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Rivers in Rock

Elora Gorge Field Companion and Natural History

By Kenneth Hewitt
Subjects Waterloo Region, Geography, Environmental Studies, Travel
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Paperback : 9781771125802, 240 pages, March 2024


This richly illustrated book is both a visitor’s guide to one of southwestern Ontario’s most striking landforms – the Elora Gorge on the Upper Grand River – and a thorough, accessible introduction to its natural and recent human history.
The book introduces rivers that flow in bedrock, between rock walls and through precipitous gorges, unlike the subdued terrain that the last Ice Age bequeathed most of southwestern Ontario. It then leads the visitor to three viewpoints on and three excursions through the gorge, with a wealth of information about its rocks, fossils, caves, cliffs, rockslides, rockfalls, floods and erosional processes. It takes the reader through five “ages” of the gorge. In the First Age the gorge bedrock originated as reef limestone 430 million years ago in prehistoric tropical seas. The Second Age saw the gorge rocks make a great, 400-million-year journey from tropical seas to the heart of a continent via plate tectonics. In the Third Age, the retreating Laurentide Ice Sheet created conditions 17,000 to 15,000 years ago in which ice lobes, glacial lakes and meltwater spillways interacted to incise the gorge in an ice-free area known as the Ontario Island. In the Fourth Age the gorge, nestled in an immense forest, developed at a slower pace moderated by dense woods, fallen branches and beaver dams. In the Fifth Age, the gorge entered the Anthropocene as European settlers came to disrupt and dominate its development and unlock its secrets.
Full of original photographs, maps and diagrams, Rivers in Rock is an authoritative guide to the Elora Gorge that will fascinate visitors and researchers alike.


Ken Hewitt has beautifully written the story of a unique ancient canyon called Elora Gorge. He relates that while the village itself is lovely, just downstream from the falls on the Grand River is another world to be discovered: a world with scenes of grandeur, hidden-away beauty and mystery. The book has several well-designed maps with suggested excursions that lead readers to sites like Hole in the Rock, High Lookout, the Hanging Gardens, and Lover’s Leap. For those inspired to explore how this magnificent gorge was formed, Hewitt includes clear and detailed descriptions of its geological origins. The photographs, past and present, enhance the telling of this story. As a local historian and tour guide in Elora, with this incredible landscape in its backyard, I recommend that Rivers in Rock is not only a must-read but a must-have.

- Al Koop, Older Voices Historical Tours 

Rivers in Rock is a beautifully written and illustrated homage to the Elora Gorge by a renowned earth scientist. The affec1on and detail evident throughout arise from the author’s fieldwork and sound scholarship over many years. Nine chapters with photographs, sketches and maps present the Gorge as seen today, serving as a superb field companion. Also, it guides us through 400 million years of relevant Earth history and more recent human presence, standing as a wonderful contribu1on to the natural history of the region.

- James Gardner, Emeritus Professor, Natural Resources Institute University of Manitoba