Scenic Caves – a million years in the making

Eco adventure tours caves, caverns, crevassesScenic Caves Nature Adventures is part of The Niagara Escarpment, one of Southern Ontario’s most prominent and beautiful geographic features. The Niagara Escarpment stretches 725 kilometers/435 miles from the Niagara Falls area to Tobermory.  It is a massive ridge of fossil rich sedimentary rock, which began its formation 450 million years ago as the outer rim of a shallow sea known geologically as the Michigan Basin.

The Blue Mountains, the highest part of the Niagara Escarpment (250 metres/1,000 feet above Georgian Bay) was created by ice movement in the glacier age.  At one time in history, the whole area was under water (salt) – a tropical environment teaming with coral reefs and sealife.  This fact is proven by the many different fossils found in the rocks at the top of the mountain.  There are many limestone rock formations along this ridge of the escarpment, the best known being the Scenic Caves.  The caves, caverns and fissures were created over millions of years by blocks of dolomite limestone easing away from the main mass of the Escarpment.  This shifting was caused by the settling of softer underlying shale and by the disturbance of the shale during the advance and retreat of glaciers.

Brief History of Scenic Caves

Exploring Caves, Caverns + Crevasses450 million years B.C. (the Ordovician era):
The Michigan Sea was teeming with ancient life. Over time, the shells of tiny creatures settled to the bottom, joining sediment brought by rivers, and forming layers of sand, clay and calcium carbonate.

Over millions of years, pressure, heat and chemical reactions turned the sedimentary layers to stone. Sand became sandstone. Clay became shale. Calcium carbonate became limestone.

250 million years B.C.:
The Sea retreated and the Escarpment began its slow rise from the Earth. A layer of hard dolostone toped softer layers of limestone, shale and sandstone. Over millions of years, the softer lower layers eroded, while the tough upper layer resisted, protecting the layer below it.

About 10,000-20,000 years ago:
Over time, after the last glacial ice age, weathering and ancient waves shaped the caves and sculpted rocky outcrops along the towering cliffs.

Type of Caves

Exploring caves, caverns, crevassesThere are many different types of caves:  erosive, solutional, glacial, primary, sea, fracture, etc.

According to experts: “The Scenic Caves at Collingwood are excellent examples of fissure caves. These occur in the narrow gaps that form between large blocks of rock as they move downslope from the top of the Niagara Escarpment. Fissure caves have been also called ‘neotectonic caves’ because their formation depends on the presence of joints (deep cracks) in the dolostone cap rock of the Niagara Escarpment. Joints are the product of modern day stresses created by the slow drift of the North American plate westward over Earth’s mantle. The word ‘neotectonic’ means ‘new tectonics’ in recognition that stresses are active.”

Thus, Scenic Caves is best described as a series of chambers, with sculptured cliffs, overhanging rocks, boulders, tight passageways and jig-saw puzzle fractures.

Unique to Scenic Caves

Of the eighteen points of interest, here are a few examples of caves unique to Scenic Caves.

Ice CaveRefrigerator Cave
A natural refrigerator which even in the summer it remains approximately 4 degrees C.

Council Chamber
This is a flowerpot formation.  It is an unsupported rock which created a natural security for the Petun chiefs to hold council meetings.  It is said they used a log to cross over to insure privacy.

Ekarenniondi Rock
The Ekarenniondi rock had and still has tremendous spiritual means for the first nations people.  Ekarenniondi means ‘standing rock’ and ‘a rock, which stands out’.

Fat Man’s Misery
A crevasse which is apprBoy squeezed through Fat Man's Misery Caveoximately 14 inches at its narrowest.

Fern Cavern
Made of limestone, the water would get into the small cracks and freeze and break the rock apart because water expands when it freezes.  Over millions of years the two sides of the caverns were pulled apart by the retreating glaciers.  The caves look like they fit together perfectly, like a big jigsaw puzzle.

Preachers Pulpit
10 million years ago after the Glacial age, the right wall (limestone) separated from the black left wall (iron oxide).

Native Chief
Natural rock formation resembling the head of an Native Chief.

Scenic Caves Today

Fern CavePrivately owned & operated by the Thorburn family since 1993.  Owner Rob Thorburn is a visionary with a keen interest in preserving the natural, environmental, and historical signi
ficance of this important site on the Niagara Escarpment.

He has developed the historic attraction from a single use entity to three successful year-round businesses, including Scenic Caves Nature Adventures, Scenic Caves Eco Adventure Tours and Scenic Caves Nordic Adventures.

Some Cave Resources

Caves of Ontario
Caving Canada
Caves- National Geographic
Fun cave facts for Kids

Ekarenniondi, famous Standing Rock