20171201
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    This is a work in progress of my version of the natural history of modern Lake Nipissing
    It comes warts and all and At this point (I am not apologizing for anything!)

    1. 452,000,000 years ago

        a giant rift valley split the Canadian Shield

        now modern Lake Nipissing is cradled in the bottom of this rift valley but a portion of it's northern shores still touch the steep north wall of that old geologic structure, shown as a dashed red line on this map on which I also included a copy of the yearly mean prevailing winds of this area which tends to be from the SW to WSW.

    2. 95,000 years ago
    3. 14,000 years ago
    4. 11,200 years ago
      • that retreat of the ice started to uncover Lake Nipissing,
      • which was just a very tiny part of glacial Lake Algonquin
      • whose outlet had switched from the Trent River to the Mink Lake Outlet (the last of 6 lower elevations being uncovered by melting ice)
      • as the ice cap melted, it progressively uncovered the
        • which is a " dead ice moraine" that took thousands of years to melt
        • and this is the steepest watershed drop in Ontario
        • as this melting progressed it left a huge area of of outwash plains or glacioio-lacustrine material, stranded above the modern elevation of 210 metres ASL, in the middle reaches of the Sturgeon River. (Glen Afton to Crystal Falls)
        • The red line of the water level chart indicates the rebounding land (dropping water level) of Lake Algonquin from 11,000 to 10,300 years ago as the outflow from Lake Algonquin started to flow along the base of the retreating ice (hence the stepping)

    5. 10,000 years ago
    6. All hell broke loose when suddenly and abruptly the two large ice dams blocking the Ottawa River suddenly BURST sending CATASTROPHIC FLOWS down the Ottawa River.
    7. and in a "geologic instant" (probably less than a year) lowering the water level in the upper Great Lakes basin by 122 metres or 400 feet.
    8. this phenomenon is called a Jökulhlaup or GLOF(Glacial Lake Outburst Flood) leaving the Great Lakes basin looking like this:
    9. That was the end of glacial Lake Algonquin because
    10. the control point for the upper Great Lakes basin shifted from Mink Lake to east end of Talon lake
    11. a large river (at least 85% of the current St. Lawrence, now drained the entire Great Lake Basin over Lake Nipissing down the Mattawa River and the Ottawa River for the next 5,500 years.
    12. At it's lowest the water level this river would still be 10 metres or 35 feet above North Bay. Here is what the Lake Nipissing basin that would look like at full normal flow
      S
    13. and here what the water level over North Bay would look like
    14. But from 9,400 to 7,700 years ago CATASTROPHIC FLOODING from Lake Agassix would fill the Great Lake Basin to a water level more than 244 metres A.S.L.
      1. This was compounded because the Rankin Restriction of the Ottawa River (10 kilometres downstream of Mattawa) was so narrow that it functioned as a hydraulic dam that could not handle thesw massive flows so the water level, within the Great Lakes Basin, would back up to 244 metres ASL (Atlantic Sea Level 2000)
      2. from 9,400 to 8,200 years ago 5 major GLOFs came from the west through Nipigon valley and over Lake Nipissing
      3. From 8,200 to 7,700 years ago Lake Aggassiz joined up with Lake Ojibway and Lake Barlow to flow down the Ottawa River. It would have been possible to go by water from Mattawa to somewhere in Saskatchewan with portaging.
    15. in both these cases the area of Nipissing and Mattawa would look like this
    16. and while we are looking at maps this is what the entire Nipissing Great Lakes and it's outlet river looked like:

  • for the next 3,300 years
    • the only change was the rebounding ground indicated by the blue line on the water level chart. Most of the creatures now found started to move in and lived here.
    • the size of the river would make this the only practical way to get to the interior of the continent - there would be fewer but longer portages but once travellers made it to Talon lake they could go anywhere on the Great Lakes (except Lake Ontario) without any further portaging.
    • it should be noted that these currents would have plenty of glacial drift during 5,500 years but the currents went over a rock sill, that is now North Bay, and this would drag these waterborne materials past North Bay to Trout/Talon Lakes and/or the Mattawa/Ottawa rivers and even further downstream!
    • some sediment (beach lines, back eddies where rocks disturbed the currents, etc.) would deposit some of these water borne materials in the North Bay area but nothing very significant.

  • 4,500 years ago
    • The rebounding land caused a watershed to come up between Trout Lake and Lake Nipissing forcing the outlet of the upper Great Lakes basing to move to the Illinois River and/or the Niagara River!
        due to Newton's 3rd Law ("to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction") these areas had been raised by the reaction to isostatic depression meaning these higher control points made the water levels of the Great Lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior) they control higher than they are now. click to view water level of this era.
    • the Mattawa River flows dropped to it's puny modern flows.
    • Lake Nipissing, no longer part of the outlet was a bay of Lake Huron so the very large currents that flowed through this bay and into the outlet were gone!
        but the water pathways, carved out by catastrophic flooding and the larger than life currents of that ancient river over 5,500 years, were not altered at all and are probably the same today.
    • The very large deposits of glacial drift had been pushed down by the flooding but they were still in the lower Sturgeon deltas
    • each year the land rebound exposed another few feet of drift material, that is very susceptible to being waterborne!
    • And the Sturgeon River kept suppling even more of this material on every flood event.
    • the strength of the prevailing winds (mainly from the SW to WSW and enhanced by the French River Valley's flatness) are still hitting the (relatively steep boulder and shingle) north western shores at an oblique on each wind event over 8 km/hr!

      All of the above created a natural conveyor belt called Longshore Transport that has tranferred glacial drift to build the dunes that North Bay was built on and it's beaches. It is still active!

      Following clipping of MNR's map 5041 shows this plainly:

      this is what it looks like between high (when most of this drift occurs) and low water levels

      I expect that anyone who has swam off of North Bay's beaches will recognize this landform.

      my description of the dune and beach building processes follow:
      • winds (from 8 kph. up) begin to move the sand grains.
      • their size and volume is directly related to wind velocity (larger grains require higher wind spseeds)
      • These bouncing sand grains resemble tiny, skipping ping pong balls as they are moved through the water by the wind through a process called saltation.
      • colliding with each other, barely a foot off the lake bottom
      • they may meet a slight obstruction and often it is
      • a clump of very special grass confirmed (by Fred Pinto retired MNR scientist) as being Marram Grass:
        • this grass only grows of the fore-shores of the Great Lakes and the North America Atlantic Ocean coasts.
        • is well regarded and protected because it holds dunes and beaches in place with exceptional masses of roots and rhizomes, apparently there is little other vegetation that is as efficient at this as Marram Grass.
        • These clumps deflect the wind allowing sand grains to settle
        • a slight mound or hummock is created
        • as time passes this grows into a dune
        • and the Marram's interwoven roots and rhizomnes grow holding this sand in place so the dunes and beaches increase in size while they are being fed new material.
        • If something interrupts this these dunes and beaches will start to shrink because they definitely are not static without this kind of vegetation protecting them or anything that lowers their sand budget.
        • Actually these grassses can not take ferilizers, shade from brush/trees/other vegetation and don't react well to be stomped on.
      • IN SUMMARY
        this grass that has (and, to a lesser degree, still is) holding these glacial drift dunes in place over the last 4,000 years but compared to the 1980's photo below there doesn't seem to be much of it left. This grass is probably on it's way out.
      • following is an image of the dunes and beaches that have been created:

        There used to be a lot of Marram Grass but civilization has been busy stomping it into memories.
        • A case in point is the area of the Harbourside Condominium and this 1985 MTO photo from the air shows how the wave cut dune being almost completely covered top to bottom.
        • prior to 1980 this land was CPR owned and had a large Petroleum Storage tanks - the company set controlled fires to the brush and grasses each spring to prevent wildfires. The result was a park like setting and a whole lot of Marram Grass. This is what that looked like:)

          Here is a Google Earth image of the full length of the shoreline trail between the Kings Wharf and Timmins Street where I know that there are remnant groups of this grass.

          Because this grass only grows inland on the fore-shores of the coast Lines of the Great Lakes means these dunes and beaches on Lake Nipissing shores must be relics of the Nipissing Great Lakes Coast 110 kilometres or more away from Lake Huron's Georgian Bay current coast!

          My conclusion is that the area from Beaucage Point to the Mouth of the La Vase River is Great Lakes Heritage Coast Line.

          As the the land raised the apparent water level of the ancient Nipissing Great Lakes dropped, leaving a series of parallel dunes and/or relic beaches were left behind and some are still visible (using Google Earth) on Nipissing Indian Reserve #10 - (permission would be required to see them on the ground.)

        • another example of these types of beach lines is noted near Parry Sound

        • these relic beachlines left behind by the (isostatic rebound or rising land) are all over the Nipissing area but there are many shrubs & trees making them difficult to spot.
    • 2,500 years ago
      • saw the south shores of current Lake Nipissing appearing so that the massive waves of Lake Huron no longer pounded the northern shores
      • but the slightly subdued waves of Lake Nipissing did keep working with the result even up to 1985 a much reduced, in volume, of longshore drift still happened maintaining the beaches.
      • over that 2,400 years much of of these earlier shorelines would have overgrown with various vegetation
    • As a silent wittiness Sir William Logan's 1845 Journal of the first modern survey of the upper Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers and Lake Nipissing had the following:
        Thursday 9th Oct 1845 - Page 139 -
        "We have at last got to Lake Nipissing & have surveyed about 3 miles on each side of the nouth of the Riviere de Vase, by way of a finish to our map."

        "The shores of the lake are on the east side. To the north of the river the beach is beautiful sand, with a margin of 50 yards wide by waves which are washed ashore during high storms. It has the appearance of a sandy beach on the sea shore with the tide out."
      • Obviously these beaches impressed him then and are testement to these beaches being maintained naturally.


    We bought our property where these dunes are and what our home is built on in 1963 - it was impossible to miss this grass as it was along the shorelines from our house to the dock. The lovely golden colour it turned to in the fall really stood out.
    • I assummed this was a type of sedge until at the cottage this summer I read the book "Great Lakes - Natural Heritage" and found out it was a beach grass, that it was rare and protected because it retained the natural sand dune.
    • I queried a number of academics and naturalists finally sending out a number of emails and got a response from Fred Pinto (retired MNRF scientist) confirming this.
      • He asked me to do a couple of paragraphs (anythng that tiny is almost impossible for a blabbermouth) but here it is.
      • and he asked for pictures particularly older ones showing it history
        1. This is Bill Steers Boosting the Bay page 81 (the dock was built in 1916) but you can see the dunes, note there were no trees and those steep slopes were covered in these grasses (what else could hold them?)
          • (not seen on the photo but on far righe = Federal DPW maps indicate the CPR covered the slopes with boulder and sharp rock to keep the buildings in place. As a kid I collected a great many Siluran fossils there.
          • Later and to the left over the childern's heads and where the main dune shows up - Uniroc (Craig Bit) had to do the same to keep their buildings from sliding into the lake.
          I assume this happened because they had trampled and/or killed the Marram Grass.

        2. This is a shot of the 1916 dock and it can be seen that it is on piles.
          • The reason I chose this was to point out the steepness of the slope (appears to 45 degrees) and narrowness of the shoreline here.
          • wagons for teams are less than 6'/2m wide.
          • this was taken from the area of the North Bay Tennis Club or just where the Uniroc site was (this is on the side of their chain link)
          • Note the lack of trees just grasses on the slope
          • Following is a clipping of a 1986 MTO picture shot of the shoreline that still has small remenants of the Marram Grass growing on the dune (at Harbourside) and the foreshores. The large industrial Unirock/Craig Bit complex was there and so was the very new Harbourside Condominium
          • I repeated this clipping and blow up of the above picture showing the face of the dune almost completely covered with Marram grass on extremely steep slopes that are almost 1:1
          • note the smallnes of the trees at that time (until 1982 the Petroleum Companies that had the large tanks here burned the dead grass and brush so a wild fire would not threaten the Storage Tanks) leaving this whole area almost park like with just a few large trees.
          • The result must have been that Marram Grass predominated the wave cut dunes.

        In the past few months I have taken numerous shots of this grass and it's resistance to undermining due to the heavy root and rhizome entanglement. The open water season of 2017 had the highest water levels that Lake Nipissing ever had from mid April right through to September. How these two clumps withstood this is a mystery to me.


        As the water level of ancient Nipissing Great Lake dropped, a series of parallel dunes were created - some are still visible (using Google Earth) on Nipissing Indian Reserve #10 - (permission would be required to see them on the ground.)

        another example of beach lines is noted near Parry Sound

        I think they would have been all over the shores if there weren't so many trees or so much development..

  • 2,500 years ago
    • the south shores of current Lake Nipissing appeared so that the massive waves of Lake Huron no longer pounded the northern shores but the smaller waves of Lake Nipissing did and this rise did not affect the winds much so a much reduced longshore drift still happened maintaining the beaches. Over that 2,400 years a lot of the shorelines must have overgrown with various vegetation slowing the rate of longshore transport. BUT IT DID NOT STOP IT!
        this was in Sir William Logan's 1845 Journal of the first modern accurate survey of the upper Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers and north east shores of Lake Nipissing:

        • "We have at last got to Lake Nipissing & have surveyed about 3 miles on each side of the nouth of the Riviere de Vase, by way of a finish to our map." "The shores of the lake are on the east side. To the north of the river the beach is beautiful sand, with a margin of 50 yards wide by waves which are washed ashore during high storms. It has the appearance of a sandy beach on the sea shore with the tide out."
        Obviously these beaches impressed him then and that is testement to these beaches being maintained naturally.
      • The above survey was a covert operation by the British Government seeking a route that would get a canal or a railroad as far away from United States territory as possible
      • 1853 the Mattawan - Nipissingue Colonization Road was surveyed and open (probably to bring in survey and engineering parties in for the Canada Pacific and the canalfor this.)
      • 1854 to 1857 saw all of Lake Nipissing, Sturgeon River, South River, French Rivers accurately surveyed with plans
      • 1860 saw the engineering parties move in and they came up with a report and plans fo a roposed canal
      • 1862 saw another engineer change that proposal so that the railroad could be built through North Bay
      • 1882 saw the Canada Pacific built to North Bay
      • one of the first things done by them was the construction of a dock so that a kiln for limestone mined at Little Manitou Island to supply cement for a concrete prefab operation of culverts and bridges on the North Bay shores this dock was put in about 45 degrees from the shoreline probably to enable a spur so railroad cars could be loaded and unloaded construction would continue for another 70+ kilometres to bring men, equipment, supplies, rails, etc. to beyond Warren.
      • The lake and it's rivers was an important transportation component for the vast area if lake Nipissing
      • The J R Booth company came to town immediately and set up a kilometre wast of the CP station where the Trout Lake to Lake Nipissing portage intersected the main line and they had a spur put in. (This spur line was finally removed in the mid 1980's (it still shows on NTS map data 31L06 And they built a the J R BOOTH 1, a shallow draft over hundred foot long side wheeler down in the flat fore shore just east of what are now rock islands (it was a low penisula then) and she went into regular service in 1885 but burned in Callander Bay in 1898 - she was replaced the next year by the J R Booth 2 very similar but with 2 smoke stacks. There is little doubt that over boats were built, repaired and/or launched there.
      • they also used the Lake Nipissing to Trout Lake portage
        • wide enough and firm enough to carry wagon traffic
        • to bring in a steam boat into Trouut Lake (to take supplies back and forth from the depot at the mouth of High Lake Creek
        • and tow logs from Fout Mile Creek to their dam at the end of Turtle Lake
        • Established 6 or 7 depots (i.e. big farms to provide food for men and fodder for draught animals and then keep the animals and equipment there during the summer monthes) the cleared areas are still to be found in various area of Widdifield.
      • J. R. Booth company used Lake Nipissing extensively. was built at the end of the Lake Nipissing Portage (between the shore and the rocks (the only flat area of shore line west of North Bay.
      • I also beleve that other watercraft were built and launched at this location one of them is the 1900 dipper dredge the Mattawa with it's 2 side dumping scows.
        • it's function was to keep the channels open (mouths of Sturgeon, South Rivers Callander, McCleod Bays, to build the canal, dock, etc and then maintain them.
        • J R Booth's company had a very hard time to take logs off of the headland becaues the sand laden northern and soutern shore inlets were cursed by flatness of the foreshores causing them to be very shallow - twisty almost impossible to bring 12' logs through - It excavated them but this made them unnaturaly deep and wide because this monster needed a lot of room and depth to operate.
    • 1903 - 1908 saw detail planning and reports being finished by the federal DPW for the Georgian Bay Ship Canal following is a clipping of plan #14 showing the proposed Canal, locks and government dock that was proposed.

    This pretty much ends the Natural History of Lake Nipissing - another later web page will deal with the unNatural History which started in 1883, with the coming of the CPR and a whole lot of people!