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Natural history of the Elora Gorge re-examined in upcoming book

Retired WLU earth sciences professor Kenneth Hewitt was surprised to find out how much has changed with the Elora Gorge almost 30 years since he first published a book about it
Elora's iconic David Street bridge as seen from the Irvine Creek.

ELORA – Almost 30 years after first publishing a book on the natural history of the Elora Gorge, a retired Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) professor has updated it.

Rivers in Rock: Elora Gorge Field Companion and Natural History by Kenneth Hewitt, a retired WLU earth sciences professor, will be released in early-2024 by WLU Press.

A description of the book bills it as both a visitor’s guide and a thorough introduction of the natural and human history of the Elora Gorge with original photographs, maps and diagrams. 9781771125802_cover1_rb_modalcover

Hewitt, a former Elora resident of 30 years, had published a similar book back in 1995 called Elora Gorge: A Visitor’s Guide made with the help of students and people from the village as he found it to be a “special kind of place.”

“There’s still an interest from people in the village (Elora), they seem to get something out of it,” Hewitt said in a phone interview. 

He explained he was approached by some people from Elora who wanted an updated version of the original book and he decided to take a look at it. He was unsure if there was much to update but he found he was mistaken.

“A lot of work had gone on that influences how we interpret the gorge and what happens to it,” Hewitt said. “Looking at the topography, terrain, things that make the gorge erode and things such as evidence of floods and ice in the gorge and going back through the plate tectonic view of these features which I didn’t deal with in any great length in the first version.”

This recent book, which is three times as long as the last one, is divided into three parts according to Hewitt.

One part is excursions which people can follow in the gorge and get firsthand evidence, the next asks the question of what the features found in the gorge represent and the final third interprets how humans have impacted it, particularly since European settlement.

“The appearance of the gorge has changed a lot since Europeans arrived, a lot of the trees that originally covered the gorge were lost and the ones we have now are relatively new,” Hewitt said. 

Siobhan McMenemy, interim director of WLU Press, said via email Hewitt’s longstanding commitment to the study of the Elora Gorge and eagerness to share that interest with both scholars and community members inspired the decision to work together on publishing this new book. 

“WLU Press is a keen supporter of regional research and writing and we look forward to helping Dr. Hewitt bring Rivers in Rock into timely discussions of humanity’s relationship with the environment, the importance of preserving landforms and landscape, and the significance of local history in creating our sense of place,” McMenemy said. 

“There are geological guidebooks for other parts of Southern Ontario; however, Dr. Hewitt’s book is the only accessible study of the five ‘ages’ of Elora Gorge, from its prehistoric past, 430 million years ago, to its settler history, when European residents disrupted and dominated its development.”

Rivers in Rock: Elora Gorge Field Companion and Natural History will be released in February.

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Keegan Kozolanka

About the Author: Keegan Kozolanka

Keegan Kozolanka is a general assignment reporter for EloraFergusToday, covering Wellington County. Keegan has been working with Village Media for more than two years and helped launch EloraFergusToday in 2021.
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