Spryfield’s Rocking Stone

The Rocking Stone in Spryfield may be Nova Scotia’s most-studied rock!

The Rocking Stone, in Kidston Lake Park, is a large granite boulder deposited by a glacier near the end of the last ice age.

It is often called an erratic but it is more accurate to call it a perched boulder. Here is why:
Glaciers erode land as they move slowly over it, and carry eroded rocks, sand and dirt along with them. When glaciers melt/retreat, they deposit the rocks, sand and dirt.

Some of the rocks they carry are boulders called erratics (from the Latin word “errare,” meaning to wander.) To be an erratic, a boulder must have travelled far enough that it is a different type of rock than the bedrock in the area where it rests. For example, a granite boulder deposited by a glacier where most of the bedrock is sandstone or limestone would be an erratic.

The Rocking Stone is a granite boulder that was eroded from bedrock to the northwest of its present location by a glacier. The glacier may have carried the Stone as far as 5-15 kilometres before melting and depositing it, where it sits on similar granite bedrock as the bedrock from which it eroded. However, the Rocking Stone was not carried far enough, or away from the bedrock it eroded from, to be considered an erratic.

The Rocking Stone is technically a “perched boulder,” meaning it was deposited by the glacier in an unstable position, which is why it rocks when pushed, despite weighing hundreds of tons. (Perched boulders can also be erratics, but only if they travel far enough that they are surrounded by bedrock of a different type.)

The slow melting of glaciers often creates unusual formations of boulders as they are deposited. Sometimes huge boulders come to rest on smaller ones and rock because of the instability of the boulder base and underlying rock substrate.

The Rocking Stone was likely discovered by the Mi’kmaq given their long history in the area and the Rocking Stone’s close proximity to a freshwater lake.

The first written reference to it was in 1823 in the Acadian Recorder, when a Nova Scotian writer said that he had learned about the Stone from an American who had visited and studied it. (It is not explained how the American knew of it when it was not well known locally.) The writer called the Stone a “wonder of nature” and said, “It is truly astonishing, and clearly evidences the skill and power of an Almighty hand!”

He also said the Rocking Stone “may be set in motion by a child of twelve years of age,” meaning its instability made it easy enough to move that a child could do it.

The NovaScotian also wrote about it in 1828, describing the Stone as being 19 feet in length, 7 feet in width and 4.5 feet in height, and perched on a swelling bed of rock.

It has been suggested that the Rocking Stone was discovered by quarrymen/stone cutters who took shelter under the boulder during a rainstorm. The quarrymen are said to have noticed its movement in the wind and discovered that the slightest push could set the boulder rocking in place. However, this seems unlikely since Spryfield’s early quarries, run by the Yeadon family, were not established until approximately 1832, almost a decade after the Acadian Recorder mention of the Stone.

As knowledge of the Rocking Stone grew, it became a local attraction and recreation spot.
Notable visitors include Sir George Black, an arctic explorer and British naval officer. Black did the first depiction of the Rocking Stone, a watercolour, in 1836.

Andrew Bonar Law visited in 1864 as a six-year-old child. He would later serve as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1922 to 1923. He was the grandson of Elizabeth Kidston, a member of the family that owned the area around the Rocking Stone for over a century starting in 1846.
A group of soldiers from the Halifax Garrison is said to have rocked the Rocking Stone so vigorously that it settled slightly. As a result, where the stone used to move with the effort of a single hand, it has since required the aid of a lever to get the stone to rock.

It is said, though not confirmed, that the Prince of Wales, King George V (1865-1936) also visited.

For two centuries, the Rocking Stone has been known as one of Nova Scotia’s geological wonders.