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Lindsay Under a Mile of Ice, Victoria County, Ontario Canada

At the close of the Pliocene Period, about a million years ago, there came a time when the northern half of the continent, as far south as Ohio, was covered by an immense glacier. The cause of this glaciation is sometimes ascribed to a diminution of carbon dioxide in the air and sometimes to a great periodic wobble in the earth's axis which, so they say, shifted the earth's zones for a time. Whatever may have been to blame, Lindsay was crushed under an almost imperceptibly moving sheet of ice, a mile in depth. Several of these Ice Ages followed one another, with temperate periods in between.

The chief result of the glaciers was the smothering up of the older drainage systems. Clay, sand, gravel and boulders were scoured from off the land farther north and deposited over the countryside. Almost the whole aspect of this area today, apart from the limestone outcroppings already described, is the result of these glacial deposits. Typical sand and gravel ridges are found on Lot 10, Concession IX, Eldon, whence the Port McNicholl line drew ballast in construction days; on Lot 11, Concession II, Fenelon, two miles north of Cambray; on Lot 23, Concession VII, Fenelon, on the southwest shore of Cameron Lake; and at the Lindsay sandpits. Much more important was the formation of a great range of morainic hills running east and west a few miles from Lake Ontario. This range is nearly twenty miles across, from Mt. Horeb and Omeemee to Orono and Rossmount, and extends from Orangeville as far east as Trenton. It blocked the old river systems completely, and today all the drainage waters of Victoria, Haliburton and Peterboro counties must push far to the east until nearly north of Trenton, before they can slip past this great barrier. But some blockage took place farther north even than the Durham hills. The river channels straight south past Glenarm and Cambray were choked up. The Gull River filled the broad shallow basin of Balsam Lake and slopped over at the lowest point, at Rosedale, into the next river basin. As this, too, had been blocked, the water spread out to form Cameron Lake until it spilled for the first time over the limestone ridge at Fenelon Falls into the next valley. Here, again, the Scugog channel was so clogged up with glacial rubbish that the water had to form Sturgeon Lake and overflow across a limestone rim at Bobcaygeon. More than this, the valley of the Scugog was so filled in that a shallow puddle at its southern end, the present Scugog Lake, is actually eight feet above Sturgeon Lake, which lies in the higher levels of the old preglacial valley. It is just possible, however, that before the Bobcaygeon channel wore down to its present level the Scugog valley was flooded and the two lakes joined for a time.

Ancient Niagara River at Fenelon

However, before the drainage system took on permanently its modern form, there intervened a short period when this region assumed considerable importance. It was just at the close of the last glacial epoch. A great barrier of ice, slowly melting northward, lay across the granite (highlands from the Adirondacks to North Bay and Lake Superior. Lake Iroquois, larger than the Lake Ontario of today, occupied its present basin and much adjoining territory as well and had its outlet near Rome, New York. Lake Algonquin, a much larger lake still, took in most of the basins of Huron and Michigan and covered considerable more land to boot, for the pressure of the great ice sheet just to the north had pushed the surface of the earth hereabouts much lower than before or after. A broad bay of this lake ran down from the northwest into what is now Lake Simcoe. Another bay ran east from near Rohallion. This bay had a very irregular outline. It formed narrows between Kirkfield and Victoria Road, then expanded into a larger Balsam Lake, and spread out into the Cameron Lake basin as well. Deep embayments ran up all the old preglacial river channels to north and south. Just south of Rosedale was an island two miles long. As the shore of Lake Algonquin lay just east of Bolsover, Horncastle, Carden and Uphill, this Rohallion bay was thus about sixteen miles in length, terminating at Fenelon Falls.

Through it, for a long time, passed all the waters of this upper lake . system ,which, at this period, emptied down through the Kawartha Lakes into Rice Lake, then a bay of Lake Iroquois. The first fall was at Fenelon, where this "Algonquin River," a mile in width, roared down thirty feet (instead of the present twenty-three) into Sturgeon Lake. The bared rock floor and undercut banks of this great river may still be traced in the neighborhood. Sturgeon Lake was a little larger than at present, but very similar in shape. At Pleasant Point, the first slight rise on the road to Lindsay, just at the edge of the swamp behind the summer cottages, marks the older shore of the lake. Gravel beaches and bars have been located near all the shores of the present lake, in no case more than a mile from the water. At Bobcaygeon came a second fall, this time of only six feet, instead of the seven of today. The wide, strongly scoured ,rock floored channel, grown up here and there with juniper, is even clearer here than at Fenelon Falls.

Even at this late period, some 30,000 years ago, the mammoth, a huge, woolly elephant with curved tusks ten feet long, trumpeted defiance through the subarctic spruce forests of Woodville and Coboconk, and herds of caribou ranged from Omemee to Kirkfield. Nor were human hunters lacking for such tremendous game; for along with their bones in the deep Iroquois beach deposits north of Toronto have been found the flint weapons of Indians.

But change came, gradually and inevitably. As the great ice barrier to the north melted away and removed its weight, this whole region tilted up towards the north, so that Fenelon Falls, which was formerly lower than Sarnia, is now 260 feet above it. As a result, Lake Algonquin was poured back to the present Georgian Bay shore line and found a new, lower outlet by way of St. Clair, Erie, and the Niagara River.
Strange, True Geological Wonders.

Men in these latter days seem to have lost their capacity for wonder. The unseeing eye was probably never so common as in these times of supposed enlightenment. Yet surely we can force a momentary thrill by remembering that Norland and Burnt River were once on the Pacific coast of a great Greenland continent, that the Scugog River once flowed south, that Lindsay was once buried under a mile of ice, and that the Niagara River of a former age foamed down through Fenelon Falls and Bobcaygeon.

Record of the Rocks

Victoria County

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