LOCKPORT, NEW YORK (August 6, 2015) — It holds one of the strongest river currents in the world, the gorge of the Niagara River below Niagara Falls. That tremendous flow has cut a deep canyon through the Silurian rocks of the region, providing a superb opportunity for geologists to see the local stratigraphy and paleontology. Today our team walked into the gorge from Lewiston, New York, to explore the section. Carl Brett was our guide. Above is a view of the gorge at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge that joins the USA on the right with Canada on the left. The forests are plenty dense, but there are rocks in those steep walls.
We hiked along the Gorge Trail on the USA side upriver from Lewiston. The trail is actually an old road built for transport of construction materials used for the hydroelectric dams upriver.
We learned most of the geological context by examining fallen blocks along the trail. This was an interesting way to see the stratigraphy because the different formations dropped blocks randomly along the path.
I tried to get a surreptitious picture of my German colleague Andrej Ernst.
The Grimsby Formation (Lower Silurian, Llandoverian) is a sandstone that has numerous sedimentary structures, including nice cross-sets.
Andrej found this nice specimen of an enigmatic feature called Kinneyia. It may be a function of gas build-up underneath microbial mats on the ancient seafloor. I’ve always called it “elephant skin”.
A view of the gorge wall above us.
When the trail reached the Rochester Shale, we spent some time searching it for fossils. The most common finds were cystoids (especially Caryocrinites) and the odd coronoid Stephanocrinus.
Andrej Ernst and Carl Brett on the Rochester Shale outcrop in the Niagara Gorge. Andrej noted many neglected bryozoans in the fossil fauna exposed here.
Our final stop was opposite the Sir Adam Beck Hydroelectric Generating Stations built on the Canadian side of the gorge. It is an awesome feat of engineering, and a prodigious amount of concrete.
We had an excellent time in the Niagara Gorge. I was at last able to see some of the nuances of Silurian stratigraphy that Carl Brett was explaining. As you can see, the weather was ideal.
We said goodbye to Carl at the end of the day as he departed for fieldwork in nearby southern Ontario.