About the spit
The Leslie Street Spit is North America's
most remarkable public urban wilderness. It is a
5-kilometre long peninsula, built by lakefilling,
that juts into Lake Ontario close to downtown
Toronto. Started 40 years ago, it was intended
to be a breakwater for harbour expansion, which
was not needed due to a decrease in lake
shipping. Now, the Spit - as it is lovingly
called by the people of Toronto - has been
transformed by nature into an extraordinary
wildlife reserve, where humans can find a
car-free refuge from the hustle and bustle of
the city and enjoy a quiet time amid unmanicured
An incredible variety of wildlife species
Close to 400 plant species have been
identified on the Spit, many of which are
nationally and provincially rare. They include
Prickly Pear Cactus, Ladies' Tresses, Bog
Twayblade, Asters, and numerous species of
More than 300 species of birds, migratory and
resident, have been sighted on the Spit. These
include Caspian Terns, Snowy Owls, many species
of ducks and shorebirds.
The 3rd edition, 2006, Bird Checklist for
Tommy Thompson Park/Leslie Street Spit was
prepared by volunteers, and coordinated with and
published by the TRCA.
Click here for your copy.
Many kinds of herpetiles reside on the Spit.
They include the Melanistic (black) Garter
Snake, a rare mutation of the common garter
snake, turtles and several species of frogs.
In addition to small creatures such as voles
and mice, larger animals, including beavers,
otters, red foxes, and coyotes have been seen on
The Spit is a terrific place to view
butterflies in season. Over fifty species have
been spotted on The Spit and Baselands alone.
From the very common cabbage white, orange
sulphur, and clouded sulphur through to very
rare species, a late spring, summer, or early
fall day will reward an observer with many
sightings. In particular, in late August and
early September, the Spit is used as a staging
area for thousands of Monarch butterflies.
Depending on the year and the weather
conditions, these Monarchs mass through the low
shrubbery on the Spit, turning trees into
brightly decorated plantings!
Some of the rarer sightings on the Spit have
been Wild Indigo Duskywing, Sachem, Pipevine
Swallowtail, Orange-barred Sulphur, Checkered
White, Little Yellow, Harvester, White M
Hairstreak and Variegated Fritillary. All
exceptional sightings should be reported to the
Conservation Authority, or to Friends of the
Spit through this website.
STEP INTO THE WILD
“One of the great things about Toronto is the
proximity of urbanity to wilderness, which is
very rare in continental North America,” says
author Stephen Marche, who set his first novel
in Toronto. The city is woven with ravines,
their coiling pathways busy with joggers and
happy dogs (rabbits, foxes, and owls make cameo
appearances). But Marche’s favorite green corner
is the Leslie Street Spit, a place rarely
traversed even by natives. Poking into Lake
Ontario, the three-mile-long peninsula served
initially as a landfill, but has now flourished
into a wildflower-speckled sanctuary for more
than 300 species of birds, from the yellow
warbler to the snowy owl. “The spit is one of
the most remarkable parts of Toronto and is a
great metaphor for the city itself: What began
basically as a garbage dump unexpectedly turned
into a beautiful place,” says Marche.
Quotable Quote: from National
Geographic, Best City Weekends 2013, pp 118-119
Checklist 1990 - Plants of the Leslie Street Spit.
Bird Checklist for Tommy Thompson Park/Leslie