Cheltenham Badlands

October 06, 2003


Provided and copyright by: Lauri Kangas
Summary authors & editors: Lauri Kangas

Totally out of character in an area surrounded by pastoral meadows and streams lined with majestic weeping willows, the Cheltenham Badlands contain some of the best examples of badlands topography in Southern Ontario, Canada.

Approximately 430 Million years ago the area that contains the Great Lakes was filled with a large shallow sea referred to as the Michigan Basin. Southeast of the Michigan Basin a mountain range the size of the Himalayas was forming. These mountains filled the streams with red iron-rich material, which was deposited in the Michigan Basin forming a large delta. Deepening waters compressed the red delta mud to form Queenston shale. Other sedimentary materials were compressed as shale, limestone and dolostone. With the passage of time, these sediments are once again exposed. The Cheltenham Badlands probably started to form with the erosion of the soft Queenston shale when cattle grazing removed the protective layer of vegetation. Farming at the site ceased in 1931, but the erosion continues.

The area has been identified as an Earth Science Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The Badlands are also part of Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment, which was designated a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Biosphere Reserve in 1990.

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