Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Homeland ...


How placid we can become with our surroundings and ordinary circumstances!

Yes, I love Burlington for its geographical location.
Living adjacent to the western tip of Lake Ontario and Burlington Bay,
(home to Hamilton's Harbour), this is not the Rocky Mountains
nor is it the expansive broad prairies
nor the maritime seacoast!
Nevertheless, very scenic with its rock outcropping of cliffs,
waterways, trees, forests and waterfalls.

My home is The Golden Horseshoe, which extends from the Town of Oakville
(actually city-size) east of me, also along the Lake, to Burlington, and around
the western tip of Lake Ontario to Hamilton and south through municipalities along the QEW (Queen Elizabeth Way) to Niagara Falls. This area is rich in culture, geography and notably significant through the Niagara Peninsula 
for its extensive vineyards and wineries.

In my blog profile, I wrote know me, is to read my articles. 
I have lived in this “horseshoe” since 1958 when I began a teaching career in Hamilton.
         My Aunt Inez lived there.
         The Hamilton Tiger Cats (Canadian Football League) played there.
         Ships from the Great Lakes passed below the “lift bridge” into the Bay
         to reach Hamilton's industrial harbour.
         And...Hamilton had “a mountain” where my first teaching assignment 
         was a newly developed subdivision.

Since then, many changes have occurred. The Skyway Bridge was built, 
soaring high above the canal (used for entry from Lake Ontario to Burlington 
Bay to facilitate freighters and recreational water craft) without delaying road traffic. At first, a “toll bridge”, it now has a twin span, each 3 to 4 lanes to accommodate the traffic flow. Between Burlington and the “lift bridge” are wonderful sandy shores providing much recreation and relaxation...great summer picnic outings to build castles, to watch ocean-coming-and-going freighters, to watch water skiers, observe beach volley games and to sun-tan!

In the past 2 or 3 decades, I've discovered how wonderfully beautiful my homeland is. When a young couple immigrated from Buenos Aires, they were enthralled with Nature that so richly abounded here:
        The trees impressed them.
        The birds and water fowl along the Bay and Lake impressed them.
        The Royal Botanical Gardens impressed them.
        The outdoor cafes along the waterfront impressed them.
        Spencer Smith Park (a people gathering place for activities and events)
        along our Lake impressed them.
What they viewed...was worth a second look for me! “ Wake Up! Smell the Roses!
Appreciate Anew!” I told myself. And thus began my study and observations into
this unique area in my treasured corner of Southern Ontario.

The Niagara Escarpment a long escarpment (or cuesta) in the United States and Canada that runs westward from New York State, through Ontario, Michigan,Wisconsin and Illinois. The Escarpment is most famous as the cliff over which the Niagara River plunges at Niagara Falls, for which it is named.

The Niagara Escarpment is the most prominent of several escarpments 
formed in the bedrock of the Great Lakes basin. Near Rochester, New York, 
there are three waterfalls over the escarpment where the Genesee River flows...believe it is Letchworth State Park...(also known as “the Grand Canyon”
of the east)...absolutely gorgeous in autumn! The escarpment, thence runs westward to the Niagara River forming a deep gorge north of Niagara Falls,which itself cascades over the escarpment.

In southern Ontario, it spans the Niagara Peninsula, closely following the Lake Ontario shore through St. Catharines, Grimsby, Hamilton, Burlington where it takes a sharp turn north in the town of Milton toward Georgian Bay. It then follows the Georgian Bay shore north-westwards to form the spine of the Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island, as well as several smaller islands located in northern Lake Huron, where it turns westward into the Upper Peninsula
of northern Michigan, south of Sault Ste. Marie. It then extends southwards 
into Wisconsin.

Formation of Niagara Escarpment

The escarpment's caprock is dolomitic limestone and formed over millions
of years through a process of differential erosion of rocks of different hardnesses. Through time, the soft rocks weather away or erode by the action
of the streams. The erosional process is most readily seen at Niagara Falls, where the river has quickened the process.

The Niagara Escarpment in  Grimsby, Ontario (can be viewed from the QEW)
is 3500 feet above sea level. Hamilton, Ontario is situated on the escarpment
in such a way that the North end of the city is below and the South part above. Affectionately referred to as “The Mountain” by its residents, there are a 
number of roads or “mountain accesses” that join the urban core below
with the suburban expansion above. The view from “Hamilton Mountain” 
is spectacular...overlooking the city below, and a 180-degree-panorama
of Burlington Bay, the Skyway Bridge and Lift Bridge; beyond is Lake Ontario.

Human Geography

The Welland Canal, with several locks, allows ships to traverse the escarpment between Lake Erie (the higher elevation) and Lake Ontario (the lower elevation) due to the Falls on the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario. The escarpment was a major obstacle in the construction of the Erie Canal in New York State and 
was traversed by a series of locks; the community which grew up at the site 
thus became known as Lockport, New York.

In southern Ontario, the Bruce Trail runs the length of the escarpment from Queenston on the Niagara River to Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula...
a distance of 725 km in length. For hiking enthusiasts, the Bruce Trail is completed and can be entered and exited at various points. Highway 401, Canada's busiest, also crosses the Niagara Escarpment, beginning its long descent through rolling hills, farmland and towns west of Milton. Exposed 
rock can be seen in these areas.

Vineyard Land

On the Canadian side of the border, the Niagara Escarpment is a group-sub-appellation comprising the Short Hills Bench, the 20 Mile Bench and the Beamsville Bench. Numerous vineyards, open to the public, offer wine-tasting events, gift shops with a wide range of wines available for purchase. 
“Ice Wine” has become a delicacy of the Niagara Vineyards...and appraised around the world for its quality.

World Biosphere Reserve

In February 1990, the Niagara Escarpment was designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, making it one of 12 in Canada. Development and land use on and adjacent to the escarpment is regulated by the Niagara Escarpment Commission, an agency of the Ontario Government. It works on behalf of the people of Ontario to preserve the Niagara Escarpment as a continuous natural landscape...a vital corridor of green space through southern Ontario.

A landscape of rich biodiversity, home to hundreds of Ontario's Species
at Risk, vital watersheds, agricultural areas and a 450-million-year-old
geological history ... the Niagara Escarpment is a treasure to protect 
for future generations of Ontarians.

About the Niagara Escarpment

It is recognized as one of the world's unique natural wonders and is the
most prominent topographical feature in southern Ontario.

The landform is a largely forested ridge of fossil-rich sedimentary rock
(725 km in length). At its highest elevation, it soars 1625 feet above sea level.
It traverses the most heavily developed and densely populated region of Canada.

The Escarpment area encompasses a rich mosaic of forests, farms, recreation areas, scenic view, cliffs, streams, wetlands, rolling hills, waterfalls, mineral resources, wildlife habitats, historic sites, villages, towns and cities.

The Escarpment's vibrant ecosystems support 300 bird species, 36 reptiles 
and amphibians, 90 fish and 100 varieties of special interest flora including 
37 types of wild orchids.

Waterfalls of the Niagara Escarpment

Created by ancient seas, the Niagara Escarpment is essentially a cliff. 
Not surprisingly, it is responsible for numerous waterfalls of varied heights 
and volume.

In the Hamilton area including its surrounding suburbs are 142 waterfalls 
and cascades that have been found as of January 2011. Understandably, 
it has captured the title, “City of Waterfalls” ...several of these I have viewed. 
Tews me is the most spectacular as it plunges into a deep ravine...
about 25 minutes from my home. These waterfalls can be viewed on 
“Hamilton, the City of Waterfalls”.


It is said that there has been more change to the Niagara Escarpment during 
the past 100 years than in the previous 9000 years. As a result of the tremendous urban and recreational development of natural lands, people became more motivated to ensure access to green space where they could walk and reflect. People came together and built the Bruce Trail...Canada's oldest and longest continuous footpath...extending from Niagara to Tobermory at the northern tip 
of the Bruce Peninsula (725 km).


When my WWII Veteran friend came to visit, he was visibly...emotionally
“in love” with this corner of a Canada he'd not previously seen. Through
his eyes, I realized that an artist could never fully paint the panorama!

... the daytime vista as one descends from the escarpment...
    from Hamilton Mountain, from Ancaster in the west and from
    points north of the city into Burlington
...the night time views approaching the sparkling fairylands
...the Conservation areas protecting wildlife including the African Safari
...the ships travelling from abroad....approaching at dusk to enter the 
   harbour, appearing like a slow-moving city all a-lit

I Introduced him to Burlington ... a population of about 165,000 residents.
...the impressive homes along Lakeshore Road.
...the lower city and its rising elevation to its extensive residential and
   commercial areas.
...a daytime drive to Rattlesnake Point with overviews of the broad valley,
   the city and the lake; shoreline views to Oakville and Toronto (on a clear 
   day the CN Tower on Toronto's waterfront can be seen)
...winding country roads and golf courses with scenes of rock-faces and
   Cedar Springs as it babbles and tumbles over stones
...a drive to Greensville where the dramatic Tews Falls is located. hot humid July afternoon, parking below shade trees...a pastoral view
   through weeping willow trees which framed the Bay, the Skyway Bridge
   and sailboats as they slowly glided along the rippled water.
...a few hours at the Royal Botanical Gardens with its magnificent displays

Lake Ontario is a scene unparalleled...the serenity of its ocean-like water;
the cruel waves that in stormy weather bash its shores; the curving
shoreline as it extends toward Niagara; the stunning ice-scaped sculptures 
along the frozen waters' edge; the knowledge that  the 5 Great Lakes (which includes Lake Ontario) account for 1/5th of the world's fresh water!


Over the decades, I have learned ~ Life is what you are faced with.
                                                          Life is how you deal with it.
                                                          Life is what you contribute to
                                                          ...and glean from!

Life to me is Golden ... in this beautious Horseshoe!

Pearl of Wisdom”
Living on Earth is expensive
but it does include a free trip
around the sun every year.

Merle Baird-Kerr . . . written January 21, 2012
Comments Welcome ... scroll down (may sign in as “anonymous”)
or e-mail


  1. Merle,

    This is an amazing document you have put together to describe our beautiful area in which we live. Thank you so much for calling attention to all its Wonders...
    Sherrie & Al

    The "Horseshoe" part of the region's name is derived from the characteristic horseshoe shape of the west end of Lake Ontario with Burlington roughly positioned in the centre. The "golden" part is historically attributed to the region's wealth and prosperity, according to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary.

    1. Dear Sherrie and Al...
      So easy to "become blase", isn't it?
      Life is to enjoy in All Forms!
      Often we are "too busy to see"!
      I appreciate your added comment about
      "the Golden" part of the Horseshoe.
      How Blessed We Are!
      Thanks for your personal interest.

  2. Beautiful!!!! Merle, you should publish this article for School Kids - so full of history. It sure is to me - didn't know so much about Hamilton & Burling - being here for now nearly year and a half.


    1. Love your recommendation, Pary.
      It is significant to note the Beauty of Nature
      that is given to us...even as you sit and read
      at your favourite spot in Spencer Smith Park.
      People need to recognize the Historical and
      Geographical value of The Escarpment!

  3. The wonderful visits to the Golden Horseshoe
    are vividly in my memory.
    I will really enjoy them to the
    Core of my Being, during my 90th
    Free Trip This Year.
    Great Post, Escarpment Extraordinaire.

    1. It was definitely my pleasure to introduce you to
      My Homeland. It impressed me, that you were so
      visibly impressed! Thank You Sol for your praising
      commendation about this article.
      Shall anticipate your next visit.