Colin Sutherland THE LAST THING people have on their minds while enjoying Bon Echo Provincial Park is the thought of kilometres of ice high above their heads. However, it is possible to see the tell-tale signs left by glaciers on the beaches and on the large and small granite rocks found inside the Park. While glaciers and ice sheets may seem like something of the distant past, you may be surprised to know that, by definition, we are technically still in an ice age. An ice age is defined by having two large ice sheets at both poles. These ice sheets exist today in the north of Greenland and at Antarctica’s south pole. Now don’t go running for your sweater and merino wool socks just yet as we are not expecting these sheets to expand any time soon. When the amount of snow falling from the sky exceeds the amount of snow melting each season, a permanent body of ice begins to form called a glacier. Essentially ice sheets are the same thing but are much larger. These gigantic pieces of ice can cover entire continents, feed glaciers around their edges and can ‘calve’ icebergs when pieces of the sheet break off into the ocean. The glacier that sat upon Bon Echo over 11,000 years ago has left its mark. Some geologists suggest that after faulting along the edge of Mazinaw Rock, glaciers gouged out the deeper sections of Mazinaw Lake. As the ice melted, this gigantic hole filled with water. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources this trend continued throughout our province endowing Ontario with approximately a quarter of a million freshwater lakes. Lakes and rivers, including Mazinaw Lake, would play a central role in early transportation and settlement in Canada by First Peoples and eventually the loggers. Further indications of glaciers in the area can be found in the forest. These are large boulders called glacial erratics. Large stones were carried by glaciers across North America during the last ice age. Those that can be found in the Park are comparatively small and usually of the same basic geology found in the region. Those venturing on the Kishkebus Canoe Trail can find one on the portage between Mazinaw Lake and Kishkebus Lake. Careful examination of exposed granite may indicate the direction these glaciers once moved by noting long and short scratches on the surface. Striation marks are a series of parallel indented grooves left behind by other rocks and sediment that would collect on the bottom of the almost plastic undersides of glaciers. They can vary in size and sometimes look like a large animal scratched the surface with its claws. These markings can be found on exposed rock throughout the Canadian Shield. As the Ontario glaciers melted, new floodways and rivers began to form. These waterbodies would carry sediment for long distances and drop it when the water no longer had the force to suspend these particles and larger rocks. Some studies have suggested that what we call Bon Echo Creek and the land around Main Beach are actually areas where sand was deposited. This would explain the abundance of sand in the area as well as the natural lagoon. This lagoon and the sandy soils would be enjoyed by tourists in the early 20th century as visitors to the Bon Echo Inn took advantage of the region’s geomorphology. Typical of the Canadian Shield, a region that covers much of Ontario and oth Canadian provinces, is the thin soil layer covering the granite. Lakes and ancient mountains have been carved by gigantic pieces of ice which have also scraped away topsoil. As you walk around the Park you can see how the soil has redeveloped but is relatively shallow compared to soil horizons in southern Ontario. If you want to imagine what the landscape might have looked like in its initial stages of soil development simply look up at Mazinaw Rock. Here one can see the very beginning of soil development as pioneer species such as lichens and grasses attempt to create soil from the decomposition of their own tissue. Poor and rocky soils are the principal reasons large scale settlement was inhibited in this region. Today many species of trees and animals take advantage of life on the Canadian Shield. Lakes and wetlands with rocky bottoms ensure that water cannot escape, This creates ideal habitats for water loving creatures, especially our favourite insects, mosquitos and blackflies. Nature lovers as well as many bird species flock to enjoy our natural terrain. test te Next time you are walking around Bon Echo or anywhere else on the Canadian Shield for that matter, take a look around and you might just spot some of the signatures left behind by the giants that once rested here.