Module 1

Overview of the Georgian Bay and the Case for Geoconservation


  • Locate major land features of the Georgian Bay.
  • Describe the basic geological structure of the Bay and how it relates to major physiographic and ecological divisions.
  • Outline why the Georgian Bay is worthy of geoconservation.

  • Key terms: geodiversity, geologic provinces, physiology, archipelago, escarpment, Group of Seven, ANSI, Precambrian, crust giga-annum, ecotourism, geoconservation.
Part One

Overview of Georgian Bay

In many ways, the Georgian Bay is the playground of southern Ontario. Being only about 2 hours from Toronto at its closest point, it is the perfect place for short weekend getaways, and also longer cottage vacations centered around the exploration of this supernatural landscape. In particular, visitors take part in numerous recreational activities like pleasure crafting, beach-going, canoeing, hiking, camping, RVing, painting, rock-climbing, scuba diving, and skiing.

The Bay and its surroundings are celebrated for unusual or exceptional land features like the world's longest freshwater beach at Wasaga Beach, and the world's largest freshwater archipelago at the 30,000 islands. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) has twice recognized the regions internationally significant ecological communities by creating the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve and the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve. These two biosphere reserves sit on opposite sides of the Bay and reflect the Bay's position straddling the boundary between boreal forest to the north and mixed-wood plains to the south.

Moreover, the bay sits at the crossroads of cultures and historical events, again by virtue of its diversified natural resources. The region was home to hardy Paleo-Indian and Early Archaic hunter-gatherers following migratory Caribou herds some 11,000 years ago whom quarried tough stones like flint from the Niagara Escarpment, and quartzite from the La Cloche Range. By 2500 years ago, distinct cultures on each opposing shoreline, with access to different resources from each other, had developed trade relationships exchanging animal pelts for maize. At the time of European contact, these were the Anishinaabeg peoples living as hunter-gatherers on the Shield, and the peoples of the Wendat Confederacy who farmed the deep rich soils along the southern margin of the Bay. During the days of the fur trade, the French River was the portal between the Ottawa River and Saint Lawrence Valley and the open waters of the Great Lakes. Alliances between the French fur traders ('Voyageurs') and the Huron/Wendat and Algonquin people eventually contributed to the so-called 'Beaver Wars' and disastrous conflict with neighbouring Iroquois (supported by the Dutch and English) and dispersal of the Wendat Confederacy. The selection of the Penetanguishene Harbour as an ideal naval base by the British, by virtue of it's deep and protected waters, meant that the Georgian Bay was contested once again during the War of 1812 between the Americans and the British.

Each of the recreational activities, the 'ecological' regions, and the 'historical' events noted above owe their existence to the underlying Geology of the Georgian Bay. It is the geology that creates the patchwork of landscapes for which the Bay is so appreciated. Yet the natural history of the bay and the events that lead to the creation and shaping of the landscape and its resources remains relatively under-reported. In this module, we will look at the overall geological story of the Georgian Bay, and discuss why this region is worthy of new 'geoconservation' efforts in honour of its geological heritage and diversity.

Let's start by watching an overview of the Bay's main geological regions. Keep this in mind as we progress through the course.

Part Two

Visiting Georgian Bay: Ecotourism

Part Three

Geological Diversity and Heritage

Self Guided Learning: Virtual Field Trip
The Georgian Bay Overview