Left: Niagara River just north of the Whirlpool in autumn; Top Right: Niagara Gorge cliffs south of Whirlpool in autumn; Bottom Right: Whirlpool and up the Niagara River in autumn
The St. David's buried gorge existed 22,800 years ago. It was once a part of an ancient drainage system which extended the entire width of the NiagaraPeninsula. The St. David's Buried Gorge was approximately 1200 long, 305 meters wide, and 91 meters deep at the whirlpool. Previously the gorge was 200 feet deeper than the depth of LakeOntario. The gorge extended into LakeOntario 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) west of the present Niagara River. The gorges original landscape is no longer visible however, as the widely recognized Whirlpool Gorge was formed in its place. Thus only remnants of its geologic origins exist.
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Hours of Operation
The Whirlpool Aero Car is open seasonally and is open daily from April 30 to November. Hours are subject to change.
From Toronto: Head Southwest on QEW approximately 108km
Slight left at King’s Highway 405 approximately 5.1km
Take Stanley Ave E Exit toward Niagara Falls approximately 0.6km
Merge onto Stanley Ave (south) approximately 1.2km
Left (southeast) at Whirlpool Rd approximately 1.3km
Right (southeast) at Niagara Parkway approximately 0.7km
Continue onto River Rd approximately 0.1km
Parking for Whirlpool Aero Car is on the left
From Fort Erie: Head west on QEW towards Exit 1A approximately 11.4km
Take Exit 12 for Netherby Rd towards Welland (north) approximately
Left (north) at Niagara River Parkway approximately 10.7km
Continue onto Bridgewater St (southwest) approximately 0.5km
Right (northwest) at Welland River Bridge approximately 0.2km
Right (northeast) at Macklem St approximately 0.3km
Continue onto Niagara River Parkway (northwest) approximately 8.8km
Parking for Whirlpool Aero Car is on the right
The St. David's Buried Gorge was once a channel for an ancient river that existed before the third Wisconsin Glacier had advanced. It is believed that the gorge was buried in glacial silt during this time approximately 12,000 years ago and failed to reopen.
When the Niagara Falls eroded the gorge to its present location at Thompson Point (where we find the Spanish Aero car attraction), the river found erosion of the rock much easier. This lead to the river breaking through the rock barrier which held back the glacial debris. It was later discovered that this had filled into what was previously the ancient gorge of the St. David's River. The Niagara River removed the present whirlpool area of all the glacial debris, and subsequently changed direction to follow the ancient gorge a short distance southward.
It is believed that the ancient St. David’s River was responsible for carving the now filled St. David's Buried Gorge and subsequently the Whirlpool Gorge from the rock.
The gorge was approximately 38 meters (125 feet) wide. During the advance of the late Wisconsin Glacier the ancient Whirlpool gorge and the St. David's gorge were filled with glacial debris.
There have been many fossils found in the area. Some of the fossils found include:
Trilobites (Trilobata) - sea floor crustaceans (425-240 million years ago) found in Rochester, Grimsby and Clinton layers of rock
Snails (Gastropoda) - spiral shells of snails found in Silurian rocks
Sea Lilies (Crinoidea) - sea floor starfish (425 million years ago) found in Rochester shale rock layer - still in existence at bottom of Atlantic Ocean
Horn Coral (Enterolasma Caliculum) grew on sea bottom (425-400 million years ago) found in Lockport and Clinton layers of rock
Lamp Shells (Phyla Brachiopoda) - clam like shells, eighty different species found in the Clinton & Rochester rock layers
Nautilus (Cephalopod) - ancestors of nautilus, squid & cuttlefish (425 million years ago) found in Medina and Queenston rock layers
Participating in the Whirlpool Aero Car Tour is provides an excellent opportunity for visitors to visualize the ancient landscape. The site is located to the southwest (left) of the attraction. This is where the ancient river changed its directional flow due to an increased resistance to erosion.