Canada's mainland's southermost point is located on the latitude of Rome, Italy. Named "Pointe Pelee" by French settlers due to the lack of trees on its eastern side, it is a spit of land 7 kilometres long and 4.5 kilometres wide jutting into Lake Erie, full of marshes and forests. It is a birdwatcher's paradise, serving as a migration route for at least 360 species of birds, reaching its peak in the month of May.
In the 1800's the peninsula was settled by poor familes known as squatters like the DeLauriers. By the 1900's it was the location for cottages that looked more like homes for wealthy Canadians as well as more modest structures for the middle class. Point Pelee opened as a National Park in 1918, its visitors greeted by a log gate with the words Point Pelee at the top in capital letters. The cottage industry peaked in 1963 with as many as 781,000 official visitors to the sight; the peninsula's shores were dotted with row upon row of automobiles. Fishing was allowed until 1969 and duck hunting until 1989. By the 1970's the government decided to buy cottages one by one and take back the land as a national sanctuary for wildlife with the last of the cottages being dismantled in the 1980's.
In the autumn of 1990, my husband and I visited the point just before we started dating. The cottages were gone and we were no longer allowed to drive all the way along the peninsula, but had to walk instead. We enjoyed a long stroll along the boardwalks that span the marsh as canoes paddled by. It was unseasonably warm, given that Point Pelee is on such a low latitude, and it felt more like summer than early Fall. For years we did not go back to the point, but that changed last summer when we returned with our children. It was quite hot that day: we walked along the boardwalks; we stopped at the DeLauriers homestead and we took a shuttle bus to the edge of the point, which has receded significantly over the last 20 years. Although Point Pelee has lost some of its sand, it has not lost any of its magic. It's worth the trip!
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