface freshwater system on Earth) to their role in our collective history, where do we begin to share what makes them great?

Ontario Parks cares for approximately 2,380 km of Great Lakes coastline, gLive or take 100 km as there are some parks that include many small islands, points and narrow bays.

mapFrench River Provincial Park

With many provincial parks along the Great Lakes to explore, how can we choose where to start?

exploring oryour past

The Great Lakes have connected us for thousands of yearsbut our relations with himand waters hago varied.

For millennia, ppeople has been travelpout its waterways, yesweekin g food from its depths, tradein g along its coasts, and C.ohmeterin g together in sacred sites.

Glimpses of these in progress The relationships can be seen at sites such as Pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park.

staff showing pictographs to visitors

Travel, commerce, food and community. changed significantly about him Great Lakes with the arrival of European settlers.

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Colonization, settlement and industry. everyone has left their mark along the shores of lakes and in their depths.

Coast near the lighthouse day use area.

the IYoghost pointTed through bank, hidden beneath the surface, and recreational places such as pregional parks hugging the shores They are visible reminders of the history of the Great Lakes.

But not all the evidence changed relationships with water are visible or recognizable.

Living in our present

Consider the role the Great Lakes play in your life today.

From the places you visit to the food you eat and the water you drink, they continue to connect us.

Your personal connection could be the memory of learning to swim in Lake Ontario, your first hiking trip along the shore of Lake Superior, or watching a perfect sunset over Lake Huron.

waves breaking on the shore at sunset

But our human connection to these waterways is also overshadowed by overexploitation, habitat loss and poor water quality.

For example, these impacts together have been responsible for the decline of one of Ontario’s living dinosaurs: Lake Sturgeon.

lake sturgeon

The Great Lakes population of Canada’s largest freshwater fish is classified as a species at risk. In fact, our lake sturgeon, a species that survived mass extinctions, now faces imminent extinction in our Great Lakes.

Aerial image of the park

When we are not aware, our connection can threaten the balance of crucial natural resources. We need to ensure our relationship with the Great Lakes is healthy and sustainable.

To plan for the future of the Great Lakes, we must work together to understand the relationships tied to their waters, both as a society and as individuals.

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Looking towards our future

The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater system in the world and are home to more than 4,000 species.

Along the shorelines and in the water, species (common and rare) add beauty, mystery and wonder to each lake.

plover on the beach

Our actions have left traces, some more visible than others, but all lasting.

Local communities, Indigenous peoples and provincial parks collaborate to protect the collective heritage and ecological integrity of the Great Lakes.

To keep their turbulent and ever-evolving stories alive, we must all work together.

Here’s how you can help us protect the Great Lakes:

  • When you visit, leave no trace! Take only photographs, leave only footprints.
  • Contribute to community science by joining iNaturalist.
  • learn more about the Great Lakes through Discovery programming
  • join efforts to clean local beaches and coasts

come on work together to protect, preserve and keep The greatness Found right in our own backyards, the great lakes.

sunset over the beach

TO beautiful myecosystem reflectin g eitherr past, present and future in its waters.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Spread the Great Lakes love and share your photos with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.