A Brief History of the Niagara Escarpment

The Niagara Escarpment is one of the world's geological wonders and is located in southern Ontario. Stretching over 725 km from Tobermory to Niagara and rising to 510 m, this ribbon of sedimentary rock displays high a high biodiversity of flora and fauna and is home to a number of rare and threatened mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and plants, including Ontario's oldest trees. It is located in Canada's most densely populated and heavily developed area, with many citiies and towns situated on or near this unique feature.

One of only 15 UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves in Canada, this stunning geological feature boasts rolling hills, steep cliffs, caves, towering waterfalls, thick forests, streams and wetlands, and numerous historical sites.

The escarpment itself is composed primarily of limestone and dolostone formed from sediment deposited in a shallow tropical sea nearly 450 million years ago, which is today known as the Michigan Basin. As sediment continued to be deposited in this depression over millions of years, compaction of the underlying sediment occurred creating the rock we see today. The escarpment is a geological wonder for a number of reasons, but the fossils that can found found in the escarpment are definitely world class and give researchers and amateur fossil collectors a snapshot of life in the Silurian and Ordovician periods of earth's history (~400 – 500 million years ago!).

The escarpment is topped by a tough dolostone caprock, which has protected it from the processes of weathering and glaciation that have been eroding it for over 100,000 years. Normal daily weathering of rock along with multiple episodes of glaciation (the last ending nearly 10,000 years ago) have removed softer rock surrounding the escarpment, but the tough dolostone caprock has done an effective job of protecting the softer rock below it and preserving the escarpment.

Check out the Niagara Escarpment Commission’s website for more information on the escarpment.


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