Ball's Falls

Location: Campden Ontario
Region: Southwestern
Character: World Biosphere Reserve

Ball's Falls
By Niagra Peninsula Conservation Authority

Niagara's Other Falls
At Ball's Falls, visitors can hike or stroll along the Cataract Trail as it winds its way along the banks of Twenty Mile Creek. Explore the habitat of many species of animals, birds, plants and trees. Photographers and nature lovers alike will love the truly breathtaking view of the majestic Twenty Mile Creek as it plummets over both the upper and lower Ball's Falls-spilling over the edge of the Niagara Escarpment. Watch the character of the falls change dramatically with each season-from a raging torrent in the spring to a thin veil of water in late summer.

Ball's Falls Centre for Conservation
Designed and built to have a limited impact on natural resources, the award-winning LEED (TM) Gold certified Centre for Conservation features both permanent and temporary galleries. Visitors will take pleasure in the interactive exhibits focusing on nature, conservation and culture in the context of the area's history, the Niagara Escarpment, and the watershed. The centre is open daily and offers a variety of programs and special events throughout the year. The Centre is also a "green" destination for educational, corporate and community events and retreats.

Historic Settlement
Ball's Falls historic buildings include the Ball family's 19th Century home, an 1809 flour and grist mill, a lime kiln, a church, a blacksmith shop and carriage shed. Recent archaeological studies have determined the site has great potential for further research and study. Because the site has remained undisturbed by development, it is possible to experience the landscape as it appeared 200 years ago.

Undisturbed Heritage
Ball's Falls offers visitors a largely undisturbed, historically important site of industry and settlement in early Niagara dating back to the early 19th Century, as well as a rich and diverse set of archaeological resources dating back more than 2,000 years.

The buildings present an impressive assemblage of related structures, both industrial and domestic, spanning the full 19th century and early decades of the 20th century.

The hamlet, also considered an Ontario ghost town, was known as Ball's Mills, Louth Mills, Glen Elgin-and finally, as Ball's Falls because of the two Twenty Mile Creek cataracts on the property. George Ball constructed grist, saw, and woolen mills, which lead to the growth of one of the first communities in this area. In the mid-1800s, however, significant developments such as the railway and the Welland Canal led to the rapid growth of other villages below the escarpment, and by the turn of the century, most of the activity at Balls Falls had ceased.

Restored and maintained by the Niagara Peninsula Conservations Authority, Ball's Falls occupies over 80 hectares (200 acres) of the original 480 hectares (1,200 acres) purchased by the Ball brothers. In addition to the restored buildings, traces of the original hamlet have been left intact and visitors can enjoy a well-marked walking tour of the original community.

The Ball Family Settlement
Following the American Revolution, Jacob Ball and his family, like other United Empire Loyalists, were forced to flee their home and potash works in the Mohawk Valley, near Albany, New York. In recognition of their loyalty to the British Crown and personal losses suffered during the conflict, the Ball family was issued Crown land grants in Niagara by 1783.

John and George Ball were among the soldiers who received land for their loyalty. A total of 1,200 acres (4.9 km2) of land was sold to the Ball brothers in October 1807, including two waterfalls where the Twenty Mile Creek passes over the Niagara Escarpment, the lower falls 90 feet (27 m) high and the upper falls 35 feet (11 m) high. By 1809, they had already built a grist mill at the lower falls. Eventually there were 2 sawmills in the area, one was on the bluff of the lower falls (1816) and the other, built later, was located on the 20 Mile Creek, south of today's highway 8.

There were many different skilled trades people working on site by the mid-1800s, including a blacksmith, cooper, tailor, weaver, butcher and spinners. By 1852 the population of Glen Elgin reached 19 residents.

In the 1850s, the Great Western Railway siphoned most commerce away from Glen Elgin, and the settlement was gradually abandoned. In 1962, Manly Ball sold an area of 110 acres (0.45 km2) to the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority.

Ball's Falls is now designated as an Historical Park in the Niagara Escarpment Plan. The bedrock gorge is also recognized as a provincially significant area of natural and scientific interest (ANSI).

Geological and Archaeological Resources
Ball's Falls is recognized as a unique and outstanding geographical and geological feature in the Niagara Region and of the Niagara Escarpment. With Lake Ontario to the north and Lake Erie to the south, the Niagara Peninsula has one of the mildest climates in Ontario. Twenty Mile Creek has the largest drainage area of all creeks emptying into Lake Ontario in the Niagara Peninsula.

The rich archaeological resources located at Ball's Falls and the former Glen Elgin hamlet offer excellent opportunities for unique interpretation and public education. Many of the various Silurian and Ordovician rock strata of the Niagara Peninsula are exposed in the gorge.

The lower, main Ball's Falls plunges over the Irondequoit limestone, which is a resistant layer overlying several weaker shale and sandstone units (Reynales, Thorold, Grimsby, Power Glen formations). The upper falls is formed by the Lockport Dolostone, which is the same unit that forms the crest of Niagara Falls.

The lower falls have the following formations:
1.Irondiquoit Formation: Crystalline crinoidal limestone forming the lip of the cataract and acting as a resistant cap rock.
2.Reynales Formation: A thick to thin bedded dolomite with dark grey shale partings.
3.Thorold Formation: A green-gray, cross-bedded sandstone with green shale partings; these units intermingle with the underlining red sandstones and shales of the Grimsby formation.
4.Grimsby Formation: Red sandstones and shales which blend in the overlying Thorold Formation; the lower half of this unit is mostly red shale.
5.Power Glen Formation: Green-gray siltstones alternating with shale bands, this unit is exposed at the base of the waterfall and exposures continue downstream for approximately 95m.

The upper falls have the following formations:
1.Decew Formation: A fine-grained, grey dolomite, which shows conchoidal fracture patterns on a weathered surface.
2.Lockport Formation: Fine-grained, crinoidal, grey-brown dolomite, which is the cap rock for the cataract.
3.Rochester Formation: Dark grey shale forming the base of the cataract; it has a blocky, weathered appearance

Wildlife, Carolinian Forest, Wetlands
The Twenty Mile Creek Valley eco-system contains rare species such as ancient cedars and old growth trees. It is one of the few remaining natural valley systems connecting the Niagara Escarpment to Lake Ontario. The ancient forests of jack and white pine in the valley system had turned to hardwood forests by the time European settlers came to the Twenty Mile Creek. Early historical surveys of Louth Township reveal that much of the forest cover was pine and oak, with walnut as another dominant species.

Provincial Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI)
Today, the Twenty Valley's Carolinian forest is a Provincial Life Science ANSI (Area of Natural and Scientific Interest), and its once active harbour is a provincially significant wetland, as designated by the Ministry of Natural Resources. Ball's Falls Conservation Area strides the junction of two dominant landscape features-the Twenty Mile Creek valley and the Niagara Escarpment. The deeply incised gorge and two spectacular waterfalls-the upper and lower falls-reveal evidence of several phases of dynamic gorge cutting and various forms of waterfalls, altered through numerous landslides over the decades. The Twenty Mile Creek gorge is the second largest escarpment cut in the Niagara Peninsula, second only to the Niagara Gorge. The lower falls is designated an Earth Science ANSI and reveals many of the rock strata making up the Niagara Escarpment.

Plant species - Ball's Falls Conservation Area is home to 471 species of vascular plants including Wild Sarsaparilla, Green and White Trilliums, Wild Ginger, Wild Geranium, Virginia Bluebells, Canada Yew, Arrowhead, Wild Leak, Asparagus, Wild Yam, Red Mulberry, Wild Columbine, Canada Anemone, Chokecherry, Virginian Creeper, St. John's Wort.
Tree species - Ball's Falls lies within what is known as the deciduous forest zone. Hardwoods mixed with coniferous trees predominately characterize this area. Species include Eastern Cotton Wood, Butternut, Black Walnut, Shagbark, Hickory, White Oak, Tulip Tree and Slippery Elm.
Animal species - Ball's Falls is a provincially significant warm water fishery. Twenty Mile Creek has a variety of species such as Largemouth Bass, Yellow Perch, Grass Pickerel, Rock Bass, Green Sunfish, Creek Chub and Pumpkinseed. Within the Ball's Falls area there is also a presence of wildlife including birds and waterfowl such as Eastern Bluebird, Indigo Bunting, House Sparrows, Cardinals, Mallards, and Killdeer to mention a few.
Rare species - Ball's Falls is a habitat for rare tree species including Sycamore, Sassafras and Pignut Hickory.
The Cataract Trail
The Cataract Trail runs along the path of the Twenty Mile Creek, a waterway that once powered the milling operations at Glen Elgin. Featuring both the upper and lower falls, the trail takes you on an experience from the rock formations of the Niagara Escarpment to the restored buildings of the once active 19th Century hamlet.

When visiting late June and early July, expect to see plenty of patches of raspberries on the way back from the upper falls; they are a tasty reason to visit the trail while the falls are dry. Bring your hiking boots in the fall and spring to the trail to appreciate the beauty and power of the upper and lower falls.

Nature enthusiasts may catch a glimpse of the many migratory and nesting birds, reptiles, and other animals that can be found in the Ball's Falls Conservation Area. The Cataract Trail will also connect you with the Bruce Trail and the Twenty Valley Trail for a longer hiking option. Mid-way through the Cataract Trail, there is an option to detour on the Forest Frolic Trail.