Toronto is located on the smallest of the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario. Swim Drink Fish conducts a harbour monitoring program.

What happens when we are near the water?
Waves crash against the shore, the gentle bubbling river washes over rocks. We gaze out onto the glimmering waters, sun reflecting off of the mirror-like calm with the promise of life below. This natural, soothing lullaby connects us, to ourselves, and to a place and time.

I am lucky. For me, the lake has always been a place to escape, to breathe, and to reset. Have you ever noticed how a walk on a beach, a paddle along a riverbank, or a stroll through the woods makes you feel calm and more centred? These activities are powerful medicine for your emotional and physical well-being. The time you spend outside – particularly near the water – helps to alleviate pressure from everyday life.

Sadly, most Canadians spend 90% of their lives indoors.
But this doesn’t have to be the case. Those of us that live in the Great Lakes region are fortunate to live in an area so accessible to water. From the tiny trickling tributaries to the open waters themselves, the Great Lakes offer endless possibilities to rekindle your relationship with the natural world.

Let’s look at some stats. The Earth may appear water-rich, but most of the Earth’s water – 97% – is salt water, and another 2% is locked away in glaciers and polar ice caps.

That means that just 1% of the water in the world is available freshwater. Of that 1%, the Great Lakes themselves hold over 20% of the world’s surface freshwater.

This relative scarcity of freshwater is one of the things that makes the Great Lakes so remarkable. Even though each river, creek, and spring in the region eventually empties into the Great Lakes, 99% of Great Lakes water is non-renewable fossil water (a one-time gift from glaciers). This non-renewable water “capital” cannot be replenished; once consumed, it is gone forever. Only 1% of the water in the Great Lakes system is “renewable” replenished each year through rainfall and springs.

The lakes are the foundation of a vast, complex ecosystem; the way of life that they support is unlike anything else on Earth. We know the lakes provide drinking water to all varieties of living things (including humans). But how many of us truly feel a connection to the Great Lakes?


Whether we know it or not, everyone has a connection to water. If you live in the Great Lakes region, every minute of every day is shaped by these water bodies. Your health, your home, your job, and your social life are what they are because of the lakes. The Great Lakes are always present, even if the water is hidden from view. It may be locked away in the rock beneath you or diverted through pipes and underground tunnels. The closest coastline maybe a hundred kilometres away. But the Great Lakes shape your life and you, in turn, shape the Great Lakes.

This is why the Great Lakes Guide was created. Great Lakes Guide is a platform that connects you to activities and destinations near the Great Lakes. Through the Guide, you will be able to connect with this ecologically diverse and economically important area easily. If you’re in Toronto, we suggest taking a walk or bike ride down the Waterfront Trail, which runs along Toronto’s harbourfront on the beautiful Lake Ontario.

Discover new places to explore, find new and exciting outdoor activities, and learn all about the history and ecology of these truly spectacular waterbodies. You can even sign up for an account on Great Lakes Guide and save places that you want to visit, creating your own personalized Guide. You can also subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates. The best stories, newest tips and trip ideas, and hidden gems will be delivered straight to your inbox each month.

Great Lakes Guide is a product of Swim Drink Fish, a national charity that has been connecting people to water since 2001. Growing the number of people actively participating in outdoor activities will benefit every part of the Great Lakes community and helps ensure a swimmable, drinkable, fishable future. We hope that you will come to love the lakes as much as we do. And if you love something, you want to protect it.

Your Great Lakes journey begins here: www.greatlakes.
guide. To get involved, sign up as a volunteer!