The Niagara Gorge As A Chronometer -- By: G. Frederick Wright

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 041:162 (Apr 1884)
Article: The Niagara Gorge As A Chronometer
Author: G. Frederick Wright


The Niagara Gorge As A Chronometer

G. Frederick Wright

The supposed great antiquity of the lower portions of the Niagara gorge has been one of the chief difficulties in the way of accepting a moderate date for the close of the glacial period. And, as there is a pretty general belief among anthropologists that man appeared before the glacial period closed, the age of the gorge below Niagara Falls connects itself directly with questions of human chronology, and hence becomes, even in the strictest interpretation of the word, a sacred subject; and its discussion will therefore rightly find a place in the Bibliotheca Sacra. During several years past a great mass of facts have accumulated concerning the glacial period which have not been brought within range of common apprehension, and which give an entirely new phase to the current. ideas about the drainage of the great lake basins. Having recently, in the light of these facts, been led to study the Niagara gorge on the ground in person, I will briefly present the conclusions which probably now must be accepted.

The situation will readily be understood by reference to the accompanying plate. From Queenston to Lake Ontario the Niagara River flows through a level country whose surface is but slightly elevated above the water level. At Queenston the level of the land suddenly rises, by a perpendicular escarpment, from two hundred and fifty to three hundred feet, and maintains this general height to the shores of Lake Erie. The line of the escarpment both east and west is seen in the plate. From the falls to Queenston —a distance of about seven miles — the river flows at the bottom

of a gorge which has been formed by the recession of the waterfall. Just below the present cataract, at the new suspension bridge, this gorge is thirteen hundred feet wide, At the railroad bridge, a mile and a half below, the gorge is but eight hundred feet wide, and continues at about that width through the remaining distance, though at places it is even narrower. Throughout the whole distance the sides of

the gorge are perpendicular, and two hundred or more feet in height. On the west side, however, at the whirlpool, there is a remarkable break in the continuity of the gorge. Here, as will be seen by reference to the plate, the face of the wall is penetrated by a circular excavation about fifteen hundred feet in diameter, into which the whole volume of the water pours, and whirls around tumultuously before making its exit through the gorge to the north.

The western side of the whirlpool is not bou...

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