Your browser is out of date.
This site may not function properly in your current browser. Update Now

Sculpting the Natural Landscape: Geology and Natural History

Inlet at South Bay – Gary Randorf

Tectonic shifts followed by repeated glacial advance and retreat combined to heave the mountains skyward and sculpt the dramatic and varied landscape of the Champlain Canal region. Glaciers scoured the soft rock between the Adirondack and Taconic ranges, forming the Upper Hudson River Valley over the course of millions of years. Glacial lakes and post-glacial seas receded, revealing the bones of our modern landscape.

Rolling uplands strewn with stones tilled and sown by the glaciers were eventually blanketed in boreal forests of oak and pine, grassy savanna and marshy wetlands. The lowlands along the Hudson and at the southern tip of Lake Champlain, once sea and lakebed, gained rich deposits of fine soils as many rivers and creeks drained the surrounding hills and mountains. When agriculture was first practiced here five hundred to a thousand years ago, pockets of rich, fertile soils supported a variety of nourishing crops, as they still do today.

The geological underpinnings of the region, formed over billions of years, provided a wealth of raw material for use in the relatively short era of human population. The sediments of the ancient seabeds coalesced into sandstone, limestone and dolostone. The great pressures of mountain formation metamorphosed sediments into marble, slate and gneiss. The earliest human inhabitants quarried this stone for tools. In the era of European settlement and American nationhood, slate, gneiss, limestone, marble and dolostone were quarried for building materials; iron ore was smelted for tools, implements and fasteners; limestone was burned to create lime. The landscape sculpted by nature is constantly reshaped by the human hand.