A description, with photos, of a day's exploration of the Brent Crater in Algonquin Park by canoe. Our route took us from the Brent Road, down to Tecumseh Lake, through Gilmour Lake, Gilmour Creek and eventually to Brant Lake and return.
2009 May 12
We have previously visited the Brent Crater and Bob has done the walking trail (Brent Crater, Stairs, and Pitcher Plant). However, he wanted to see more than could reasonably be accomplished on foot. On 2009 May 12, Bob and our friend Ric portaged a canoe down to the crater floor and we went exploring.
After lunch, we retraced our route and returned to the car without incident. All in all, a pleasant spring day in the bush and the portage in and out of the crater was not nearly as bad as I had imagined it.
If you visit the crater with the expectation of seeing exciting and awe-inspiring evidence of an ancient cataclysm, you may well be disappointed. The lasting effects of the meteorite impact are there, but you have to search them out. To me, it was the knowledge of what had happened that most defined the location. Four hundred and fifty million years ago, you would have been paddling on a shallow tropical sea, close to the equator. Your paddling partners would have been trilobites. And then this peaceful scene would then instantly become the site of an explosion, many times more powerful than any man-made nuclear explosion. Your ashes would have been dispersed over hundreds of miles and perhaps around the globe.
Now, hundreds of millions of years later, the observable manifestations of the impact are the circular surrounding horizon — although the view in any particular direction is not significantly different from what you might see elsewhere, and the view in the opposite direction may well be obscured by trees — and the details of the flora, most notably the prevalence of white cedar. Another aspect of the environment is the absence of visible bedrock; the bottom of the crater is covered with glacial till. This gives rise to the beach on Gilmour Lake and to campsites akin to those found on the Petawawa sand plain. Under the thick layer of glacial till, an even thicker layer of sedimentary rock has buried the most direct evidence of the impact, the shattered bedrock.
The Brent Crater is a special place, but its charms are subtle, in stark contrast to its formation.
Jeffrey McMurtrie (see Free Algonquin Provincial Park Map for Jeffrey's map of Algonquin Park) informs me that, according to his information, the campsite on Gilmour Lake, south of the portage from Tecumseh Lake, is in the MNR's database of campsites and thus appears to be an official campsite.
Anonymous (1978), Fishing in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ministry of Natural Resources, Ontario
Friends of Algonquin Park (undated); Brent Crater Trail Guide.
Friends of Algonquin Park (2007/2008); Canoe Routes of Algonquin Provincial Park.
G.D. Garland (1997), Names of Algonquin, Stories Behind the Lake and Place Names of Algonquin Provincial Park, Algonquin Park Technical Bulletin No. 10, The Friends of Algonquin Park.
The melt rocks at Brent Crater, Ontario, Canada by Grieve, R. A. F., In: Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, 9th, Houston, Tex., March 13-17, 1978, Proceedings. Volume 2. (A79-39176 16-91) New York, Pergamon Press, Inc., 1978, p. 2579-2608.