What few know is that right outside Bobcaygeon, in Galway-Cavendish Harvey Township, we have what spelunkers (cavers) have said is Ontario’s number 2 cave system and perhaps number 31 in all of Canada.
Little is known about the caves but “old timers” talk of exploring the caves, which carried names such as the Ongley Caves, the Parker Caves, and now the Dewdney Mountain Caves. Research by members of the North Pigeon Lake Ratepayers’ Association, into how well various organizations did their research for a proposed quarry adjacent to these caves, identified it as a very significant karst (a region made up of porous limestone containing deep fissures and sinkholes and characterized by underground caves and streams).
From what we have gleaned from cavers’ reports and those who have visited the site we see this cave system as extremely important, significant to geology, the environment, species at risk like bats, and as a potential tourist attraction for the area. E. A. Ongley wrote a thesis on the caves in 1965 and it is widely available to anyone researching the area. The caves should be referred to as the Dewdney’s Caves, derived from Arthur Dewdney who was Rod Parker’s (the owner prior to a Mr. Ritchie) great grandfather. There would appear from these sources to be over 1.6 kilometers (possibly 10 kms) of caves explored and many more meters unexplored. They are suspected to be about 500 metres from the proposed quarry with the cave floor in some places lying only 2 m above the water table. This needs to be verified before blasting in the quarry begins. Why does Council and other authorities resist this investigation?
Just East of Lakefield, The Warsaw Caves are a well-known and well-used tourist attraction. For decades they have been a favorite destination for many families wishing to see examples of erosion over centuries through the limestone. This makes it one of Ontario’s best tourist destinations, making the top 15 in 2012.
Helen Gerson from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources states, in the guidelines for bats of Ontario, that every OMNR district office should prepare a list of locations of caves and mines in which bats hibernate during the winter. She also states that in The Endangered Species Protection Act it mandates stiff fines and possible imprisonment for those who kill or disturb endangered bats or harm their habitat.
Although not a project of Kawartha Region Conservation Authority(KRCA), the caves referred to so far have not been identified as an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI). As such, they have not been granted protection as a significant natural heritage feature (Natural Heritage policies of the PPS). Furthermore, MNR staff was contacted on this matter and indicated that the MNR has accepted the geology /hydro geology studies prepared in support of the Dewdney Farms quarry application without providing information or consideration to the endangered species protection act on this issue of caves and bats in the area.
From a report of 2003 by Trent University entitled “The Parker Property: An Important Biological Rich Hardwood Forest area in Central Ontario” we learned the following “The flora is overall very rich with a large number of regionally or provincially rare orchids, sedges and ferns. The Natural Heritage Information Group of MNR and the Canadian Nature Conservancy found 423 vascular plant species in a short one-day visit in 2002. Rare snakes and salamanders also occur, as well as a rich butterfly, dragonfly and Damsel fly fauna and a large mammal population, including a winter deer yard with 950 white-tailed deer in 1998 (MNR-Report). The bird diversity is also rich, but not yet fully documented. There are numerous underground caves in the limestone, where the Queen’s University Caving Society has explored and mapped 10 km of underground caves, one of the longest underground sequences in the province of Ontario.”
In spite of the fact that this is such a unique feature, possibly of greater significance than the protected Warsaw Caves, why did not one of the exhaustive reports on the area of the potential quarry mention such an Ontario feature?
What is needed is an ANSI study to determine whether the caves play a significant role in the area and garner the attention of the local Councils who have control over approval of Quarry applications. This is a costly effort for which we will be seeking the support from local residents. Perhaps the Council of Galway- Cavendish Harvey will pay half of the $2000 needed while the NPLRA pays the other half. With Mr. Ritchie’s cooperation we could determine once and for all the importance of the caves.
President, North Pigeon Lake Ratepayers’ Association
For those of you who want to explore before potential damage is done to the surrounding area by blasting or heavy truck traffic just drive about 3 kms east of Nogies Creek on #36 to Quarry Road and turn left. You travel about 6.8 kms from #36 always staying to the left at turns. We suggest you ask Mr. Ritchie for his permission to walk the property.
Or by map coordinates for you real hikers and geocaches 44.646613,-78.50367.