The Wainfleet Quarry has some amazing and fascinating history. It started a long time ago. A very, very long time ago.
About 300 million years ago, the Wainfleet Quarry looked a lot different than it does today. In fact, it was the bottom of a beautiful sea known as the Paleozoic Sea, filled with amazing and fantastic sea creatures which only lie in the imagination today.
In the 1800’s a limestone quarry was established and was in operation for almost a century. The quarry was shut down in the 1960’s. The area was purchased by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Area in 1978 and naturalised. This means the eco-system was partially restored by re-planting native plants, and removing anything that can cause harm to the area.
There is no entrance fee to enter the park. The spot is a very common sun-bathing area and people can can often be seen laying about it’s sheer limestone shores.
Stepping out of my Jeep in the hot, hot sun, it was evident that this area had a lot of visitors. Cars lined the street, people were fishing from the bridge, and of course, there were several spots covered with scantly-clad bodies enjoying the sun.
As I walked toward the edge of the quarry, it was unusually clear. I had tried scuba diving here several times in the past, but the water was too murky to enjoy the dive. (See the dive report here: http://wolfmaan.ca/wainfleet-quarry-dive/)
Peering into the clear waters of the quarry, I could see long kelp reaching for the surface, as well as many fish which were gazing up at us in wonderment. Large carp could be seen swimming in schools of 6 to 8 following along the edge.
Walking along the edge of the quarry, I quickly left the sun bathers behind, and ended up alone on the trails with my hiking partner. The area felt very “northern” with low lying scrub, pine trees, and moss growing all over the rocks. If I wasn’t 100% sure where I was, I would have thought I was in the Georgian Bay area of Ontario.
Continuing along the edge of the quarry, there was a lot of great things to see. The ancient seabed had deposited thousands of large fossils in the rock, including tube worms, coral, and other things I could not identify. The fossilizing of the ancient coral had also created brilliant crystal forms inside the rock.
The quarry was an open pit mine. This meant all the soil had been removed from the area. Not exactly the best growing conditions for trees. There was almost no forest canopy and there was no shade here. Harsh conditions for many animals to exist in. There were, however a lot of birds who called the quarry home.
Sitting on the rock edge to have lunch, I could see Canada Geese, Egrets, Gulls, Sand Pipers and even a Great Blue Heron.
The northern sections of the quarry were not flooded, and more bare rock was exposed. People threw Frisbees with their dogs, and enjoyed the shallow water. Many parties had been held here over the years, and there was an unusual amount of glass. Contrary to popular belief, glass is a very rare thing to be found on trails these days. Beer is one of the few things still sold in glass bottles in Canada. Thankfully when glass bottles break, the glass lays flat and is not a hazard to walk on.
The quarry appeared shallow in most areas, and a few islands dotted the water. I recall from my dive here back in 2008 that there were a few very deep spots in the southern end of the quarry. Walking around the edge and peeing into the water, I was surprised to see several sunken cars still in the quarry. Several upright, and one inverted laying on the bottom, surrounded by kelp.
Perhaps another dive to the quarries shallow waters would be warranted as long as the visibility holds out. I am sure there are other unusual finds in the area other than discarded cars. Potentially there is still mining equipment left in the middle of the quarry like in nearby Sherkston quarry.
When hiking along the Wainfleet Quarry trails, beware of dog ticks. The area has the perfect environment from them. Back at my Jeep, I found several ticks on myself, my dog, and my hiking partner. Although dog ticks do not generally carry Lyme disease, they are still a risk.
Although there were few long hiking trails here, the Wainfleet Quarry was well worth visiting as it holds many hidden secrets. Wandering along the edge of the quarry you never know what you may uncover. From old cars to ancient fossils, this area has an amazing natural and cultural history. Just be sure to wear a hat and sun glasses as there is little shade here.