On Saturday, October 19, 2013, over 100 people met at Hubert McClelland's pasture just off St Andrew's Road in Cantley. Many had heard that "The Cantley Quarry" is significant and internationally famous among geologists... and they came to hear why.
Hubert gave a brief history of his farmland and what the "quarry" once looked like (a high gravel hill and pasture for his family's cattle until 1954) as he lead us on a hike across his pasture to the summit above the quarry... and a magnificent view of its unusual and amazing cliffs. Some agreed that "Cantley's Sculpted Rock Formations" is a much more appropriate name than "Quarry".
Once at the site, Dr David Sharpe, a research scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada, was our guide. Based on his forty years experience of conducting geological studies across Canada, he told us that this is a most significant geological site: "The sculpted rocks at Cantley provide evidence for a revolutionary idea that extensive rock erosion forms were caused by large floods during glacial times." In 1987, when 100 scientists from around the world visited this site, Dr Sharpe was inspired to write a science paper on Cantley's sculpted rocks for the prestigious journal "Bulletin of the Geological Society of America" (1989)... and, in 2007, a field guide for students to study the rocks here. Each year, geology professors bring their students here to study our "quarry".
As we climbed around the many unique rock formations, Dr Sharpe showed clues, both large and small, which tell stories of how this area was eroded and created. He pointed out that the clay cliff bordering the sculpted rocks, contains fossils and sea shells from the pre-historic Champlain Sea. He demonstrated the theory that there was tremendous turbulent and forceful flooding below the ice which sculpted these rocks into their unique features.
Dr Sharpe emphasized this site is not only valuable geologically, but has equally important aesthetic qualities. He invited artist Juliana McDonald, who has created paintings inspired by these rocks, to talk about the site from the artist's point of view.
Many of the attendees expressed their opinion that this site should be designated as a protected area - a geological heritage site. In the 1990's there was a proposal made about this but, as yet, nothing protects these fragile rocks and clay banks from dumping and defacing. Several people suggested the base of the site should be cleaned of recent debris and protected, and developed as a geological park (one suggestion - with a botanical garden)... as a major tourist attraction.
Dr Sharpe's fascinating and easily-understood tour of this significant place helped everyone understand the creation of this unique site, as well as its awesome beauty! Many thanks to him for guiding us on this visit to such an important, and relatively unknown, part of Cantley's natural heritage.