Tag Archives: Crawford lake

Nassagaweya Canyon

Saturday March 19, 2016

The cover photo shows a turkey vulture sitting in a tree looking out across the Nassagaweya Canyon.  This canyon is a deep cut in the Niagara Escarpment and it takes it’s name from an Indian word meaning “Meeting of two rivers”.  Sixteen Mile Creek and Bronte Creek both occupy the canyon.  When the escarpment was formed a large river cut through the bedrock and created an island of rock which is known as the Milton Outlier.  It has Rattlesnake Point on the southern end.  Four ice ages have further carved the river channel and widened it to the present size as glacial meltwaters flowed through the canyon.

When the county atlas was drawn in 1877 the 4th line was continuous and ran along the Nassagaweya Canyon floor next to Limestone Creek.  The portion of road through the canyon has since been closed.  The northern section is now known as Canyon Road and the part south of Rattlesnake Point is known as Walker’s line.  We parked on Canyon Road where it dead ends near the north end of Nassagaweya Canyon. The closed roadway is still open as a trail which leads toward a connection with the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail, The Bruce Trail and a Bruce side trail.  One possible factor in the closing of this road allowance is the wetlands that it passes through and it’s three crossings of Limestone Creek.  I’ve marked the road in red and the property of John Agnew with a red arrow.

Rattlesnake Point

The early settlers who owned the land grants on either side of this road struggled with the maintenance and elected to create a corduroy road.  Logs were placed perpendicular to the roadway to make the road passable.  These roads were bumpy at best and a danger to horses because the logs often shifted.  They were not as refined as plank roads like the Gore and Vaughan Plank Road.  The picture below shows a section where the logs from the corduroy road are showing through the mud and grass.

IMG_0424

Along the old roadway there is clear evidence of human engineering in the form of drainage pipes, ditches and embankments.  At one point we noted a ridge on the west side of the road that didn’t look natural or man made.  Beavers build retaining walls for their ponds by scooping dirt up using their tails.  The trees around the pond don’t show any sign of recent chewing and so it looks like the beaver pond has been abandoned for a little while.

IMG_0437

The old road allowance connects with several other trails including the main Bruce Trail which is marked with a white slash.  The blue markers indicate Bruce Trail side trails and the orange is the 7.2 kilometer Nassagaweya Canyon Trail.  Following it to the right will bring you to Crawford Lake and the restored village of Longhouses there.  Following it, as we did, to the left takes you up the Milton Outlier where the trail follows the canyon edge to Rattlesnake Point.

IMG_0442

The blue side trail indicated above with two markers in a T formation is the Jack Leech Porter trail.  It is named after a member of the Iroquoia Section and had a boardwalk installed in the mid-1980’s.  In 2010 it was decided to replace the old 480-foot boardwalk with the new one which features a 16-foot bridge over Limestone Creek.  An 8-foot rest area is built into the boardwalk and can be seen in the picture below.

IMG_0443

The Nassagaweya Canyon provides a perfect habitat for Turkey Vultures.  They nest on the sides of the cliffs and in April or May produce up to three eggs.  The little ones are fed with regurgitated carrion which makes a smell that attracts predators.  The remote edges of the canyon cliffs provide protection for the nests from these threats.  The vultures spend the winter south of New Jersey and have recently returned to the canyon.  We were approaching Rattlesnake Point when we saw several pairs of vultures circling and resting in trees.  Making our way along the edge of the cliff allowed us to get some close-up shots of the birds.

IMG_0469

When we visited Rattlesnake Point last weekend we noted an old farm house near the mouth of the canyon.  From our vantage point, we had wondered if it might be abandoned and if we should investigate it some day.  We decided that climbing down the side of the cliff to reach the canyon floor was the only way to find out and so we set out to do so.  We are in no way suggesting that this is a good idea or that you do this.  This picture shows the limestone cliff face near Rattlesnake Point from part way down the side of the canyon. Traversing the valley would allow us to turn the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail into a loop instead of the usual two-way walk.

IMG_0476

Limestone Creek is a tributary of Bronte Creek and flows through the canyon.  We found a solid tree that had fallen across the creek to use as our bridge.  The forest through the canyon valley is quite young and most of the trees appear to be less than 40 years old.

IMG_0446

The mouth of the canyon at the south end is full of glacial deposits of sand and gravel. Farmers had to clear their fields of rocks every spring and they were lined up along the edge of fields in place of a fence.  This old stone fence marks the line where a field on the right has recently gone back to forest while the one the left was sold for the mining of aggregates. This property belonged to John Agnew in 1877 as shown on the county atlas above.

IMG_0483

The abandoned house we were seeking is on the edge of the old quarry.  This story and a half Georgian style home has a small dormer on the front which sits just slightly off centre.

IMG_0489

 The house hasn’t been abandoned for very long as there is little damage from weather or vandals.  The view from the upstairs hallway looks out over the extension at the rear of the house toward the site of the quarry.  The tree to the left of the house has an abandoned dog house beneath it.

IMG_0498

We had to ascend the canyon’s western wall to where we could see people on the Bruce Trail walking along the top of the cliff.

IMG_0521

This is the view from the top of the canyon looking back across to the Milton Outlier.  We had descended the 144 feet to the canyon floor at the left end of the white limestone cliffs on the far side.

IMG_0523

Scarlet Elf Cup is a type of fungus that grows in early winter through to early spring.  They are bright red on the inside and were used by the Oneida people to stop the bleeding on umbilical cords when an infant bled longer than usual.  We found large patches of them growing along the closed roadway.

IMG_0517

Along the old 4th line road allowance stand the remains of this old building, likely abandoned long before the road was.

IMG_0534

Google Maps link: Nassagaweya Canyon Trail

Like us at http://www.facebook.com/hikingthegta

Follow us at http://www.hikingthegta.com

The Longhouse People of Crawford Lake

Saturday Nov. 21, 2015

Crawford Lake is one of a handful of meromictic lakes in Ontario and this fact led to the discovery of a pre-contact native village.  It was snowing off and on as I parked in the Crawford Lake conservation area where having correct change would have saved me including a small donation in the envelope.

In the late 1960’s a University of Toronto professor became convinced that Crawford Lake had the characteristics to be a meromictic lake.  Most lakes have the water turn over at least once per year.  As the water cools it becomes denser causing it to sink.  The water at the top mixes with the water at the bottom providing a more even temperature and oxygenation.  In meromictic lakes the surface area is less than the depth and the water doesn’t mix.  In Crawford Lake there are three sections of lake and only the top 15 metres mixes annually.  The middle depth of the lake acts as a buffer while the bottom 9 metres or more never gets disturbed.  This part of the lake is always cold and has no oxygen.  Life doesn’t exist down here and the layers of sediments tell the history of things falling in the lake. Samples taken from the lake bottom revealed 1,000 years of history.  Sediment layers representing the period between 1300 and 1600  have high levels of corn pollen trapped in them in varying concentrations.  This led to the conclusion that an agricultural society had existed near the lake, closer to the shore when the concentrations were higher.  When settlers arrived, cut down the trees and created fields ragweed spread and the upper layers of sediment reflect this.  Crawford Lake is calm in the picture below.

IMG_1607

Local land owners confirmed that they had found artifacts on their properties and when Thomas Howard sold to the conservation authority in 1971 he donated an ungrooved ax or celt he had found here.  It is part of a 10,000 artifact collection that has been uncovered between 1973 and 1989.  The post holes for the frames of 11 longhouses have been discovered and three of these have been reconstructed. Two others have been partially formed including the frame outline seen below.  The positions of the fire pits have been exposed.

IMG_1566

Completed longhouses would have looked like the ones at Crawford Lake except that experts agree there were no ‘panic bars’ on the doors and no little electrical outlets on the outsides.

IMG_1537

It is unknown exactly which peoples lived here.  It may have been the Wendat (Huron) or Attawandaron (Neutral) but either way they were part of the Iroquoian speaking nations and are referred here as Iroquoian for simplicity.  Inside each of the longhouses an individual clan lived. Smaller longhouses may have had 30 people while larger ones up to 100 .  Individual families lived across from each other and shared a common fire.  The lower levels were used to sleep on because they were close to the fire and below the constant smoke.  Upper levels were used for storage with food being hung in the rafters where smoke kept both insect and rodent away.  It is common to find the carbonized remains of food around the fire pits or in the dump sites and these frequently include corn, beans and squash.  For some reason there was no squash found at the Crawford Lake village.

IMG_1576

The art of making stone tools is known as knapping.  It took a great deal of skill to master it but then a piece of chert could be turned into a razor sharp projectile in just 15 minutes.  Along with arrowheads, spear tips, knives and drills were knapped.  Among the findings at the site was a tip known as a turkey-tail arrowhead.  It is out of place by up to 3,000 years suggesting that the idea of collecting antiques may have extended to this culture as well.  The turkey-tail point is displayed along with other arrowheads and is on the tallest shaft in the middle of the picture below.

IMG_1549

Pottery was made by the women and the vessels could be as large as 15 litres.  Each family decorated their pottery in a unique manner that was passed on from mother to daughter. Specific markings on pottery have been used to trace the movements of families and clans over time.  The pottery fragments recovered in the village have been carefully put back together including the 47 pieces of this jug.

IMG_1545

This tract of land was eventually sold to the British Crown to be granted to European settlers and the natives who had lived here for centuries would never return.

Along the Crawford Lake Trail is a series of wood carvings known as the Hide and Seek Trail. Ontario has almost 200 species that are considered to be at risk, seven of which are represented with larger than life wood carvings.  The Eastern Wolf in the carving below is pictured howling, as they commonly do, to communicate within their packs and alert other packs to stay away. They are found in Ontario and Quebec but are now predominantly in Algonquin Park.  They are unable to survive in the small patches of forest left in the more urban parts of the province.

IMG_1584

In 1883 George Crawford bought the lake and 100 acres of land which he transferred it to his son Murray a couple years later.  They operated a saw mill on the south end of the lake to take advantage of the ample timber on the surrounding lands.  In 1898 the name of the lake was changed from Little Lake to Crawford Lake when they opened the Crawford Lake Company. When times were tough during the depression the Crawford family ran a resort on the lake. They also built themselves a cottage and boathouse.  In 1969 the lake and property was sold to the conservation authority and the cottage has since been destroyed.  All that remains is the concrete from the front porch and a set of steps leading down to where the boathouse once stood.

IMG_1600

This cedar tree stands along the side of the trail and is unique in that all three stems are twisted from top to bottom.

IMG_1610

Crawford Lake was formed at the end of the last ice age and has been collecting it’s local history lesson ever since.  Steam was rising off of Crawford Lake even as the snow was falling onto it.

IMG_1616

Crawford Lake Trail and the interpretive reconstruction of the Iroquoian village has been made wheelchair accessible so no one has to miss out.

IMG_1612

I only investigated the village and Crawford Lake Trail but the conservation area contains 7 hiking trails including part of the Bruce Trail.  It looks like you can spend a whole day here and still miss things.

Like us at http://www.facebook.com/hikingthegta

Follow us at http://www.hikingthegta.com