The Gowganda Formation is part of the thick Huronián sequence of Precambrian sedimentary rocks that crop out in central Ontario from Lake Superior to Quebec. Although it has long been considered to be glacial, recent work on submarine slump and turbidite deposits has reopened the question of its origin. This study was made to determine its origin and paleogeography.
Till-like conglomerates, varved argillites, and abundant dropstones characterize the Gowganda and provide strong evidence for a glacial origin. Pebble fabric parallel to regional paleocurrents, rare striated and grooved pavements, and abundant unweathered detritus are also in harmony with a glacial origin. Local thin-bedded sandstones contain flame structure, graded bedding, contorted bedding, and rippled tops, suggesting deposition by turbidity flows. Association of these sandstones with varved argillites and rafted stones indicates that Gowganda turbidites are glaciolacustrine.
Along the southern margin of the Gowganda, at Whitefish Falls, thick, laterally continuous till-like conglomerates contain internal stratification indicative of subaqueous deposition. Argillites that lack varved structure and associated silty limestones suggest a glacial marine environment.
In the Cobalt region the apparent long axes of pebbles in conglomerates show a predominant north-south alignment. In the Bruce Mines-Elliot Lake region, the orientation of the long axes of pebbles is more variable. Differences in orientation are related to stratigraphic position. Ripple cross-lamination in sandstones that are interbedded with argillite indicates south-trending paleocurrents. Distribution of varved argillite, silty limestone, and probable marine argillites suggests a northern fresh-water facies and a southern marine facies. Abundant plutonic pebbles and feldspar indicate that the Gowganda ice sheets eroded a northern plutonic terrane and deposited much of their sediment load on the underlying Huronian sediments to the south.