Point Pelee National Park (pronounced /ˈpiːliː/; French Parc National de la Pointe-Pelée) extends from the mainland of Essex County in southwestern Ontario, Canada. It consists of a peninsula of land, mainly of marsh and woodland habitats, that tapers to a sharp point as it extends into Lake Erie. Middle Island, also part of Point Pelee National Park, was acquired in 2001 and is located just north of the Canada–United States border in Lake Erie. Point Pelee is the southernmost point of mainland Canada, and is located on a foundation of glacial sand, silt and gravel that bites into Lake Erie. This spit of land is slightly more than seven kilometers long by 4.5 kilometers wide at its northern base.
Indigenous people lived on Point Pelee for many years before European colonization. The largest archaeological site found at Point Pelee is thought to have been occupied between AD 700 and 900.
In 1790, Deputy Indian Agent Alexander McKee negotiated a treaty with Indigenous communities that ceded a large tract of land to the Crown that included Point Pelee. Unfortunately, the Caldwell Chippewa people, who inhabited Point Pelee, were not signatories of that treaty. However, the Crown did not realize this, and their land was ceded nonetheless. Subsequently, they were forced off their land, and Point Pelee remains unceded indigenous land. This has been publicly acknowledged by the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
Point Pelee was made a national park in 1918 at the urging of birders and hunters. Commercial fishing continued in the park until 1969. Point Pelee was the only Canadian national park to allow hunting until duck hunting was ended in 1989. This site was named "Pointe-Pelée" or "bare point" by French explorers because the eastern side was rocky and had no trees.
It forms the southernmost point in mainland Canada (its latitudinal position is the same as the northernmost counties of California) and is part of a bird and butterfly migration corridor over Lake Erie via Point Pelee and the Lake Erie islands. Over 360 bird species have been recorded in the park. The peak time for bird migration is spring, especially May, when tired migrants make first landfall after their journey north across the lake. Bird species include Cooper's Hawk, Painted Bunting, and Yellow Warbler.
Many birdwatchers from North America and abroad visit the park in spring, often staying in the nearby town of Leamington. One attraction, apart from the sheer numbers and variety of bird passing through on migration, is the opportunity to see more northerly breeding species such as Blackpoll Warbler before they move on.
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