The glaciers of the last ice age, ending some 10,000 years ago in this part of the continent, wiped clean the slate of history. It would take thousands of years to regrow forests, and for the the land to slowly rebound from being compressed by the enormous weight of the glacial ice. You can learn more about the geological history of the Frontenac Arch in our geology section.
First Inhabitants of the Arch
Just 9,000 years ago, humans left their first record of having at least camped in this region. Then, the forests would probably have resembled those of what we would see today at the tundra and treelike of the Canadian north. The clue of those first inhabitants was a stone axe head, found on what is now one of the Thousand Islands, just east of Gananoque.
As the climate continued to warm, and forests and lakes grew richer in life, this region continued to attract settlement, especially seasonally. Archaeological finds show that the record of settlement has been practically continuous since that earliest nomadic group happened into the region.
The discovery of prehistoric ceramics on a 3,000 year old portage route in Charleston Lake Provincial Park (between Charleston Lake and Red Horse), provides us with some evidence of those early nomads.
In the same way that the Frontenac Arch and St. Lawrence Valley has provided continental scale migration routes for plants and animals, these north-south and east-west corridors appear to have created the basis of trade routes for early peoples. When finds from archaeological work around and adjacent to this region are compared, it's apparent that peoples brought copper tools from the north, sea shells from the far south, and foods and raw materials for stone tools from other regions into, and through, this region. Just as today, the character of the landscape in millennia past influenced trade and settlement.
When Europeans "discovered" Canada, the St. Lawrence Valley seemed to promise a route through this unknown continent, perhaps to the orient. As it had for thousands of years before, the valley was an early passageway to the heart of the continent, and its natural wealth. Consequently, this new wave of settlement built community roots here, beginning in the mid 1600s.
The Frontenac Arch was instrumental in shaping history, and the pattern of settlements well beyond the landform itself. The mosaic of lakes, large and small; and the network of rivers and streams were the framework for settlement, transportation, power and roads.