In 1829, John Bigsby conducted the first investigation of the moraine. He noted the elevation, and styled the area Oak Ridge, identifying the portion of moraine north of Toronto. The moraine’s extent was not established until 1863 when William Logan conducted the Geological Survey of Canada.
Taylor formally defined the landform as the Oak Ridges Moraine in 1913. He described its extent to be from King and Maple in the west to the Trent River in the east. He also proposed that its origin was overlapping, interlobate glaciation retreat, between the Lake Ontario Lobe and the older Lake Simcoe Lobe. This has become the accepted explanation for the moraine’s development, through research in the 1970s suggested the moraine may not be interlobate.
Research conducted in the 1990s revealed that the moraine has multiple origins: its eastern area has subglacial depositions (Gorrell and McCrae, 1993); early parts of the moraine were deposited in an esker (Brennand and Shaw, 1994); and that the moraine is not continuous, but is composed of multiple depositional environments: subglacial, ice-marginal and proglacial lacustrine (Barnett et al., 1998).
Current research efforts on the moraine are quite extensive. Because of the political implications of development on the moraine, and because its aquifers are a source of potable water for numerous communities, both federal and provincial governments have invested resources towards research on the moraine. The Geological Survey of Canada and Ontario Geological Survey both investigate hydrostratigraphy and hydrology throughout the moraine.
Palaeo-Indian hunter-gatherers were in this area between 10,000 – 7000 BC. The oldest artifact found in what is now Richmond Hill, Ontario, from these people, was a stone scraper about 40 mm long, at the Mortson Site, near Leslie Street and 19th Avenue. Other artifacts were found in a settlement site on the eastern shore of Lake Wilcox.
Archaic Iroquois artifacts c. 1800 BC have also been found at the Silver Stream site, near the headwaters of the Rouge River on Leslie Street just north of Major Mackenzie Drive, and at the Esox site, on the eastern shore of Lake Wilcox.