Stromatolites are eerily stunning fossils dating back to the emergence of life on earth. The Ottawa-Gatineau Geoheritage Project describes them as ‘biosedimentary structures built up during sedimentation by cyanobacteria and blue-green algae’. The following is a bike tour of a few examples of Stromatolites visible on both sides of the Ottawa River.
Choosing the Portage Bridge as our starting point, we crossed over the Ottawa River to Gatineau and rode upstream along the Voyageurs Pathway.
Our first stop is located just off the pathway immediately west of the Champlain Bridge. These stromatolites are visible when water levels are low in the summer and fall. It’s the most impressive display of these fossils in the region.
Another example of a few local Stromatolites visible in cross section can be found on the Ottawa side of the river at the eastern tip of Westboro Beach. To get there we followed the bike lanes over the Champlain Bridge back to Ottawa, then continued upstream along the Ottawa River Pathway to Westboro Beach. There are bike racks in front of the beach pavilions if one prefers avoiding having to push their bike through the sand.
Our final stop is located along the bus transitway near Roosevelt Avenue. To get there we took the tunnel under the SJAM parkway at Westboro Beach, then followed Kirchoffer Avenue to the pedestrian bridge over the OC Transpo transitway. From the opposite side of the pedestrian bridge one can see a layered section of Stromatolites exposed at the top of the stone channel that was cut to create the transitway.
To get back to our starting point we retraced our treads along Kirchoffer to Westboro Beach, then rode back along the Ottawa River Pathway to the Portage Bridge – a rock & roll tour almost entirely along pathways!
More on Stromatolites can be found by clicking here or on any of the Geoheritage Project links hi-lited in the above post.
UPDATE – September 2019: Here’s a recent CBC post about the Stromatolites on the Quebec side that includes a great interview between Giacomo Panico of the show In Time and Out and Allan Donaldson, a retired professor in the earth sciences department at Carleton University.