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Part 2


The following is Copyright © 2016-2020 by Clayton Barker, all rights reserved. It was published on the editorial page of The Burford Times, May 26th, 2016, in Burford, Ontario, Canada.



Pictured here is a remnant glacial landform called a kettle lake. This one is located on the 12th concession road between Maple Avenue South and Bishopsgate Road where the concession road bends around. Kettle lakes are landforms occurring as the result of blocks of ice calving from the front of a receding glacier and becoming partially to wholly buried or lodged in glacial outwash. Many kettle lakes have long filled in with sediment and died up, however some are still around and continue to exist as they have become spring-fed. This one appears to be gradually filling in as I recall it being much larger when I was a lad. Photo by Clayton Barker


For several thousands of years, the lower half of Burford Township, which drains towards Lake Erie, was covered by a meltwater sea, while the northern half, which flows to the present-day Grand River, was a herb-dominated tundra. The tundra became a lichen woodland where various plant and animal species were introduced / re-introduced to what was barren glacial-tilled ground.


Geologists have applied names to the various stages of these inland freshwater seas or glacial lakes, such as Maumee, Whittlesey, Warren and Iroquois, to keep them straight, however, they cannot agree on the estimated duration of time these lakes had existed. Radiocarbon dating is one of the ways in which they have been able to determine how long ago these various stages had occurred.


About 14,000 years ago, according to some geologists, a pro-glacial lake named Lake Maumee, was formed and covered the western half of the Ontario peninsula and parts of Michigan and Ohio. It was the first of a series of glacial lakes that occupied the Lake Erie basin. The term pro-glacial lake means that it formed directly along the ice margin and the land to the south sloped toward the retreating ice lobes, trapping the water between the ice and the higher ground. During the Maumee stage of the formation of the Great lakes, of course, Burford and the rest of Ontario was still under the ice. (Chapman & Putnam, 1984)


About 1000 years later, the next body of water to occupy the Lake Erie basin is referred to by geologists as “Lake Whittlesey.” Whittlesey encompassed the entire Erie basin and a bit more south into New York and Pennsylvania and all of the area which its predecessor Maumee had covered in Michigan and Ohio, as well as half of Southern Ontario. Whittlesey’s ancient shoreline can still be seen today in areas of Ontario and particularly Brant County, where a meltwater river entered Whittlesey. Lake Whittlesey is also a pro-glacial lake. However, only about 20% of its shoreline coincided with the margin of an ice lobe: The Huron lobe on the north shore (basically occupying the present Lake Huron basin) and the Ontario ice lobe at the eastern shoreline (occupying the Lake Ontario basin). (


During the duration of Whittlesey, a portion of Southern Ontario and central Ontario was exposed which probably consisted of a herb-dominated tundra. The countryside was scarred by the movements of ice, and the accumulation of debris left during the glacier’s retreat. Some large chunks of ice or ice burgs were left behind and were mired in the debris and later gradually melted to become what we call “kettle lakes.” There are at least four kettle lakes in Burford Township including Crestwood Lake (formerly Cooley Pond on the 4th concession) and Levey Lake (on the 2nd concession), one on the 10th concession and one on the 12th concession, between Maple Avenue and Bishopsgate Road.


Some present-day rivers and major creek drainage basins were in their early formation, such as the Thames, the Grand River and Whiteman’s Creek. It is interesting to note that the Grand River only went as far as the present-day Town of Paris, meanwhile, the present-day city of Brantford was under about 60 metres of water. The Grand entered Whittlesey just north of Paris where it had also created some deltas, which can still be seen north of Highway No. 5 and east of East River Road.  Whiteman’s Creek was actually a “raging” river, which was over a kilometre in width near where it entered Whittlesey’s shoreline, at what is now Mount Vernon.




For this series of columns, information has been gleaned from the following: “The Physiographic Regions of Southern Ontario, Third Edition,” (1984) by L.J. Chapman and D.F. Putnam;; “Historical Atlas of Canada,” by R. Cole Harris, editor and illustrated by Geoffrey J. Matthews, cartographer.




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From a Twig to a Mighty Oak, PART 1


From a Twig to a Mighty Oak, PART 3