It’s the country’s first national urban park and the largest urban park in North America. Rouge National Urban Park is also a birding hotspot.
According to Parks Canada, 247 migratory and resident bird species have been observed in the park, which covers more than 40 square kilometres and overlaps the Cities of Markham, Toronto and Pickering and the Township of Uxbridge.
Those species include the barred owl, belted kingfisher, downy and hairy woodpeckers, great blue heron, rose-breasted grosbeak, scarlet tanager and ovenbird, semi-palmated sandpiper and yellow warbler. Different species can be found in the park’s varied habitats, which include shorelines, forests, meadows, farmland and wetlands.
Birdwatching is a year-round activity and requires just a pair of binoculars and a bird guide or app to help with identification. The time of day and time of year affect which birds you might spot on your visit. While many birds are most active in the morning, birds of prey are often spotted during the middle of the day and most owls appear in the evening, for instance. Some birds spend their summers in the park or migrate through during the spring and fall, while others are year-round residents.
There’s lots to do at the park which stretches from the Oak Ridges Moraine to the shores of Lake Ontario and includes river valleys, creeks, forests and a variety of natural landscapes within the Rouge River, Petticoat Creek and Duffins Creek watersheds. Activities include camping, cycling, fishing, guided walks, hiking, photography, swimming and water sports like canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding.
Parks Canada reminds you to wear season-appropriate clothes and shoes for unpaved trails. Road bikes are welcome on paved roads, but paths are for hikers only. Take your own refreshments and food. Don’t feed wildlife. Coyotes and black bears have been known to be active and seen in the park. If you see an animal from a distance, leave it alone, do not approach and do not run.
Rouge National Urban Park has three main visitor areas in the City of Markham: Bob Hunter Memorial Park, Reesor Road Day Use Area and 19th Avenue Day Use Area.