Pete's May 2001 Article.

"The Niagara Escarpment" by Pete Bennett

Now please believe me, I'm no authority on Canada, but there are a few things I learned while visiting there in mid April and I think that you will find them very interesting as well. First of all, I learned the word "Escarpment" and since returning home I've found that many people in the states don't know what it is, and I didn't know either before going there so I don't feel too bad. Webster defines it this way:

1.a steep slope in front of a fortification line

2. a long cliff or steep slope seating two combatively level or more gently sloping surfaces resulting from erosion or faulting.

      3. A "cuesta".

While there I saw and experienced the Niagara Escarpment. It is truly one of Canada's most significant landforms. It is cherished for its natural environment and praised for being a working example of sustainable environmental development. The Niagara Escarpment is the most prominent topographical feature of the southern part of Ontario.

It is recognized as one of the world's unique natural wonders. It runs through the City of Hamilton region, around the tip of Lake Ontario, northwest to Tobermory. It offers many breathtaking views and wide vistas of the region along with a multitude of waterfalls. It was centuries ago that the forces of nature created this Escarpment which, in simpler terms, is a ledge or dome of limestone, dolomite and shale extending from New York State, through Canada, to Michigan. Most people, if they've heard of it at all, know it only because the Escarpment creates Niagara Falls as the waters of the Niagara River spills over the edge of it. I for one was not aware that such a land formation existed, let alone, extended for such a long distance. I thought Niagara Falls was, by itself an amazing land feature, let alone, a whole Escarpment and hundreds of falls. The "Mountain" as they call it up there is from 50 to 350 feet (75 to 300 meters) high above the surrounding lowlands and in places, 65 miles wide as it extends through 22 municipalities and 2 major Canadian cities. At times it is submerged in Lake Huron.

As I said, it is traceable from the Niagara River to northern Michigan, as it forms the spine of the Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin and other islands in northern Lake Huron. It also extends into New York State and Wisconsin, roughly encircling the Michigan structural basin in its bedrock. This southern segment is a narrow green corridor through the populated area of southern Ontario. It's a wonderland of waterfalls with fields of Touch-me-nots and panoramic views of ships plying their way along Lake Ontario. The central section becomes remote and hilly. The escarpment often disappears into the hillsides, only to pop dramatically out again when least expected. Through the northern section, the walk is along azure blue waters of Georgian Bay, often high on the escarpment ledges While traveling along the QEW  (Queen Elizabeth Way) it is visible off in the distance and is often assumed to be a mountain range. It is not. In the town of Hamilton, where I visited the Escarpment or the mountain as it's called is truly a part of that city. There are great gouges cut into the mountain where roads have been built up it to provide access to its flat expanse for once on top, it is very flat. Not anything like a mountain top in found in our area. Also as it rains all the moisture or rain must go somewhere so, you guessed it, it flows over the sides creating some of the most beautiful waterfalls I've ever witnessed. They have just got to be seen to be believed! One of Hamilton's best-kept secrets is the fact that no fewer than 13 waterfalls grace this section of the Niagara Escarpment that rims the city and each waterfall has its own distinctive appeal.

But along with the good, there always has to be some bad and the bad is people who take advantage of the Escarpment. They have bulldozed it away to use its rich limestone as a base for concrete and its shale for fill in in areas needing drainage. They have cut its trees for wood products, leveled it to build parking lots and generally do much damage to it in doing this.

But...all is not lost as some environmental minded Canadians have banded together to form the Niagara Escarpment Commission which, since 1976 has begun to oversee and manage the developments in the area of the escarpment and monitor the damage to and usage of this unique land feature. For anyone interested in the great outdoors, you've just got to see it to appreciate it. I have always supported and encouraged touring Pennsylvania and the United States first, but this is something so close to us that I feel it should be seen and experienced by everyone as I saw and experienced it.

Miles of paved trail line the Escarpment and it is a dream come true for hiking and bicycling. So....the next time you feel the urge to go to the Canadian side to do some gambling, take a chance and drive on up the QEW and SEE the Escarpment! I promise you won't be sorry that you did. Till next time...God's Blessings to you all.

Want more information on the Niagara Escarpment visit: http://www.escarpment.org/ on the internet or write to:

Niagara Escarpment Commission
232 Guelph Street, Georgetown, ON L7G 4B1
Tel: (905) 877-5191
Fax: (905) 873-7452
Email: nec@escarpment.org

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