Humber Bay to Bloor Street

Saturday May 24, 2014

It was a gorgeous sunny morning with temperatures soon rising into the 20’s C.  We parked in the parking lot near the Petro Canada on the South Kingsway.  This area was home to Jean Baptisite Rousseau who had a fur trading post at the mouth of the Humber River into the 1790’s.  He greeted Governor Simcoe when he arrived in 1793 to start Fort York, later to become Toronto.  We crossed the Humber on the Queensway and followed the river to the pedestrian bridge at the mouth of the river.

This 1860 bridge abutment for the Grand Trunk Railway stands just to the north side of the rail crossing near the mouth of the river.


The Palace Pier was conceived in the early 1920’s as an 1800 foot long entertainment facility sticking out into the lake.  It was designed by the same company that had opened Brighton Pier in the UK in 1899.   The depression delayed construction and in 1941 the Dance Hall was opened.  The Pier was destroyed by an arson in Jan. 1963.  A footing is all that has been preserved.


Shown in this 1957 aerial photo of the mouth of the river, the Palace Pier juts into the lake on the west side of the river.  Just above the Lakeshore bridge, construction is underway for the bridge for the new Gardiner Expressway.  The darker bridge is the railway tracks and the old bridge abutments can be seen just above, on either side of the river.

Humber mouth

This view is from the footbridge across the Humber looking east to the downtown.  The shore line to the east was extended about 100 yards into the bay by extensive land fill projects in the late 1910’s and early 1920’s.


This monument to the east of the river mouth was dedicated on June 7, 1939 by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to commemorate the QEW highway.  This was also the occasion of the first visit to Canada by a reigning monarch.


In 1908 the Hydro Electric Power Commission of Ontario contracted to purchase electricity from Niagara Falls and began construction on a set of power lines that ran along the lake shore into Toronto.  The towers crossed the Humber just north of the current Petro Canada station from 1910 until 1940. The footings remain on the eastern embankment.


The photo below shows the hydro towers being dismantled at Sunnyside Beach just to the east of here in 1940.

Dismantling Pole

We attempted to follow the river’s edge north from there but found that it quickly became inaccessible.  We did find the bottom of a 1952 soda bottle along here but not much else as it is very overgrown.  We were forced to follow the path of the old Toronto Carrying Place trail which roughly follows Riverside Drive. The scent of lilacs and other garden trees made the walk along the streets a little more enjoyable.


Unable to access the river again we crossed the bridge on Bloor street and started back down along the western river bank.  The main trail takes you behind the boat club and up onto Humber Valley Road.  If you stay with the river you will eventually be forced back up the hillside near this relic sitting in the trees.



It’s possible to climb back down to the river bank at the end of Stephen Dr. but you will only be forced back up again very soon.  Following the Discovery Walks markings along Stephen Dr. will lead you back into the park a short way later.  This wooded area as well as the site of the water treatment plant a little farther along used to be the Humber Valley Golf Course.  Damaged extensively by Huricane Hazel this golf course was taken over by the city as part of it’s plan to control watershed floodplains.

This structure, known as The Pavilion or The Oculus,  was built in 1959 as a public washroom.  It’s location makes security and maintenance difficult and it has been closed for several years.


The leaf coverage is nearly full this week giving the river a secluded and peaceful feeling.


3 thoughts on “Humber Bay to Bloor Street

  1. Pingback: Spadina | Hiking the GTA

  2. Pingback: Hiking the GTA #100 – Greatest Treks | Hiking the GTA

  3. Bushwhacker

    This has been a real walk (read?) down memory lane for me. I remember the palace pier and so many other places that only remain as footings now. I can’t believe the pavillion is still standing. Thanks for the memory jog.


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