Escarpment and Valley
Dundas, Ontario (pop. 25,000) is a small town near the western tip of Lake Ontario.
It's midway between Toronto and Niagara Falls, both about a 50-minute drive away.
So it’s right at the apex of the “Golden Horseshoe,” Canada’s most densely populated region.
This thread focuses on Dundas and the many interesting places in the immediate vicinity.
I recently returned to live here after many years away.
Dundas hasn't changed a great deal in the past 36 years, and the changes that have taken place are mostly for the better.
It’s a beautiful and unusual town, though its charms are not always immediately visible.
Dundas is by no means a tourist trap like nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake, though its historic townscape and unusual natural features make it popular as a film location.
King Street (Highway 8) in downtown Dundas, looking west.
Dundas in the Golden Horsehoe (you’ll find it just to the NW of Hamilton).
Zooming in: the western tip of Lake Ontario is divided by bridges into three different bodies of water of increasing size and of very different character.
From left to right they are: Cootes Paradise, Hamilton Harbour/Burlington Bay, and Lake Ontario itself.
Zooming in further: Downtown Dundas.
The railroad tracks running east-west below Dundas Peak follow the northern edge of the Niagara Escarpment.
The scarp face at Spencer Gorge, just north of Dundas.
What makes Dundas special is its setting.
It lies in a U-shaped valley about 10 km long and less than half that wide, with both ends of the U pointing towards Lake Ontario.
What look like steep hills surrounding the town are not hills at all: they are the ragged edge of the Niagara Escarpment, the immense, step-like geological feature that the Niagara River flows over at the famous Falls.
The Escarpment is very long, stretching from New York State to near Chicago.
But at Dundas, the wall of the Escarpment, rising as high as 100 meters, makes a sharp U-turn, producing the Dundas Valley.
Dundas and its Valley from the top of the Escarpment
In 2001, Dundas was absorbed by the amalgamated post-industrial City of Hamilton (pop. 530,000, metro 771,000), whose downtown is only about 10 km away.
But Dundas is older than Hamilton and very different in most respects.
The residents of Dundas remain fiercely independent in spirit, even though many of them commute to Hamilton to work.
Downtown Hamilton from the top of the Escarpment over Dundas.
The opposite, southerly side of the U-shaped valley is part of the Hamilton “Mountain,” the upper part of the city that lies on the flat top of the Escarpment.
In the far distance, just to the left of the downtown skyscrapers, you can see the edge of the Escarpment as it continues towards Niagara Falls.
Some of the (now mainly dormant) steel plants on the shore of Hamilton Harbour.
The body of water in the foreground is Cootes Paradise.
This eastward-facing shot was taken from the viewpoint on Sydenham Road in Dundas.
From the Sydenham Viewpoint looking west.
It's hard to believe, but Dundas is at the same latitude (43˚N) as Florence, Italy.
While winters here are hardly Mediterranean, summers are generally long and hot for Canada.
The sheltered valley allows the growth of vegetation associated with the American south.
From the Escarpment, the Dundas Valley looks like a sea of trees, including some of the most northerly Carolinian forest in North America.
Parts of the valley floor are under the control of the Dundas Valley Conservation Area, which does its best to protect this remarkable landscape from the pressures of suburbanization.
The Escarpment looms over the small independent stores that line King Street in downtown Dundas.
The cheese shop ...
... the discount emporium ...
... and the bridal shoppe.
Dundas Peak, the highest point on the Escarpment in the vicinity.
From here there are panoramic views over the whole Valley.
There’s no guard rail on this section of the Escarpment, so even in daylight and good weather, hikers need to be careful and stay reasonably sober.
Quite a few aren’t, and rope rescues are frequently required to haul out the injured.
You’d be very lucky to survive a fall at the Peak itself.
The steepness of the Escarpment means that there are dozens of waterfalls within a short drive of Dundas.
None is as spectacular as Niagara, but several are remarkable enough, including Tews Falls, a ribbon waterfall a short walk from the Peak.
It's 41 metres high, not too far short of Niagara’s 51 metres, but there’s very little water after a dry summer like the one we’ve just experienced.
The three figures at the bottom give a sense of the scale of this falls.
Wherever you live in Dundas, you are aware of the presence of the mighty "Giant's Rib."
Even in death, Dundas residents are overshadowed, or perhaps protected, by the Escarpment, as here in peaceful old Grove Cemetery.