TREES AND FIELDS
Population in Upper Canada continued to grow through the mid to late 1800's with settlement pushing ever further inland up and over the Oak Ridges Moraine. And why not? Surely such lush and vibrant forests were a certain indication of nourishing soils! The moraine's rolling topography sprouted many creeks and streams to be dammed as sources of waterpower for timber, carding and grist mills - the waters being held in ponds and pools with outflows hardened and changed from their natural course.
Eventually though it became apparent that the soils, stripped of the trees and roots that held them in place to make way for fields to be farmed, were inconsistent, sandy, and not as rich as first thought. The streams that once flowed free and cold became choked with silt and eroding banks. The water flowed more slowly and warmed above the tolerance of the species they once supported, unable to support the passage of fish for spawning.
While some farms flourished, as evidenced by the patchwork of crop fields and pastures that can be seen on the moraine today, others were not so lucky. Conscription in World War One, as well as the great depression several years later, resulted in the mass abandonment and forfeiture of ownership of farms everywhere, including many that were only marginal to begin with on the Oak Ridges Moraine.
A combination of unemployment post-World War One and growing concern about the choking of waterways and port towns on Lake Ontario from silt, carried down the moraine's water courses, resulted in mass tree planting "make work" activity, and the creation of some of the County forests now well established throughout the province.
Hours of back breaking work cleared these hills of trees in the late 1800's and hours of back breaking work from the early 1900's planted more. The Ganaraska Forest with portions in Durham Region, Peterborough and Northumberland counties, today is remembered as the forest that "taught us to behave." Over five decades of replanting more than 5 million red and white pine, and spruce trees makes the Ganaraska Forest one of the largest reforested tracts in Southern Ontario, and the largest forest on the Oak Ridges Moraine.