Toronto’s geography is almost as diverse as its culture. There are distinct differences in everything from the elevation to the soil on the west and east side of the city. With its winding rivers and surrounding lakes, the geography effects parts of Toronto such as the climate and vegetation.
The city of Toronto covers an area of around 243 square miles. Toronto sits on top of sedimentary rock. It rests at the top of lake Ontario towards the west side.
A neat thing about Toronto is the name of the city comes from the Huron word Tkaronto. It stands for fishing weir, which is a structure of trees placed in water to trap fish.
Toronto’s latitude is 43 39 N, with a Longitude of 79 23 W. The city stretches from west to east about 43 kilometres. It borders on Etobicoke just outside of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) on the west, and runs along the Rouge River on the east.
If you travel from the north to the south of the city, you will find that it is about 21 kilometres of downhill towards Lake Ontario. The north border ends at Steeles Avenue. The city is on a large plateau, you know you are traveling south when you are looking down on Lake Ontario.
If you were to stand at the lowest point of Toronto, it is approximately 76.5 meters (above sea level). Compared to the highest point of the city, which is Steeles Avenue, which stands at 208 meters. There is a 131.5 meter difference between the most northerly point and the most southerly point of Toronto!
The city is scored by two major rivers running straight through. The Don River follows through the East End of Toronto into the Toronto Harbour.
The Humber River runs through the West End of the city and also flows into Lake Ontario from the Toronto Harbour. This all makes up the larger Waterfront area.
Toronto Harbour was created naturally out of sediment build-up. The sediment was created by the same lake currents that created the popular Toronto Islands. There are other smaller creeks that run through the city; all the water ways lead to Lake Ontario which eventually meets the Atlantic Ocean Drainage Basin.
The land directly in front of Toronto Harbour on the other hand was man made. In the late 19th century, the people of Toronto artificial made the Harbourfront area larger.
In fact, if you visit the St. Lawrence Market you will be standing on the old dock (as well as the old City Hall). That entire end of the city was originally submerged in water.
Toronto Islands used to be connected to the mainland until the mid-1800s. During a massive storm, the islands were separated from the city. But it created a channel that still allows boats to pass through.
There are also a large number of deep ravines. They are usually surrounded by thick forests and greenery, you will often find hiking trails, parks, walkways, and picnic spots near all of Toronto’s ravines.
There have been issues with the number of ravines in Toronto; some streets have to be divided. Look at Finch Avenue or St. Clair St, they stop on one side of the ravine and continue on the other.
The overall landscape of Toronto is not particularly bumpy. You have odd hills (most of them found in the Midtown neighbourhoods in the North End) here and there, but it is a relatively flat piece of land.
There are over 1500 parks within the Toronto borders. These include woodlots, farmlands, ravines, forests and waterfront areas. Within these wonderfully green spaces, you can explore, bike ride, hike, and enjoy.
In 2005, the Ontario Greenbelt was announced. It is about 2800 square miles of preserved greenery in between neighbourhoods.
Because Toronto is still inland (away from any major oceans), it is considered continental. This is the reason for Toronto’s four distinct seasons. On the other hand, it sits on Lake Ontario which produces a Lake Effect.
The Lake Effect affects the climate within Toronto. During the summer, you get cool lake breezes with a lot of humidity. In the winter, the Lake Effect produces warm lake breezes, making Downtown Toronto slightly warmer then the rest of Ontario.
Regardless of where you are in Toronto, one thing for certain is the utter beauty of the entire city. Toronto’s geography is unique for North America and also helps to produce some unusual weather throughout the year!
Take a look around Totally Toronto for more information on this great city.