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O, Canada - Ontario, Land of Lakes

Updated on July 10, 2015

Ontario's 'National Anthem'

Native dancers photo from
Native dancers photo from

It's all in a name

There are several theories about where the name "Ontario" originated. Some say the name is a variation of an Iroquoian word, "kanadario" which means "sparkling, or beautiful water".
Another resource says it is a variation of the word "Onitariio" which translates to "beautiful lake". Still another purports the name to have been developed from the term "Skanadario" which means "very pretty lake", however, it has been stated that the translations could not have been as descriptive as previously thought.

Beauty in geographical features is uncommon in Aboriginal naming. In the Iroquioan languages such as Huron, Mohawk and Seneca, the name most likely means simply, "a large body of water".

Either way, the name "Ontario" fits the geography of the region like a custom fitted moccasin.

Canada's most famous, or infamous, province is Ontario. The first Europeans to explore this immense piece of real estate were Etienne Brulé, Henry Hudson, and Samuel de Champlain in 1610, 1611, and 1615 respectively, which sparked a feud that has lasted until present day.

Dubbed Upper Canada in 1791, Ontario weathered several wars and subsequent name changes until 1867, when it was finally decided to call this new province, Ontario.

Map of Ontario photo from
Map of Ontario photo from
Manitoulin Island photo from
Manitoulin Island photo from

Size does matter

Even the residents of Ontario sometimes don't appreciate the sheer size of this province. Canada's second largest province covers more than one million square kilometers (415,000 square miles,) and is larger than France and Spain combined.

Ontario sits in between Quebec to the east, and Manitoba to the west. Hudson Bay and James Bay form its northern border, with the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes providing its border to the south.

Boasting an east-west distance of 1690 kilometers, (1050 miles) and a north-south distance of 1730 kilometers, (1075 miles) this province's most northerly communities are nearly the same latitude as London, England and Warsaw, Poland, with its southernmost point being roughly the same latitude as Barcelona, Spain, and Rome, Italy.

The world's largest freshwater island of 2766 square kilometers, (1068 square miles) is Manitoulin Island in Georgian Bay, and Ontario is deemed the largest province in regards to population, with over 13 million residents.

Lake sunset in Ontario photo from
Lake sunset in Ontario photo from
Thunderbay Kaneka Falls photo from igougo
Thunderbay Kaneka Falls photo from igougo

Water, water everywhere...

Over a quarter million lakes and countless rivers and streams in Ontario hold about 1/3 of the world's fresh water supply. Most northern Ontario rivers flow into James Bay and Hudson Bay, and the rivers of southern Ontario flow into the Atlantic Ocean by way of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River system.

With all this much water surging through the province, a lot of it ends in rapids and falls, such as Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park in Thunderbay.The Ojibwa Indians (who Longfellow wrote about in his Hiawatha poem) were the original inhabitants of this area. Legend has it that an Ojibwa Princess saved her people by pretendingto befriend the Sioux tribe. She showed them where their enemy, theOjibwa, lived and paddled down the river with the Sioux on her tail, lurching out of the water just before the great falls as theSioux tumbled to their deaths.

Rainbow over Niagara Falls photo from
Rainbow over Niagara Falls photo from
Tour of the Falls photo from
Tour of the Falls photo from
Niagara Falls in 1911 - frozen solid photo from
Niagara Falls in 1911 - frozen solid photo from

Ontario's jewel

Niagara Falls

Nicknamed the 'Honeymoon Capital of the World', Niagara Falls was formed when glaciers receded at the end of the last Ice Age.

The water from the newly formed Great Lakes, carved their way through the Niagara Escarpment on their way to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Falls are not exceptionally high, but they are approximately 790 meters, (2600 feet) wide. Over 6 million cubic feet (168,000 m3) of water cascades over its crest every minute, during high flow, and nearly 4 million cubic feet (110,000 m3) on average, making it the most powerful waterfall in North America.

The Falls have been a major tourist attraction and honeymoon haven since the 18th century, and by mid century it was the area's main industry. Napoleon Bonaparte's brother Jerome, reportedly visited with his bride in the early 19th century.

Bobby Leach was the second person, and the first male to go over the falls in a barrel, resulting in a six month hospital stay from his injuries. In the winter of 1911, Niagara Falls completely froze over, as shown in the picture.

Great Lakes basin photo from
Great Lakes basin photo from

The Great Lakes

Ontario's southern border is mostly taken up by The Great Lakes.

Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario hold one-fifth of the world's fresh surface water. The combined shoreline of the Great Lakes is equal to about 45 per cent of the earth's circumference, and are the world's biggest continuous body of fresh water.

More than 98 per cent of Ontario residents — 13 million people — live within the Great Lakes Basin, and depend on the Great Lakes for their drinking water. Over 70 per cent, or three out of four residents, get their drinking water from the lakes.

Parliament Buildings in Ottawa photo from
Parliament Buildings in Ottawa photo from
Parliament Buildings from the river photo from
Parliament Buildings from the river photo from
24 Sussex Drive photo from
24 Sussex Drive photo from
water tour of Ottawa photo from
water tour of Ottawa photo from
Our famous maple leaves photo from
Our famous maple leaves photo from
Rideau Canal at night photo from
Rideau Canal at night photo from

The nation's capital

Welcome to our nation's capital, home of the Legislative Buildings, the Prime Minister, Governor General, and my birthplace, which is of course, much more important (to me at least) than the fact that Ottawa is the political hub of Canada.

The Prime Minister's official residence is a beautiful mansion overlooking the Ottawa River, at 24 Sussex Drive. It is modest in comparison to the American White House, but is much more private. There are no tours, and you cannot even enter the grounds, except by special invitation of the Prime Minister. Most of the functions of the kind performed at the White House are held elsewhere.

In terms of official powers, the Prime Minister of Canada wields more power than an American President, whose actions are limited by Congress, however, the PM has to answer to his opponents on an almost daily basis in the House of Commons.

You can take a tour of Ottawa, via the Rideau Canal, or of course, by other means as well, but these tours are so scenic you wouldn't want to pass them up. The very best time to take a stroll, or river tour is in the autumn, when the leaves start to turn. The maple trees that made our flag famous, show off their fall hues of red and gold - and all the shades in between, making this the most beautiful time of year to visit Ontario.

Interesting facts

Did you know...

  • The largest rock formation in Canada is the Canadian Shield and it covers almost two thirds of Ontario.
  • The Ontario city of Sault Ste. Marie is the halfway point of the Trans-Canada Highway which runs from Victoria, British Columbia to St. John's Newfoundland.
  • The Ontario - U.S. border is made up almost entirely of water.
  • Heart valves were transplanted for the first time in Toronto, Ontario in 1956.
  • The world's first successful double lung transplant was done in Toronto, Ontario in 1986.
  • Ontario is Canada's leading manufacturer, producing and shipping over 60% of all manufactured goods.
  • The Trent Canal has the highest hydraulic lift lock in the world - the Peterborough Lift Lock - which raises vessels 65 feet.
  • The east and west wings of the Ontario Legislative Building are two different shades.
  • Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run in Toronto on September 5, 1914.
  • Ontario has two time zones - Central and Eastern.
  • Apollo 16 and 17 astronauts had geology field trips to Sudbury as part of their training.

Do you have a hub for us?

Do you have a great travel Hub featuring Ontario that you would like to have included in this feed? Here's what to do:

Add the following tags to your Hub:

    * hubtrail
    * hubtrail-canada
    * hubtrail-americas
    * hubtrail-outeast

Make sure you have only 15 tags altogether, including these new ones - otherwise your hub will not appear in the feed.

If you have travel Hubs about any other parts of Canada, or special Canadian events, please check out the other capstone hubs for the appropriate province tags, or drop us an email through Hub Pages. As well, please include an RSS capsule with the following feed:

Happy HubTrails!


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    • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

      Enelle Lamb 

      8 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      Thanks sheila b., there is a whole lot more that I didn't write about - figured it could wait for another hub! Glad you liked the pictures :D it really is beautiful in the fall.

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 

      8 years ago

      I learned a lot about Ontario from you, and loved the pictures.

    • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

      Enelle Lamb 

      8 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      Thanks Patty - I couldn't resist!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Haida language - interesting differences from Iroquois phrases!

      I really like the black fly video, I forgot to say

    • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

      Enelle Lamb 

      8 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      Thank you very much keiranthapa - I'm happy you enjoyed it! Thanks for coming by and commenting :D

      Gasán uu dáng gíidang Patty? (Haida) How are you Patty? Thank you for your beautiful wishes :D (I know what you mean by Klingon LOL!) Dámaan agang hl kínggang - Take care of yourself ;) and thank you for stopping by my neck of the woods!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Hi Enelle! - This half-Mohawk woman can say only "water" to you - Ohneka - or "lake" - Kenyatare, and send you telepathic thoughts that is is beutiful! Otherwise I could wish you Ohio (O-hee-yo), great river. Too bad we don't have the expression "smooth sailing." lol The language is kind of like Klingon in that way - modifiers take up survival time. In modern days, I hear that many Iroquois have indeed replaced the "great" in English with "beautiful", which I like. Can I wiah you a Great Beautiful River? That is my wish.

      Thumbs up!

    • keiranthapa profile image


      8 years ago from Darjeeling

      Beautiful Place, beautiful hub, beautiful pictures.

    • Enelle Lamb profile imageAUTHOR

      Enelle Lamb 

      8 years ago from Canada's 'California'

      Thanks RedElf - this one was a doozie to write! Not sure if I can keep up this level of work though...I'm a tad on the lazy side :P

    • RedElf profile image


      8 years ago from Canada

      Wow! Let em be the first to congratulate you on this quality work! What a great capstone for Ontario - you have certainly done your birthplace proud. Love all the First-Nations at the beginning. Well done, as usual, and even better than usual Enelle!


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