Devil's Punch Bowl
Address:Just East of Highway 20, Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada

Devil's Punchbowl, Stoney Creek, Ontario

From the HPL Special Collections Department,
the Stoney Creek Historical Society, and the Stoney Creek News

The history of the Devil's Punch Bowl dates back at least 450 million years (the late Ordovician and early Silurian periods) when materials which form the Niagara escarpment were originally deposited in a large inland sea. This sea most likely originated from the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States.

At this point in history, corals and other organisms inhabited the area until, as the sea bottom deposits slowly changed to rock, these organisms became fossilized.

Approximately 1 million years ago, the area was subjected to four great ice ages. By this time, the inland sea had already retreated and great slabs of ice covered the land. Their effect on the landscape was to either sharpen and expose the escarpment rock face or to bury it with drift material.

Following the end of the last ice age there was a period of high water levels. This is what etched the final details into the landscape of the Punch Bowl. The water concentrated into huge streams which had a tremendous capacity to carve out the landscape.

One of these powerful streams plunged right over the escarpment at Stoney Creek and carved out what would later become known as the Devil's Punch Bowl. Eventually, there was less water available in the area to continue the powerful stream, and its capacity has been greatly reduced.

The rate of development in the Punch Bowl declined quite considerably after this time period, but it left a gorge that seems almost bottomless if viewed from the safe side of the surrounding guardrail. It has become a landmark that is famous with geologists worldwide for its exposed rock strata.

A number of stories circulate as to how the Devil's Punch Bowl got its name. There is the possibility that it was named for the pails of home-brew which, at one time, could be bought by the gallon in the woods surrounding the Punch Bowl. Another story suggests that people who saw the beautiful sight as a true work of God, but knew that God would not want something named after himself, decided to name it after the devil instead.

Devil's Punchbowl

Although it may not have been named after God, one monument located in the Devil's Punch Bowl is a large, 10 meter high steel cross. This cross was erected on December 18, 1966 by a man named William Sinclair (1925 - 1994). He felt he could bring a little light to the world by building the huge steel monument which has 106 light bulbs along its edges and was originally planned to be lit up for six weeks of each year, during Christmas and Easter.

However, since 1991, the cross has lit up every night of the year, being turned on automatically each night thanks to donations made by a Stoney Creek branch of the Knights of Columbus.

An incredible view is offered by the Devil's Punch Bowl. It overlooks Stoney Creek and Hamilton Harbour, and from the lookout tower installed in 1991, there is an excellent view of the Skyway bridge. The Punch Bowl is well-known for its unbelievable scenery and has been the location of many television and movie shoots. In 1989, for example, television star Super Dave Osborne taped an atomic yo-yo stunt at the Punch Bowl which left many fans breathless.

Despite being the perfect spot for photography or a romantic picnic, the Devil's Punch Bowl has been the scene of a lot of vandalism as well as some suicides (at least three in recent years).

Conservation authority had to shut down the stone washroom building years ago due to vandalism, but it is still not uncommon for picnic tables, stolen cars, portable washrooms and lengths of fence to be tossed to the bottom of the gorge by vandals.

Local residents have also complained that on the occasional summer night, drunken parties will make quite a lot of noise down in the Punch Bowl, sometimes as late as three or four o'clock in the morning. However, regardless of this, the Devil's Punch Bowl is a beautiful and historically significant site.

Many thanks to the Special Collections Department, the Stoney Creek Historical Society, and the Stoney Creek News for the documentation and images.


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