Niagara Issues - Devil's Hole
P. M. Eckel
Res Botanica
Missouri Botanical Garden
March 18, 2003

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Niagara Issues - Devil's Hole


Devil's Hole is a circular feature in the face of the wall of the gorge of the Niagara River and is part of the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The following are pictures taken in early March, 2003. The cove is a seepage or groundwater feature. Historically, as the masonry in the southern wall shows, a stream had its outflow in this cove and is usually referred to as Bloody Run. This stream has been blocked and the masonry outlet walled up. Some seepage still occurs in the cove, which appears to be rather dry. In this picture the stratified caprock may be seen above the forested talus slope. The large buildings in the distance form Niagara University, the one-story, flat building on the left is the Power Vista of the New York Power Authority.




Looking down into the cove from the top of the stone steps (lower right) which are covered, together with the ledges, with an evergreen bryophyte (moss) plant community. The circularity of the cove walls can be seen here. Stream erosion generally produces a v-shaped channel. Erosion in the cove appears to derive from 'frost-chipping' or sapping. The bedrock disintegrates in vertical plates, moisture settling between the plate and its bedrock. Calcareous strata throughout the gorge often show an undulating surface of erosion. There is a similar feature, a 'Little Devil's Hole' forming in the gorge just upstream from the northern terminus of the gorge at Artpark (Lewiston, New York), best seen from the upper railroad hiking path there.


On the gorge rim, just beyond the lovely old stone masonry wall that marks the edge of the viewing platform at Devil's Hole overlook on the south boundary of the cove on the flat tableland above, occur Juniper trees, Juniperus virginiana, which are evergreen as is the White Cedar, or Arbor Vitae (Thuja occidentalis). The former has needle-shaped leaves, the latter scaly ones. In the distance is Ontario and the table-land cut through by the gorge of the Niagara River. The horizontal feature is the access road to the Adam Beck power generating plant operated by Ontario Hydro.



This view is the south wall of the cove at Devil's Hole showing the viewing platform: an area of caprock covered with a thin lawn and a modest alvar vegetation. The viewing area is surrounded by a distinctive stone wall. Masonry defining the old "Bloody Run" stream outlet is visible here. No seepage occurs here. Down on the talus below that fills the cove-ravine a stream emerges out of the rubble and wends its course down to the base of the cove into the river below. This stream or seepage may be related to the blocked up stream that once cascaded into the cove, and which contributed to a higher moisture regime there than exists today. Calcareous substrates and rubble and well known to produce desiccation stress on plant communities. Loss of moisture from this outlet would contribute to more of an arid situation than what existed historically, with pressures on bryophyte and pteridophyte communities that lined the rock substrates. Note the rounded terrace of loose sediment that faces the flat viewing area on the left.



On the north wall of the cove some seepage is displayed from the upper strata, but on the whole, the cove does not display much frozen moisture. Moisture here appears to be more cryptic, infiltrating behind rock surfaces. The stone steps leading down to the river in the middle of the talus-ravine are visible here.


From the viewing platform above, on the south boundary of the cove may be seen an extensive exposure of rocky river bed extending out into the stream flow. This area is denuded of vegetation as yet, and it appears to be covered with water during the growing season. The riparian bank of the Ontario shore is visible, and the Ontario Hydro access road.


Looking upstream over the masonry wall on the viewing platform at Devil's Hole, the Niagara Glen forest in Ontario may be seen without its summer canopy of leaves.


More of the Niagara Glen terrace at the base of the gorge and the area of exposed riverbed at its downstream boundary, similar to the exposed bed where the Devil's Hole cove meets the Niagara River shown above.






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