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Geography of Ontario
Continent North America
Region North America
Eastern Canada
Central Canada
Coordinates 49°15′0″N 84°29′59″W / 49.25°N 84.49972°W / 49.25; -84.49972
Area 917,741 km2 (354,341.8 sq mi)
85.3% land
14.7 % water
Borders Total land borders: U.S. states Michigan, New York, Minnesota; Canadian provinces Manitoba and Quebec
Highest point Ishpatina Ridge
693 m
Lowest point Hudson Bay
sea level
Longest river Albany River
980 km
Largest lake Lake Superior
28,700 km² (11,080 mi²)
(Canadian portion only)

Ontario is located in East/Central Canada, bordered by the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay and James Bay. It is Canada's second largest province in total land area. The largest border is with the Canadian province of Manitoba to the west for approximately 1,025 km (635 miles) along longitude 95º 50’ W to latitude 53º N then a line to Hudson Bay, then the province of Quebec to the east, mostly along longitude 79 30’ W (for about 430 km) and the Ottawa River from Lake Timiskaming (for about 620 km), Ontario also shares borders with the US states of Minnesota to the west for 685 km (426 miles) across Pigeon River, Lakes Saganaga, Basswood, Lac la Croix, Rainy Lake, Rainy River and Lake of the Woods, New York for 309 km (192 miles) along Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence and Niagara rivers, and Michigan to the south-west for 1,160 km (721 miles) largely across Lakes St. Clair, Huron and Superior. It is also located north of Ohio and Erie, Pennsylvania across Lake Erie.

Ontario's long American border is formed almost entirely by lakes and rivers, starting in Lake of the Woods and continuing to the Saint Lawrence River near Cornwall; it passes through the four Great Lakes Ontario shares with bordering states, namely Lakes Superior, Huron (which includes Georgian Bay), Erie, and Ontario (for which the province is named; the name Ontario itself is a corruption of the Iroquois word "Onitariio" meaning "beautiful lake" or "Kanadario," variously translated as "beautiful water"). There are approximately 250,000 lakes and over 100,000 kilometres (62,000 mi) of rivers in the province.

Almost 94% of the population is concentrated within Southern Ontario, where the population was over 12,100,00 in the 2006 census. The Golden Horseshoe is the most populous part of Southern Ontario with a population of 8,102,163.[1]

Ontario is also a popular tourist destination; Niagara Falls, Parliament Hill, and the CN tower are the most notable attractions.



Ontario is the most populous province in Canada. Southern Ontario is one of the most dense regions in the country. The north is vast and sparse compared to the south. Ottawa (the nation's capital) is located in Ontario bordering Quebec. Located within the Golden Horseshoe, Toronto is the capital of Ontario, the financial centre of Canada, and the country's most populous city.

Ontario alongside British Columbia is the most urbanized province, retaining an 85% urbanity. 9,662,547 people were living in Urban areas in the 2001 Statistics Canada census.[2]

10 largest Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) by population

Statistics Canada's measure of a "metro area", the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA), roughly bundles together population figures from the core municipality with those from "commuter" municipalities.[2]

CMA (largest other included municipalities in brackets) 2006 2001
Toronto CMA (Mississauga, Brampton) 5,113,149 4,682,897
Ottawa CMA (Gatineau, Clarence-Rockland, Russell) 1,130,761 1,063,664
Hamilton CMA (Burlington, Grimsby) 692,911 662,401
London CMA (St. Thomas, Strathroy-Caradoc) 457,720 435,600
Kitchener CMA (Cambridge, Waterloo) 451,235 414,284
St. Catharines–Niagara CMA (Niagara Falls, Welland) 390,317 377,009
Oshawa CMA (Whitby, Clarington) 330,594 296,298
Windsor CMA (Lakeshore, LaSalle) 323,342 307,877
Barrie CA (Innisfil, Springwater) 177,061 148,480
Greater Sudbury CMA (Whitefish Lake & Wahnapitei Reserves) 158,258 155,601
The Toronto skyline seen from Toronto Harbour.

10 largest municipalities by population

City 2006 2001
Toronto (provincial capital) 2,503,281 2,481,494
Ottawa (national capital) 812,129 808,391
Mississauga 668,549 612,925
Hamilton 504,559 499,268
London 352,395 336,539
Brampton 433,806 325,428
Markham 261,573 208,615
Windsor 216,473 208,402
Kitchener 204,668 190,399
Vaughan 238,866 182,022

Physical geography

Relief of Ontario

Southwestern Ontario and a narrow strip along the coast of the Saint Lawrence River river are in the Mixedwood Plains, a fertile and productive ecozone that is typically flat with rolling hills, and was once covered by forest before its use for agriculture, and later urbanization, resulted in deforestation of vast swaths of the area. To its north is the Boreal Shield, the largest provincial ecozone extending from south-central Ontario to cover most of northern Ontario, where it abuts the Hudson Plains. The plains are a transitional ecozone characterized by boreal features in the south and tundra landscapes in the north. It extends the entire range of the northern coast of Ontario with Hudson Bay and James Bay, at which numerous wetlands act as staging and nesting grounds for migratory birds. The waters of the two bays are in the Arctic Archipelago Marine ecozone, forming its southern, subarctic extent.


Most of Ontario's boundary lines consist of lakes and rivers; Ottawa River and St. Lawrence to the east; St. Clair, Lake St. Clair, Niagara River and the Great Lakes to the south and Hudson Bay to the north. Between Lake Superior and Lake of the Woods Ontario's border with the US state of Minnesota is formed by the Pigeon and Rainy Rivers and their tributaries. In fact, along Ontario's 2700 km border with the United States, only about 1 km is on land, where as the borders with the Canadian province's of Manitoba and Quebec are predominatly land.[3] Ontario's neighbours are: Quebec, Manitoba; Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.


An extensive amount of land to the south and west shores of James and Hudson Bay are low and swampy. The height of the land in North-east and North-west; generally north of Lake Superior is the Canadian Shield where most of Ontario's highest points are found.

Many hilltops of the Algonquin and Madawaska Highlands, which are also part of the shield that covers much of the north surpass altitudes of 500m (1640').

The highest areas in the southern portion of the Province are found in Dufferin, Grey and the western side of Simcoe Counties, where the elevation ranges from 430m (1,400') to 540m (1,750'). Much of the higer land sits atop the Niagara Escarpment in a generally flat area known as the Dundalk Highlands. Just to the south in Wellington and Waterloo County general elevations are from 300m (1,000') to 400m (1,300'). A striking topographical feature is the Niagara Escarpment is its limestone cliff faces, in general between 80m (250') to 100 (330') above the surrounding land, extending from the Niagara peninsula northwest to the Bruce peninsula.[4]

The flatest areas of the province outside of the lowlands of the far north are found in Southwestern and Eastern Ontario.



Niagara Falls, one of Ontario's most noted tourist destination and a source for hydroelectricity.

Ontario is known for the large number of lakes and rivers it contains. About one-third of the world's fresh water can be found in Ontario.[5] Ontario is also known for being the only province in Canada for touching the great lakes. Ontario touches four of the great lakes: Huron, Lake Ontario (the province is named after the lake), Erie and Superior.

More recently, Ontario's vast rivers and lakes have made possible hydroelectric power, mills and the more forms of industrialization. Most of Ontario is fed by rainfall and in most parts, snow is relied on. Precipitation is most common in the Southern and Central parts of Ontario where variations between winter and summer or spring and fall are not especially great; but winter and spring are less aqueous than in Northern and Northwestern Ontario.[6]


Ontario has three main climatic regions;

Southwestern/Southern Ontario

Köppen climate classification Dfa: Southwestern Ontario, the cities of Windsor, London and the southern/western section of the Golden Horseshoe region including Hamilton, Niagara, Oakville and the city of Toronto, have a moderate humid continental climate, similar to that of the inland Mid-Atlantic and the lower Great Lakes portion of the Midwestern United States. The region has warm, humid summers and cold winters. Extreme heat and cold usually occur for short periods. It is considered a temperate climate when compared with the remainder of continental Canada, excluding coastal areas. In the fall and winter, temperatures are moderated by the delayed cooling of the Great Lakes, this effect reversed in spring and summer when afternoon warming is tempered. The lakes' moderating effects allow for a longer growing season than areas at similar latitudes in the continent's interior. Both spring and fall generally consist of mild days and cool nights but are prone to drastic temperature changes over a short timespan. Annual precipitation ranges from 75–100 cm (30–39 in) and is well distributed throughout the year with a usual summer peak. Most of this region lies in the lee of the Great Lakes making for abundant snow in some areas (London, Goderich for example) over 2 m (79") while some other areas are not in the direct snowbelt and receive closer to an average of 1 m (39") of snow per year.

Central/Eastern Ontario

Köppen climate classification Dfb: The second climatic zone covers the northern half of Southern Ontario, including the northern and more elevated parts of the Golden Horseshoe, Central and Eastern Ontario (includes Ottawa). Also included is the southern reaches of Northern Ontario, including the cities of Sudbury and North Bay, which have a more severe humid continental climate. This region has warm and sometimes hot summers (although shorter in length than Southwestern Ontario) with cold, longer winters with roughly equal annual precipitation as the south. Along the eastern shores of Lake Superior and Lake Huron (Georgian Bay), frequent heavy lake-effect snow squalls increase seasonal snowfall totals upwards of 3 m (120 in). Such conditions and the absence of long stretches of brutal cold make for excellent winter recreation.

Northern Ontario

Köppen climate classification Dfc: The northernmost parts of Ontario—primarily north of 50°N and with no major cities in the area—have a subarctic climate (Köppen) with long, severely cold winters and short, cool to warm summers with dramatic temperature changes possible in all seasons. In summer, hot weather occasionally reaches even the northernmost parts of Ontario for brief periods, although humidity is generally lower than in the south. With no major mountain ranges blocking sinking Arctic air masses, temperatures of −40 °C (−40.0 °F) are not uncommon. The snow stays on the ground much longer in here than other regions of Ontario; snow cover is usually present to some extent between October and May.

Severe Weather

Severe and non-severe thunderstorms peak in frequency from June through August. Thunderstorms form from daytime convective heating and frontal activity. Another severe type of thunderstorm is known as a Derecho, also common to the midwest US, which is a larger cluster-type thunderstorm mass often with a prounouced bow shape at its front. They often develop in the afternoon west of the Great Lakes but strike Southern Ontario at night with great forward motion, bringing severe straight-line winds over wide areas resulting in damage to forests, power interruption and infrastructure damage. The areas with the highest severe weather frequency in the province are extreme Southwestern (Windsor,Chatham corridor) and Central Ontario (Simcoe County including the city of Barrie), both areas often get amplified storms resulting from the Lake Breeze Front convergence . London has the most lightning strikes per year in Canada, averaging 34 days of thunderstorm activity per year. In typical year, Ontario averages 15 confirmed tornado touchdowns, they are rarely destructive (the vast majority are classified as F0 or F1 on the Fujita scale). In Northern Ontario, some tornadoes go undetected by ground spotters because of the sparse population and remote landscape; they are often discovered after the fact by aircraft pilots, where aerial observations of damaged forest confirm occurrences. Tropical depression remnants can cause copious rains and winds in the south, but are rarely deadly. A notable exception was Hurricane Hazel in October 1954.


Toronto Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec. Ann.
Temp Max (°C) -2 0 5 12 19 24 27 26 22 14 8 2 13
Temp Min (°C) -10 -9 -4 1 7 13 16 15 11 5 0 -5 3.5
Rain (mm) 26 19 36 58 72 67 79 84 75 61 66 54 697
Snow (cm) 38 29 20 9 0 0 0 0 0 1 8 22 127

Source: Trail Canada[7]

Coloured tables for: Ottawa[8], Greater Sudbury[9] and Windsor [10][11][12]

To be completed.

See also


External links


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