Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
a land made up of icebergs

The deep green boreal forest of Kettle Lakes Provincial Park contains 22 small, beautiful lakes. Of these lakes, 20 are called “caldera lakes” by geographers.

So what is a “kettle lake”?

To answer that question, we must first look at how teapots are formed.

a frozen world

trees bordering the body of water

During the last North American ice age, the ice sheets reached their southern limit, known as the “glacial maximum,” about 25,000 years ago.

This period is called the Wisconsin glacial episode when the Laurentide Ice Sheet covered most of Canada and the northern United States.

Diagram of land vs ice and water.Ontario, the Great Lakes and almost all of Canada were covered in ice 18,000 years ago

Glaciers and ice sheets grew and spread as snow accumulated and formed ice. The weight of that ice caused it to spread slowly from the center.

ice sheet diagram

The center of the Laurentide Ice Sheet is believed to have been in northwestern Quebec, where the ice that formed grew and spread in all directions.

Imagine squeezing a bottle of ketchup onto a plate; As you squeeze more ketchup onto the plate, it slowly spills across the surface. When an ice sheet spreads like this, we say it “advances.”

not so clear

Glaciers are dirty things, literally. As the ice sheet advanced, sand, sand and gravel (and even rocks the size of houses) were picked up and frozen into the ice.

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large glacier rock

The ice sheet was like a conveyor belt: the rocky debris it picked up moved slowly toward its edges as the ice moved forward.

More and more of this rocky debris was collected and frozen into the ice, making the ice look like a huge sheet of sandpaper. As it advanced, it slowly demolished the earth’s surface and leveled mountain ranges.

In northeastern Ontario, mountains as tall as the Rocky Mountains were flattened by billions of years of erosion and glacial periods.

Diagram of land vs ice and water.The continental ice sheet began melting more than it was advancing about 13,000 years ago, exposing the southernmost tip of Ontario. The future Great Lakes began to form

As the climate warmed, the southern edge of the ice sheet began to melt.

Eventually, the melting was greater than the advance of the ice sheet and the glacier began to retreat from southern Ontario.

As the glacier retreated around the area that is now the park, its southern edge melted and crumbled. Large chunks of ice would break off from the glacier’s surface and gradually become buried in the floodplain (a vast plain created by enormous amounts of meltwater from the retreating ice sheet).

Diagram of land vs ice and water.Between 9,000 and 8,500 years ago, the edge of the retreating ice sheet reached the region around Kettle Lakes. Meltwater from the retreating glacier sometimes spanned the entire width of Ontario

After being buried, the ice chunks were covered with sediment from glacial flows. The area around Kettle Lakes Provincial Park is covered by a sandy delta formed by a large river flowing from the ice sheet.

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Boiler formation

Since these huge chunks of ice were buried, they melted slowly, hidden from the sun and insulated from the warmer temperatures that were melting the ice sheet itself.

If they had melted quickly, the deep caldera-like depressions they left would have filled with more sediment and disappeared.

Gradually, the meltwater receded and the buried blocks of ice melted, slowly turning into depressions that were filled with the melted ice water.

That frozen water was long ago replaced in the park’s lakes by rainwater, melted snow and groundwater flowing from springs.

In fact, all 20 lakes in the park are spring-fed; none are connected to the surrounding watershed by streams due to the porous nature of the area’s landscape.

Favorable for flora and fauna.

bird on branch

Some teapots are above the water table and are dry, or only have water in the spring.

Other kettles are small enough that a floating mat of plants can grow along the shore and gradually cover the surface to form a floating bog.

Kettle lakes are important habitats for all types of animals in the northern forest. Lakes are much less abundant in the boreal forest that covers this part of northern Ontario, as the bedrock is often covered by a thick layer of glacial deposits.

Woodland birds, such as the yellow warbler, frequent the water’s edge and beavers sometimes build their lodges there. Frogs, toads and fish live in and around the kettle lakes. Trout are found in the park’s spring-fed lakes, which are cool and deep for their size.

beaver swimming in the water

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