Geology of Bay Village

The cliffs below Cahoon Park illustrate the geological history of the Lake Erie shoreline. Photo by Denny Wendell

Between 3 billion and 2 billion years ago, Earth was in its gaseous and formative stages. Then, scientists assume, it cooled enough for igneous rocks to solidify and for the atmosphere to develop. With the atmosphere’s wind and rain, erosion started and sediments began to accumulate.

Some 400 million to 300 million years ago, a large inland sea covered what are now the Great Lakes and Ohio River drainage areas. The mud on the sea bottom was later compressed into shale. This time period is called the Paleozoic Era or Devonian Period and Bay Village is built on this shale.

It is also called the “Age of Fishes” because fish were the highest form of life then existing. Sometimes fossils were found in the rocks. The largest fossil found in these shales, discovered in the Rocky River Valley, is the head of a giant armor-plated shark, now on display in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. (Along the excavation of the road bed for I-71 in the 1960s, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History did an extensive archeological dig. They found many fossils and interesting items which are housed in the museum.)

The sea bottom went through several successive upheavals and sinkings during the millions of years following the “Age of Fishes,” the last being 150 million years ago when the Appalachian Mountains were formed. A huge river system called the Laurentian was established on this sea plain. The rivers followed in the same pattern that the Great Lakes flow today.

Four glaciers moved in and out of this area 100,000 to 200,000 years ago. It is estimated the glaciers were two to three miles thick and pushed as far south as Cincinnati. As the glaciers advanced they gouged out the rivers to form lakes. With the rising and lowering of these lake waters, four shorelines were left in this area:

  1. Lake Maumee, 190 feet above the present Lake Erie. Lorain Road is built on this former lake shore.
  2. Lake Whittlesey, 160 feet above Lake Erie. Center Ridge Road is on this shore.
  3. Lake Warren, 110 feet above Lake Erie. Detroit Road is on this shore.
  4. Lake Erie. Lake Road is on this shore.

Bay’s shore line is almost a vertical, wave-cut cliff, 30-50 feet high. The lower part is called the Chagrin Shale, and the top is about 22 feet above the lake at Cahoon Creek, and two feet at Avon Point.

The formation above the Chagrin Shale is called the Cleveland Shale. From Huntington Park west almost to Bradley Road, the cliff is made of glacial till and lake deposits, and not as steep as the shale cliffs. Beaches are few and small, in some cases artificially formed, as was Huntington. Much of the wave-cut shelf along the base of the cliffs is under water.

Even today the wind and rain erode the topsoil and shale. The waves and wind-driven spume force the shale cliffs to retreat about one inch a year and the tilled bluffs yield a few more inches. High lake levels hasten the process. Also, due to people’s misuse of natural resources, the shale cliff erosion is coupled by the dumping of grass and leaves over the bank. (A practice not allowed in Bay anymore.) Unceasingly, the geologic process continues. 

Read More on Snippets of Bay Village History
Volume 9, Issue 14, Posted 9:54 AM, 07.18.2017