This is my explanation of the geomorphological processes and vegetation that built and retained the flat areas and 9km of beaches that is now the City of North Bay.
Following is an overview of North Bay's parallel dunes and beaches
This is the 3rd part of a series - the beginning is simply a recap (recapitulation) of what preceded it
the Mattawa River to drop to it's puny modern flows
current Lake Nipissing was no longer part of the outlet but simply the east bay of the Nipissing Great Lakes!
but the gigantic river with very strong currents that had flowed over North Bay into the Mattawa were gone but the lake bed water channels that had been carved out and formed by 5,300 years of catastrophic flooding and larger than life currents were not altered in the slightest!
Very few people know of these currents (except perhaps, the OPP Marine Unit, the Nipissing commercial fishermen and a few SCUBA divers.)
the strength of the prevailing winds persisted (mainly from the SWS to WSW) because of the French River Valley's flatness (no real hills) resulting in a wind wind force potential that still continues today.
There was also an immense stockpile of glacio-fluvial deposits in the Sturgeon deltas - locally known as the "FLATS" which continued to deliver smaller but still relatively large amounts of littoral drift augmented with the Sturgeon River supplying even more of this material with each spring freshet and every flood event and this was further in increased by the consistent isostatic rebound of the earth constantly exposing more of these materials. So there was a lot of drift material to be transported on this natural "conveyor belt" and this
is what drove it:
Heavier materials (sand) would be deposited further down the lakeshore at the North Bay area where it was arrested and began to pile up to slightly below the then elevation of the Nipissing Great Lakes of that time. This occurred from the mouth of Duchesnay Creek to about the mouth of Callander Bay.
when those prevailing winds, off of Lake Huron, were deflected by the La Cloche range
hit the steep boulder and shingle beaches of Nipissing's north western shores at an oblique angle on each wind event exceeding 8 km/hr the longshore transport of glacio-fluvial material would continue.
but the smaller particles of that used to be transported no longer went down the now closed big river but spread around the bottom of Lake Nipissing as the currents slowed and turned to flow out of the newly formed French River. Almost all of the remaining most of heavier was delivered to and deposited in the dunes or beaches (see brown area in map below) but finer difting particles (mud and silt) were deposited on the bed of Lake Nipissing outside of the longshore tranport currents.
This explains a number of things -
A close up of the map above gives a close up of the dunes and beaches:
the very heavy shoaling (shallowness) off of the North Bay beaches
the fact that this lakes average depth is just 4.5 metres (actually the dams the Federal Government put in in 1916 have controlled the ice off water levels since 1916) so that it's natural average depth was and is (when the ice is on) actually 2.5 metres!
Surprisingly at the mouth of the French River there are depths over 90 metres.
and the southern and western shores of Lake Nipissing are almost all rockbound.
This map gives the overview extent of the glacio-fluvial drift that filled ins and created the flat area of North Bay and the West Ferris beaches
At this point I am finished with this recapitulation!
click for pdf
Logic and experience tells me that the normal repose of this glacio-fluvial material when worked over by currents or waves end up as a 1:10 slope to about flat.
The question is why are these dune faces from Timmins Street to Memorial Drive varying from steep (1:3 to 1:1 slopes) at certain areas but in the picture below there are indications from a 1916 map that this wasn't the case 100 years ago?
We bought our home in 1963
Comparing these two dune complexs (North Bay and Wasaga) indicates that they:
next door was a petroleum tank farm and I had a geotechnical engineer and a drill rig come to ensure that the "product" had not contaminated this property - it hadn't!
This scarps existence was explained to me by the head Engineer of MTO's Northern Region Geotechnical division after he had dug into it in a couple of places and stated that steep scarp face was probably the only undisturbed wave cut dunes left in Ontario on the ancient Nipissing Great Lakes coasts
at that time he did mention that the roots of vegetation had held it in place!
Actually I ignored most of what he told me when he also said that
there was nothing that could be done about it because this was the private property of the CPR
The area up to Chippewa Creek (where a gneiss mound comes close to the shoreline) would have filled with transported glacio-fluvial drift very quickly (possibly 5 centuries) dictated when the isostatic rebound 4,000 years ago made it the highest part of the accumulation.
I call this a "parallel dune" and some literature call call them a "parabolic dune", at least in Wasaga Beach, and it seems to top out at the current level of 200 to 204 metres (ASL). Lake Nipissings current summer level is kept at 196m.
Following is a 1980s MTO photo to show the undisturbed Nipissing Great Lakes' dune scarp from Timmins Street to Memorial Drive on the shore of Lake Nipissing showing that these dunes exist!
There is a report - " Coastal dunes of Ontario: distribution and geomorphology by Peter Martini. and from it comes the following showing the drift and coastal areas in Ontario
for some reason North Bay's Nipissing Great Lakes' dunes and beaches were not included nor does there seem to be in any documentation. There is very litte mentioned about them in the Quatenary Geology of North Bay Mattawa or it's -1971 map.
Are these ANSIs (Nipissing Great Lakes Dunes) completely unknown to all the the Ontario ministries? Why?
from that report's Figure 8 shows the Wasaga Beach's main dune set back from the Huron Coast 3.7 to 4 kilometres:
and here is an NTS 31L06 plan view with 200 meter contour in red dots which when comapared with current Lake Nipissing's summer water level held at 196 metres gives indication of the steepness of those dune's scarps
have been created at about the same time,
that heights above surrounding land (measured with my car's GPS and NTS mapping) are similar if isostatic rebound it taken into consideration.
that both were created in in similar manner (process of longshore transport)
although the material for North Bay was transported 16 kilometres from an ancient delta where the Wasaga dunes have the Notawasage river ran along the back of that dune crossing the bottom of it and then having the river running up north of this dune to directly forming the foreshore of Lake Huron.
The Wasaga Beach dune is 3.7 km from Lake Huron and shows the effects of the land rebound (beach ridges, traverse dunes, spit) between it and Lake Hueon.
Wasaga Beach's large dune is well known and only 3.7 km from the coast of Lake Huron?
North Bay's large dune is right on the coast of the Nipissing Great Lakes (coincident with Lake Nipissing's coast) and due to isostatic rebound and that hasn't changed for at least 2,500 years.
But there was a mystery for me -- why were those North Bay dunes still here?
Glacio-fluvial materials when hit with moving water(current, waves, etc.) almost always go to their normal repose of about 1:10 or flatter but these haven't except in some places where this seemed to have happened (see blowouts further on -- I checked all those areas where this was shown on 1916 plans for gravel, till, etc. and there were no indication of anything that kept those dunes in place.
So once I correctly knew what the strange grass that grows on these dunes was I began to think the main reason why these glacio-fluvial dune faces did not go to their normal repose when constantly hit by the massive waves of the Nipissing Great Lakes was/is probably because of the unique properties of
Marram Grass (Ammophila breviligulata) without it the dunes would have been reduced as expected.
When sand covers these grasses to the first leave branch that stock grows another set of roots on each of the branches (rhizomes) and this just keeps going with all the rhizomes multiplying -- just like in the picture above. The extremely high water of 2017 completely undermined and removed the sand of a couple of Marram Grass clumps beside our rock and they have survived but the dense cluster of roots, rhixomes and stalks is unbelievable.
I must admit that since 1963 I mistook the primary vegetation that grew on these steep slopes that has been holding that sand in place for a type of sedge It grew over our property and I killed it to get a lawn.
It wasn't until last September last year(2017) on reading a natural history of the Great Lakes that I finally recognized marram grass for what it was, how it kept sand dunes in place and how it only grew on the foreshores of the Great Lakes and the North American shores of the Atlantic.
I came home and needed somebody with more qualifications that I to confirm this. So I asked Martha Gould, a very knowledgeable and well connected woman (she and her husband are connected to Nipissing University) and frequent walker of this path, asking her if she or her husband could recommend an expert botanist.
I then took a picture of her and one of the bigger marram grass patches (50 m. south of the mouth of 10th Street storm sewer outlet) with the hope that we could interest some qualified expert about my assumption.
Note the City's tractor and mower tracks - makes one wonder if the City is trying to erase the Marram grass.
This was sent by email to all the experts we could think of and Fred Pinto (retired MNR scientist) came down, confirmed my assumption and giving us much more information.
Here is a modern google earth image of North Bay, it's wave cut dunes, and the location of remaining patches of Marram Grass.
click for a pdf
Mr. Pinto asked me if I had any other older images of these dune scarps along with indications of Marram Grass being here for a long time.
To substantiate this I have gathered the following:
the image below is a stitching of the last 2 pages of 1916 North Bay Waterfront map produced by the Federal Public Works which plainly shows the extent of the dunes and beaches back then it also shows four places where there have been land failures:
immediately after the Federal Government had installed the French River dams (raising the ice free water levels a little over 2 metres (which they have maintained this last 102 years) and installed the current Government Dock (was completely on piles to allow longshore drift to continue unheeded.) But in 1984 this same government closed up this structure, installed the waterfront marina thus forming this compound into a groyne. They are now finding out what a big mistake this was (perhaps the Federal government knew and gave this complex to the City of North Bay who accepted it.)
- My recent studies (since discovering the identity and properties of Marram Grass) uncovered what seems to be a common occurance on sand dunes -- Blowouts
I have had these maps for decades now and often wondered what/why those land slips were, between Lake Street and Memorial Drive were.
I now suspect that those land failures were blowouts that happened when marram grass was killed off by civilization.
I stitched (page 4&5) of that map below indicates there were four of these failures within a kilometre more than a hundred years ago.
One blowout was under where Harbourside condo is now
it is going to is going to look weird if the lawn slips away but that building is well supported by pilings driven to refusal. Here is an oblique view (mid 1980s) showing what the dune area in front of Harbourside looked like back then;
The petroleum people (pre condo) and the marram grass kept the brush away and as can be seen the dune face was covered with Marram Grass then but is now being crowded out by a number of flower beds and tall weeds. I am wondering what will happen when the roots of the Marram are gone.
Will the lawns might disappear down onto and below the path? I and another fellow have noted that the sand runs over the path rains but not in a number of areas where marram grass grows all the way up to the crest of the dune but this grass is in serious competition with weeds and shrubs probably because of fertilization, weed killer spray and constant watering.
The next blowout is where the OVR main line (and old CPR spurs) ran along the crest of the dune.
The CPR was lucky that the vibration didn't trigger a blowout when this was the main CPR line with much, much heavier loads.
there is one major blowout or a natural creek right in the middle of the Kenroc area along with another on it's west boundary. I have be told (anecdotal evidence) from 2 former workers that a major creek ran right through the basement of their main building, however, I have been unable to find evidence of this even in low water. Here might be an explanation -- a clipping of North Bay's 1883 lagal plan which I georeferenced to OBM's Lots and Concessions data shows a marsh and creek in this area.
click for pdf
In cleaning the beaches the City has been dumping the sand in a wetland for quite a number of years now -- This killed a lot of wetland vegetation - cattails, blue flag, forget-me-nots, marsh marigold, etc. This could cause problems in the future.
click for a pdf (5 pages of the above)
covering from from Lake St. to First Rocky.
In the mid 1980's, the CPR sold this land to the City of North Bay
and now the area with the dune crest along with the pedestrian walkway and Lake Nipissing shore is public land with a current zoning and official plan showing that it is OS (Open Space or Park)
click for a pdf
Further in 1987 the City of North Bay passed a by-law 41-87 stating that "A pedestrian walkway shall be provided and maintained" and two years ago they confirmed this.
Here is an annotated air photo that shows what this area from Timmins to Foran street looked like in 1958
click for pdf
This is Discovery museum photo (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?)
to the left over the children's heads is where the main dune shows up - Kenroc had put extensive rubble and rock to keep their buildings from sliding into the lake.
I assume this happened because they had trampled and/or killed the Marram Grass.
This is another Discovery Museum shot of the 1916 dock (it can be seen that it is built on piles)
This had to be taken from the crest of the dune this shows the steepness of the slope (appears to 45 degrees) and narrowness of the shoreline (waggons for teams are less than 6'/2m wide). This had to have been taken from the Kenroc area. Note the lack of trees and what had to be marran grass on that 1-1.5 slope.
Here is a 1929 oblique air photo looking at the dock from out over the lake
you will notice sand is being held with grasses or brush and not many trees
and finally one looking to the north showing dunes and very wide beaches again lots of sand - few trees.
In October and part of November I took shots of this marram grass then the snow happened. I haven't as yet built a slide show but will if requested.
On March 20 I became amazed at this grasses 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.
Now the snow is really melting on these dune scarps and the foreshore so after Easter weekend I am willing to guide of or accompany anybody to show and discuss these dunes and relic clumps of Marram Grass as these grasses grow up 47cm / month.
From First Rocky (where another dune exists - because of build up due to the rock outcrop) southerly to the La Vase River the complex becomes much lower 198m elevation the start of heavy shoaling and current Lake Nipissing Beaches. Following is what that might look like between high (when most of this drift occurs) and low water levels when there is little longshore drift. This is what those beaches looked like when I was a young man.
I expect that anyone who has swam off of West Ferris's beaches will recognize these landforms.
The entire shoreline of the City of North bay is actually Great Lakes Heritage Coast that was frozen in time circa 2,500 years ago - according to the Lumbers North Bay Parry Sound Geology report R094
In the Ontario Crown Land Policy Atlas and addition to the French River Provincial Park (P110) the Ontario government deemed that all Crown Land of Lake Nipissing South Shore from the mouth of the South River to the mouth of the French River is Great Lakes Heritage Coast Signature Site
click for full pdf
It follow that there can not be any doubt that this landform of North Bay Dunes and Beaches is an ancient Great Lakes Coast but unlike the south shore of Lake Nipissing and the Islands of the French River the base of that ancient shoreline which can be accessed by vehicle at either end and even experienced the same as by walking the 0.9 kilometre natural pedestrian walkway that follows it! In all, these features are
much older than the Pyramids of Egypt!
Following is a late 1980s clipping of an MTO photo which I included because the pedestrian walkway and Nipissing Great Lakes Heritage Coast show up so clearly.
the reason remnants of this grass are found on North Bay's (and, I suspect, part Nipissing I.R. #10's shoreline) is that the northwestern shores of Lake Nipissing (from Beaucage Point to La Vase River) are actually part of the Great Lakes Heritage Coast Signature Site.)
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 rhizomes 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 grasses can not take fertilizers, shade from brush/trees/other vegetation and don't react well to be stomped on.
this grass that has created dunes and beaches, 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 of existance.
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:)
Because this grass only grows inland on the fore-shores of the coast lines of the Great Lakes. Means that these dunes and the beaches on Lake Nipissing northern shores must be relics of the Nipissing Great Lakes Coast - 110 kilometres or more away from Lake Huron's Georgian Bay current coast!
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.)
My conclusion is that all the shore area from Beaucage Point to the Mouth of the La Vase River is Great Lakes Heritage Coast Line.
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 maintained the beaches.
over that 2,400 years much of of these earlier shorelines would have overgrown with various vegetation
As a silent witness 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 -
Obviously these beaches impressed him then and are testament to these beaches being maintained naturally.
"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."
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!