A Trail Guide Companion “Natural and Human History”
Ordovician Period (Marker 1)
488—434 Ma (millions of years ago)
More than 400 million years ago, during what is called the Ordovician Period in Earth’s history, most of North America was beneath a shallow sea, and was located much closer to the equator. While animal life was just beginning to venture onto land, a variety of sea creatures inhabited the oceans and seas, including the sea covering this area. As sea life died, it was buried and preserved beneath sediment, leaving behind their fossils for us to find today. While most creatures from the Ordovician Period went extinct many millions of years ago, some very close relatives remain in today’s oceans. These include corals similar to those fossilized in this limestone plateau.
While the shells and bones of some sea creatures were fossilized and preserved for us to see, others decomposed and dissolved. The minerals and organic materials that remained settled to the bottom. Over time chemical reactions, heat and pressure combined to produce the limestone bedrock beneath us.
Up onto the overburden
The soil and other materials sitting above the bedrock is known as overburden. As you ascend the rocks at the beginning of the Orange Trail, you can see what lies beneath the soil and witness the transition from the limestone tablet to the collection of organic soil material. The soil here is made up of decomposed organic material from plants and animals that came before. The large limestone rocks that you see on the hill have broken free from the parent limestone sheet. These rocks slowly break down smaller and smaller and eventually become part of the soil. Breaks in the limestone tablet shift the earth and create hills such as these. The rocks beneath the soil provide anchors for the large trees and plants that grow in this field.
Grazing Land and Forest Regeneration (Marker 2)
Mid 19th—Early 20th Century
Dummer Township (and its then-neighbour Douro Township; the two have since been amalgamated) was first opened to colonial settlement in 1821, though it would be some years before a significant number of settlers occupied the area.
In 1871, Samuel Bryson purchased about 300 acres north of what is now Camp Kawartha. He and his wife, Amelia Harvey, maintained a farm on Clear Lake at what is now called Bryson’s Bay and over time acquired adjacent lots of land for grazing animals. Much of what is now Camp Kawartha was once home to cattle.
Considerable work went into clearing the area through which you now travel. Since the departure of cattle from the property, vegetation has begun to reclaim the land. Notice the types of grasses and plants that are growing here. There are a few small trees and many juniper bushes. Juniper, sedge, grasses and wildflowers are among the first plants to thrive after a field has been cleared. These plants grow easily in open areas, without a lot of shade. After enough time has passed more trees and shrubs will return in a process known as “succession.” Aerial photographs included under trail marker #5 can give you a sense of how quickly the area is reclaimed by trees and shrubs.
Take a close look at these hardy sharp-needled plants called Juniper Bushes. The juniper is one of the primary players in a regenerating field. These plants are among the first colonizers to thrive after a field has been cleared. Sun loving plants tolerant of shallow soils such as juniper can grow very large and dense in open fields.
Juniper bushes and their berries (which are not true berries but rather an unusually fleshy seed cone) have been used around the world for their food and medicinal values. It has reportedly been used for its antiseptic properties, as a treatment for urinary tract infections, poor appetite and indigestion, and bone-joint difficulties. Inhaling the steam from boiled berries will help improve breathing for those suffering from respiratory problems. Its primary food use is as a seasoning; the boughs can be steeped for 5-10 minutes to make tea, and unripe berries are used to flavour gin and other spirits.
Indigenous peoples that inhabited this area many years ago used the berries as beads.
In large enough doses, Juniper can cause renal irritation and affect blood-sugar levels. It should not be ingested by those with kidney problems, diabetes, or those who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breast-feeding.
Bluebirds (Marker 3)
Throughout the property, you will notice small boxes posted to trees, stumps, or poles placed here by students and Boy Scouts to encourage the return of the local Eastern Bluebird population. While the North American population remains strong, bluebirds have not been observed here during the past several years.
Because bluebirds prefer to live in open areas, their population benefited from forest clearing during early European settlement of North America. As a result early 20th century populations may have been the highest in the last 11,000 years.
During the 20th and 21st centuries, Eastern Bluebirds have faced multiple threats including predation from cats, pesticide use, and habitat loss. Of particular concern is competition with introduced bird species like European Starlings and House Sparrows. Since the 1960s, bird boxes have been an alternative nesting location, reducing the negative impacts of competition.
Other species using the bird boxes include House Wrens and Tree Swallows.
We invite you to use the lookout platform ahead to comfortably observe birds and other wildlife.
Last Glacial Period (“The Ice Age”) (Marker 4)
110,000—12,000 years ago
For much of the last 100,000 years this area sat beneath ice several kilometres thick, the Laurentide Ice Sheet. For tens of thousands of years, the Laurentide remained in equilibrium — the amount of snow and ice that melted and calved from its edges roughly equaled the amount of new snow falling on the sheet. Heavy snowfall far from the edge accumulated and eventually became so heavy that it pushed older ice out toward the edges. This replacement maintained the sheet’s mass and extent. The weight of the ice was so great that the lowest layers were under such great pressure they turned back into liquid water, allowing the ice to move easily over the landscape. As the ice sheet moved, it scraped along the surface, removing much of the soil and vegetation from the surface leaving bare bedrock, and reshaping the land beneath.
By the time the glacier had retreated from this area around 10,000 years ago, what remained was bare, broken limestone bedrock covered by a thin layer of rocks, soil and organic material deposited from the melting glacier front.
Keep your eyes open for large cracks in the stone. These cracks are called grykes. Known as “nature’s compass” these fissures most often run in a north-south direction. They also provide holes for organic material to collect. Notice the plants and even trees growing directly inside the grykes. Some cracks and breaks in the bedrock are the result of pressure from massive sheets of glacial ice. Grykes are formed over long periods of time by running water and mildly acidic decaying organic material eroding weak spots in the limestone. They are typically 0.5-0.8m wide and can be up to several metres deep.
Early Camp Kawartha (Marker 5)
In the fall of 1921, the Peterborough Rotary Club purchased an 11 acre camp site on the shore of Clear Lake. While the property was considerably smaller than the 186 acres that makes up today’s Camp Kawartha, it was then situated in the middle of a 600 acre cattle ranch described in a 1929 brochure as “a wonderful play ground.” The Peterborough YMCA, who had in earlier summers been camping at Sandy Point across the lake, were the first group to stay at the site. Their group of 52 boys stayed for two weeks. The only buildings on site were a 70 m2 commissary and cookhouse, a 25 m2 caretaker’s cottage, and a 175 m2 combined bunkhouse and mess hall.
While the camp may have been technically accessible by both road and water when it opened, nearly everybody arrived by steamer from Young’s Point or Kawartha Park. Initially the road to camp was no more than a cowpath cleared of the worst rocks in its path. Then passable by motor car or small truck, what remains of that first road to camp is today known as the Blue Trail. Presumably in honour of the camp’s initiator Claude Rogers, the route was known locally as the Rogers Highway.
Rogers was a decorated Captain in the Royal Canadian Engineers during World War One and Senior Partner and Manager of the Peterborough Canoe Company until his death in 1951. An early member of the Peterborough Rotary Club, he was among those responsible for purchasing the camp site and making it available to groups including the YMCA, the Holy Name Society, the Mentor Society, and groups of underprivileged boys under the care of the Rotarians.
In the 1950s the YMCA assumed full control of the camp. They would continue to operate it until 1982 when the camp closed due to financial pressures. By this time the camp was accessible by road year-round; when Camp Kawartha Incorporated was established in 1985 and the camp reopened it did so both as a summer camp and a year-round outdoor education centre.
Glacial Erratic Rock (Marker 6)
12,000 years ago
Erratic rocks are those which have been carried by glaciers and deposited as the ice melted, sometimes across vast distances. They often stand out due to their size or composition. While this erratic is as big as a large truck, weathering and the freeze-thaw cycle is slowly sloughing away chunks of the rock One day far into the future, thanks to the action of wind, rain, ice and water, this enormous rock will be worn down into grains of fertile soil.
Indigenous Shelters (Marker 7)
NO FIRES IN THIS AREA The buildings here are flammable.
The story of this land is very long and has many characters. The Kawartha area has a rich aboriginal history. The Mississauga Ojibway (Anishinaabe) have lived in this area for centuries. They harvested materials close at hand to create durable shelters. Here you will see several traditional structures constructed by Camp Kawartha staff and volunteers.
The wickiup—also known as a wigwam—is a housing structure, built entirely from materials of the forest. The outer skin of the two wickiups here are made of layered birch bark and cattails, making the structures waterproof. The inner skeleton or frame of the buildings are made from quaking aspen (poplar) poles bent to the desired shape. They can be built in either a conical or domed shape.
First Nation’s women were in charge of the construction and maintenance of these shelters. They were a semi-nomadic people and as such moved about the land freely. They needed to be able to take down and build up their shelters as required. The covering would be transported as each village moved about in search of food.
The Ancestors of this land
Archeological evidence shows us that people existed on the North American continent 16,500—13,000 years ago. Although at the time of European colonization they did not use metal tools, they did have advanced societal characteristics. The tribes were usually controlled by a chief and council, and had complex governmental structures. They traded back and forth to acquire goods, with goods sometimes travelling hundreds of kilometres. All of their items such as arrow heads, carrying bags, footwear, and clothing were derived from natural sources. For example, most of the clothing was created from tanned hides of the game that they hunted. Arrow heads were fashioned from stone. Beautiful pottery was fashioned from clay harvested from deposits found along rivers and lakes. First Nations people as a whole existed in a far more symbiotic relationship with the land and nature than is typical today.
Tipi (Marker 8)
This large First Nations Tipi (or tepee, teepee) is impressive even by today’s standards. This structure was an easily erected and durable place for people to live. It was a type of construction used by the Plains Indians of Midwestern Canada. Techniques for building were shared among various cultures. The tipi eventually moved eastward from it’s origins. The tipi was easily taken down or built up so it was good for traveling and fairly light weight. The original tipis would have used hides for the outer skin, however, Camp Kawartha has used a canvas material for durability. The interior of this particular tipi could house a great many people. Foods could be cooked or hides cured within the teepee. Step inside and marvel at the size of this structure.
Hunting & Gathering
First Nation’s people were semi-nomadic, meaning that they moved about but could set up communities for days, weeks or months if required. The diets of these tribes depended entirely on what was available at the current location. They might move from a good hunting area to a good berry picking area. This is why the buildings they constructed were so easily dismantled and reassembled. When the clans decided to move locations they were extremely organized and could cover great distances in a short period of time.
Modern Camp Kawartha (Marker 9)
Periods under shallow tropical seas and millennia beneath kilometre-thick ice gave way to centuries of semi-nomadic inhabitation by the First Nations. European settlement led to the clearing of large swaths of forest providing food and resources for our region, while dramatically altering local ecosystems.
The last half-century has seen substantial re-naturalization but the area is far from devoid of human activity. Games, lessons and activities take place throughout the property during both the Summer Camp and Outdoor Education seasons. The Yellow Trail ahead is a popular location for Night Hikes and the space outside the tipi is frequently used for teaching traditional skills. An area was re-cleared of juniper bushes to make room for an archery range, and the game area through which the trail passed is sometimes populated by more than 100 children playing the roles of herbivore, omnivore and carnivore in the Camp’s traditional game of Survival. Finally, our system of trails and campsites offer children and adults alike the opportunity to explore and learn about the natural world.
It is our hope that you enjoyed your experience. Please be sure to communicate any maintenance issues to our staff. The end of the trail is 140 metres ahead.