The Formation of Burlington Beach

scotto

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A paper read before the Hamilton Association on May 25th, 1882, by P.S. VanWagner.
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When the grand and distinct changes which mark the different epochs in the earth's geological history had ceased, and left its surface in comparative repose, we may conjecture from certain indications observable a few miles east of Hamilton, that a large stream receiving the waters shed by that portion of country now drained by the Grand river, flowed through the passage which, at present, is in part occupied by the Big creek. The channel of this ancient river can be traced for some distance upward from the Albion mills. Down this incline towards the close of its career, it harried with increasing velocity to the smooth level rock at the foot of the Lovers' Leap. From this rock it leaped in a broad sheet with a fall of fifty feet, end entered the wild gorge below. Seething and foaming with mad fury it rushes between the high frowning walls, and emerging into the light on the lower level, flows swiftly onward through a crooked channel. Less than a mile south of the railway embankment on the Big creek, we see on the west side of the old river bed, unmistakable indications of the river having worn away the perpendicular walls of shelly red rocks. From this point it flowed slowly onward, carrying with it the drift from the cutting, above; and discharged its waters into the lake through a wide mouth, now known as Lottridge's pond.
Through the sinking of the ocean beds, (these depressions being compensated by upheaval in other portions of the earth's crust), the waters had already retired to nearly their present level, leaving Lake Ontario as the lowest basin in the chain of broad lakes. The westerly limit of this great water was at Burlington Heights, beside which, as we have been recently informed by a scientific writer, flowed at a still more remote period, a great river. Having premised the foregoing, we will now consider the probable manner in which the Burlington Beach was formed. I am not aware that this subject has been treated by any previous writer, but, if so, I wish it to be understood that I do not desire to oppose another's theory, or to disturb the learned, nor those deeply versed in geologic lore.
Violent easterly storms would, as they continue to do, wear away the southerly shore of the lake and drive forward before them the small stones, gravel and sand, washed from the banks, and deposit them and also the drift from the mouth of the Niagara beyond a cape or projection in the shore immediately east of the present mouth of the Stony creek. The clay and other fine material would be held in solution by the motion of the water, and daring a change of wind or a succeeding calm be precipitated as silt on the bottom of the lake. This will account for the deposit, whenever there is a beach, being made up of clean hard material.
As the stones, gravel and sand could not by any possibility be returned by the comparatively feeble action of the north or northwest seas, they must have continued to accumulate, filling first the mouth of the lagoon directly behind the shore projection just mentioned, thense onward along the mainland the deposit continued until it met the current at the mouth of the Old Grand River; at present Lottridge's pond. Here a struggle began between the accumulating sands and the flow of the river; but the sands prevail, and the rivers mouth is pressed aside westerly, until it reaches the spot where the water-pips leaves the south filtering basin. This old channel through which the river flowed into the lake, has bean recently obliterated by being filled up to afford the nearest roadway. This passage would be ultimately closed by heavy blows filling it with sand, and the waters thrown back a short time; and again, they burst through with great force spewing the sand out to the left, forming a long and broad beach touching the mainland. This warfare continued for a lengthened period, or until, on the occasion of an unusually dry season the river contained a small quantity of water, and a succession of east storms taking place, threw up such a mass of sand and gravel as to seal up the mouth of the river at this place forever. On an increase of its waters, the river breaks through the lighter and weaker accumulation next the mainland, and forms a new mouth in the open bay. This much narrowed channel is now spanned by the Black bridge, which unites at this point the mainland and the Beach.
The contention between the perpetually increasing sand deposit and the stream was less violent for a considerable space of time, and the beach continued to lengthen, until another stand was made at what is now called Dynes point, where we find a slip of sand running southwesterly into the bay, between which and the beach proper there is deep water, and evidently the former bed or mouth of a river, though continually becoming more shallow through the action of the waves of the bay, heaving this tongue of sand into it. Here we have the last trace of, and must bid farewell to the old Grand River. It had warred for centuries with the driving sands and had performed its part through deposits and otherwise, in the formation of the beach. Previous to its waters being withdrawn an island had formed north of its mouth, the point mentioned being the remaining south portion thereof.
As a positive proof of the sand and stones moving westerly and northerly along the shore of the lake, I may say from actual observation, that, heavy field stones used for filling cribs at the foot of the Stony Creek road, have, within twenty years, (now that the cribs have broken up), traveled a quarter of a mile northwesterly; and as one proof of the constant increasing sand deposit on the shore, I may also add, the wreak of the schooner Alvord came ashore near the Beach school-house, in May, 1868; that the bottom with the stern post attached became firmly imbedded in the sand forming an immovable land mark, and that the average water level is fully ten yards from the wreak; although the stern post had been, when first imbedded, at the waters edge.
Any obstruction on the shore gathers sand at the water’s edge.
That this ancient river ceased to discharge its waters into the lower basin, may be accounted for either by a gradual upheaval of the upper level, through which it flowed disturbing its coarse, or, by an extraordinary freshet cutting a new bed, by which it took a more southerly direction and following the deeper indentations of the surface at length formed a third, or last mouth, in the upper basin of Lake Erie.
On the southeasterly side of the bay the water is, and was, shallow, with principally a clay bottom with some alluvial deposit and fine sand. On this coarser sand and gravel continued to be deposited; and the beach grew broader and extended northward until a sort of estuary was formed, into which the heavy easterly waves rolled but to recoil from the calm deep water inside. The bottom of this estuary having been the bed of the great river before mentioned. The sand and gravel being held in a balance by the undertow, the foundation of a bar was laid, between the great sandbank on the south, and the mainland on the north, which had already pushed forward a spur made up of the drift from the north shore of the lake. The bar rose slowly in the deep water, and at length reached the surface. Additions to it, now on the lake side only; caused it to widen and increase rapidly, and the connection between the north and south shores was completed.
Birds brought grass seed and grape stones, and scorns to the new formation; and the waves wafted to it twigs of the balm, the poplar and the willow, which took root and grew. The small birds sang cheerily, the monarch eagle shrieked his approval, the fishes sported and the amphibia bellowed their praises; henceforth the new bay became a nursery and a paradise for fish and amphibious animals and water fowl.
As a result of the lengthened labors of these natural forces, we behold to-day our ever increasing and pleasant summer resort, Burlington Beach.
P. S. VAN WAGNER
May 13th 1882.

P. S. —Since writing the above I fortunately met with a reliable old resident who told me that his father had been informed, in his youth, by old Indians that their fathers remembered a wide passage from the marsh (Lottridge's pond) into the big water—Lake Ontario. This would appear to indicate that the pent up waters of Burlington Bay sometimes forced a passage at the south end of the Beach, whenever there was a greater accumulation of sand at the north end. True, the banks at the south are higher than those at the north end; this has been brought about recently by the force of the easterly waves; whereas at the north end of the Beach the heavy rise of the waves was, and is, disturbed by the rebounding pressure from the north shore of the lake. Or, as appears somewhat probable, had those Indian fathers a tradition that the old Grand River flowed into the lake at this point at a remote period? All considered, I am disposed to believe the whole Beach formation to be more recent than is generally accepted.
P. S. V. W.
July 18th, 1882,

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I have attached two maps (dated 1877) of the area close to that of which Mr. VanWagner was writing about, sections of the creek and pond still exsist today.
 

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scotto

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Found a more scientific approach to the formation of the Beach, very in depth, but here is a small section of the report;


With the withdrawal of the ice sheet from the mouth of the St. Lawrence Valley, Lake Ontario first began to form. During this formational period, isostatic rebound was a continuing process such that the eastern end of the basin was uplifted faster than the western end. Thus, the Lake Ontario water level continued to be raised approximately 200 feet, until it reached the western basinal area 3000 years B. P. (Karrow, 1963). As this water level continued to rise, a baymouth bar, presently named the Burlington Bar, was formed by easterly storms which had a fetch of 180 miles, and by the induced north-westerly moving shore current. This current carried and deposited sands and clays --which had been eroded from the southern shores of Lake Ontario, such that the mouth of the lagoon behind the shore projection which existed to the east of Stoney Creek was filled. This material continued to be deposited along the southern shore of Lake Ontario, forcing the mouth of the old Grand River towards the west and forming the base of a growing slit, at the south side of the mouth of the Bay (Van Wagner, 1884). Upon the slopes of this spit, strong easterly winds drove cobbles, which were forced to remain since existing processes could not reach these deposits.

At the same time, a similar spit, growing from materials eroded from the north shores of Lake Ontario, began to form at the north side of the mouth of the Bay.
These spits began to grow slowly under predominantly easterly wave conditions in the deeper water. As the spits reached the surface, material was rapidly added on to the sides and the extreme points of these spits, such that the two spits eventually were connected, forming the Burlington Bar.
Reviewing the Lake Ontario stage stratigraphic record obtained from drill cores, the specific formational material of the uppermost section of the bar can be noted (chart 2.3)
Throughout history, the Burlington Bar has only been naturally breached a total of two times. Firstly, it was broken at the southern end by discharge from the Albion re-entrant. The Redhill Creek forced passage through the Bar from Lottridge Pond, a Marshy area created by the flooding back of water into the lower parts of valleys which had been cut by a former low water period. Secondly, the Bar was breached by an outlet on the present north side of the canal. Presently, both these breached areas have been completely filled in.




Modern Changes in Bar morphology

Aerial photographs. the most modern and up to date method of mapping. were used to note the changes in Bar morphology over_ the past thirty years (1942-1972). Using the zoomtransferscope, the aerial photographs were either reduced or enlarged in scale, such that one single scale for photo comparison over time was available.


The variability in Bar morphology over this thirty year period is illustrated in Fig. 2.5. Man has resolved to greatly change the physical dimensions of the Bar, on the Hamilton Harbour side, by filling in the hollows and depressions until the present outline of the Bar has been attained. On the Lake Ontario side of the Bar, unmodified by man, nature has only acted to slightly modify the almost equilibrium beach environment.
Complete report;

https://macsphere.mcmaster.ca/handle/11375/17797
 

scotto

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Another interesting report, this author believes there was an earlier Beach Bar further west in the harbour.

Small section of the report;

Finally, Hamilton Harbour was separated from the rest of the lake by the Ontario Bar. P. S. Van Wagner gives an interesting though inaccurate description of the formation of this bar. " Violent easterly storms would wear away the southern shore of the lake and drive forward before them the small stones, gravel and sand and washed from the banks, and deposit them and, also the drift, from the mouth of the Niagara, beyond a cape or projection in the shore immediately
east of the present mouth of the Stoney Creek. The clay and other tine materials would be held in solution (suspension) by the motion of the water, and during a change of wind or a succeeding calm, be precipitated as silt on the bottom of the lake. As the stones, gravel and sand could not be returned by the comparatively feeble action of the north and north-west seas, they must have continued to accumulate, filling first the mouth of the lagoon directly behind the shore
projection mentioned. Thence onward, along the mainland the deposit continued until. it met the current at the mouth of the old Grand River (Redhill Creek). Here a struggle began between the accumulating· sands, and the river mouth is pushed aside westerly....."

Actually~ the Ontario Bar or the Burlington Beach Strip was formed in the same way as the Iroquois Bar had been, that is, the two major variables were the greater fetch of water to the east and the tendency for prevailing winds from the west it is quite likely that this bar had its origins in Lake Kenilworth when the water level in the Ontario basin was lower than it is now As the level rose the bar moved farther west (I believe this is a typo, should be east) toward its present position. It is probable, therefore, that had the bar development not begun in Kenilworth times, the present Ontario Bar would be farther west than it now is, and the Harbour would not be as large as it is.
In Ontario times, the beach grew in length and breadth until the completed bar enclosed the bay on its eastern side. A shallow channel at the surface was kept open by drainage from the Bay.

Complete report;
https://macsphere.mcmaster.ca/handle/11375/19830
 
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