East Lake was initially created following the retreat of the last glaciers; about 12,000 years ago. Wave and wind action along the early Lake Ontario shoreline caused sand to accumulate and create bay mouth sandbars that separated both East and West Lakes from Lake Ontario. East Lake is connected to Lake Ontario via the Outlet River.
Under normal conditions, the Outlet River is open to Lake Ontario during the summer months and the water level in East Lake corresponds very closely to that of Lake Ontario. However, at certain times of the year the outlet of the river becomes plugged. Following the glaciers, the first inhabitants arrived in the area. They were PaleoIndians, a nomadic people who practiced hunting and gathering. They were followed by the Mound Builders; around 1500 BC.
The Iroquois, who settled around 1500 years ago, were the first to build villages and they farmed the area for corn, tobacco, beans and squash. Soon after 1550, due to inter-tribal wars, the Iroquois in the area moved northwest to form the Huron Confederacy. The Massassauga members of the Cree linguistic group settled this area soon after; they were hunter-gatherers unlike the agricultural Iroquois.
The first European settlers were United Empire Loyalists, arriving in the late 1700s. The land was cleared beyond that done by First Nations, and developed for agricultural use. Agriculture dominated through the 19th and 20th centuries, including beef and dairy cattle, field crops, vegetables, and fruit. Canning was a thriving industry around East Lake from the 1940's up until the 1960's.
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