Visiting Pickering, Ontario and its barrier beach: waters and wildlife
Geography lessons between Australia's Great Barrier Reef and the barrier beach in Pickering
So what is a barrier beach? It is a ridge of sand, running parallel to a coastline, giving shelter to a lagoon or bay.
In the case of Pickering, Hydro Marsh and Frenchman's Bay are sheltered from Lake Ontario (From a perspective of the broader region, Upstate New York lies over the Lake Ontario horizon from Pickering.)
This remarkable, barrier beach feature at the Pickering Lakeshore is approximately 900 metres long and 50 metres wide. The City of Pickering sponsors an information panel, easily read by walkers on the Waterfront Trail, which passes along Pickering's barrier beach, gives details of its various features.
A navigational channel provides a link for boats moored in Frenchman's Bay with Lake Ontatrio. On the eastern side of the barrier beach is Pickering Nuclear Power Station.
In concept at least, a barrier is not unlike the idea of a barrier reef, of which Australia's Great Barrier Reef is an outstanding example. The difference in scale between Queensland's Great Barrier Reef and Pickering's barrier beach is of course vast; however, the fact that wildlife is sheltered in shoreline waters, thus allowing it to thrive more easily, is a common characteristic of these two geographical features. A specific example of another well-known barrier beach is England's Chesil Beach, on the English Channel coast of Dorset. Similarly, the Long Island and New York CIty barrier islands divide lagoons to the south of Long Island from the Atlantic; indeed, comparable barrier islands may be found along the Eastern Seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico.
Wildlife and vegetation
Behind Pickering's barrier beach, wildlife abounds in the sheltered waters . Examples of waterbird which may be seen include sandpipers, geese and duck. (My wife and I were recently quite struck to see a heron, also, at the adjacent Hydro Marsh.) A wooden viewing platform, linked to the barrier beach's pathway, has been supplied to facilitate the viewing of the wildlife at Hydro March. The Ontario Government has designated these waters as Provincially Significant Wetlands.
The vegetation at the barrier beach is also of note. Grasses, with extensive rhizome systems, and cottonwood trees contribute to the stabilization of the barrier beach's sand environment; meanwhile, the moist conditions of the beach prevent the vegetation from becoming too dry.
Also worth seeing
In Pickering itself, the southern portion of Liverpool Road which approaching the waterfront has many pleasing examples of coastal architecture in the small port community; the historic Erskine church and Pioneer Memorial Cairn are worth a visit; the well-appointed Pickering Museum Village is located in Greenwood, which forms part of the City of Pickering.
Gothic-style Post Hill House, Ajax (distance: approx. 8 kilometres), the site of which includes an information panel, is of historical significance.
How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. (Distance from Toronto Pearson Airport to Pickering : approx. 50.6 kilometres). GO Train operates a service between Union Station, Toronto and the GO station at Pickering. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.