Hamilton Conservation Authority City of Hamilton Bruce Trail Conservancy


Devil's Punch Bowl Escarpment

General Summary

The Devil’s Punch Bowl Escarpment consists of a ribbon of the Niagara Escarpment varying in width from 250 to 600 m wide, and extending 10 km from Highway 20 east to the City of Hamilton boundary. The Bruce Trail runs the length of this area. Adjoining land use is presently largely agricultural, but suburban and rural estate developments have encroached on both the escarpment rim (brow) and terraces (toe), particularly in the western portion of the study area, and have adversely affected the natural area.


Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Designation:
• Provincial Life Science ANSI (Area of Natural and Scientific Interest)
• Provincial Earth Science ANSI (Area of Natural and Scientific Interest)

City of Hamilton Environmentally Significant Area (ESA) Criteria:
• Significant Earth Science Feature

- the area encompasses regionally significant landforms

• Significant Ecological Function
- the area contains significant species
- the area contains rare biotic communities
- the riparian area serves as a link between natural areas along the Niagara Escarpment
- the area is representative of the natural features of the Niagara Peninsula section of the Niagara Escarpment

Physical Description

The elevation of the escarpment brow varies from 184 m at the western end, to 203 m south of Winona. The most significant physical feature along this section of the escarpment is the Devil’s Punch Bowl Falls, a 23 m high waterfall where Stoney Creek has eroded a semi-circular plunge pool about 100 m in diameter. The complete stratigraphic sequence from the Queenston Formation to the Lockport Formation is particularly well-exposed here, spanning over 40 million years of geological history.

The stranded shoreline of former Lake Iroquois, which was some 30 m higher than the present level of Lake Ontario, follows the toe of the escarpment. Regional groundwater movement is northerly towards Lake Ontario. Minor seeps and intermittent streams originate along the escarpment slope, and have eroded small ravines and gullies into the escarpment slope and terraces.

Ecological Land Classification

This natural area is representative of the array of natural plant communities associated with the face, slope, and terraces of the Niagara Peninsula section of the Niagara Escarpment. The eastern end of the study area in the vicinity of Fifty Road contains a particularly good example of the mature slope forest complex with a red oak - white pine community and regionally significant flora. The condition of the vegetation decreases along a west-trending gradient due to increasing urbanization.

Flora and Fauna Summary

Vascular Plants

Nature Counts botanists recorded 280 species in 2002. Of these, four are locally uncommon species, six are locally rare species, seven are Carolinian species, and 109 (39%) are introduced species.


Nature Counts surveyors recorded 17 species in 2001 and 2002. Of these species, two are locally uncommon and the Monarch (Danaus plexippus) is a COSEWIC special concern species.


No fisheries data are available for this area.


During surveying for the Hamilton Herpetofaunal Atlas and the 1991 NAI site visits, 15 species were documented including Eastern Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum), a COSEWIC special concern species, and Jefferson Salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum), a locally, provincially, and nationally rare salamander species.

Breeding Birds

Fifty-six species were observed in 1991 including 12 locally uncommon species and three locally rare species, Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus), Canada Warbler (Wilsonia canadensis) and Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus). Nature Counts surveyors recorded 44 species in 2001.


The Nature Counts project conducted small mammal trapping in August of 2002. Nine common species were recorded, six of which are new records for the area.



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