Erindale Hydro Electric Dam

Sunday Oct. 19, 2014

Sunday morning was cold at only 2 degrees.  To access the parking lot at Erindale park you have to drive through a break in the wall of the old Erindale Dam.

In 1902 Erindale Light and Power Company was formed to construct an hydro electric generating plant on the Credit River at Erindale.  This large scale engineering project ran into several delays during construction and didn’t begin producing power until 1910.  A dam was constructed across the valley flooding it and creating the 125 acre Lake Erindale.  A power generating plant was built on the south end of town at the bottom of Proudfoot Street.  A tunnel was constructed to connect the two.  The power plant operated from 1910 until 1923 supplying power to Erindale and New Toronto. It was closed when Ontario Hydro began to supply the area with power from Niagara Falls.  In 1941 the lake was drained and the dam was blown up.  Between 1961 and 1965 the former lake bottom was used as a sanitary landfill.  It has since been covered over with clean soil and Erindale Park has been created.

From the top of the old dam the view across the old lake bed gives you a good impression of the size of dam and the lake it created.

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Walking north along the east side of the river we came to this shopping cart which has obviously been standing in the river when the water was much higher.  The shiny coffee mug on top belongs to a clever angler who is fishing near by.

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As you head upstream from the old dam there is a foot bridge that will allow you to cross over the river to explore the ruins of the dam on the other side.  This photo shows one of three old water control structures that are in the river above the dam.  There are six fishermen in this picture (how many can you see?) and the shopping cart.

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When settlers first arrived the rivers around Toronto were filled with Atlantic Salmon.  Pollution, deforestation and the construction of dams resulted in their extermination within only a few decades.  In the 1960’s and 1970’s large numbers of Chinook salmon were stocked in the rivers. The eggs hatch in May from the gravel beds where they winter and and the fingerlings make their way out into lake Ontario.  They will die if they stay in the river until the water warms up. They spend four to eight years in the lake attaining a size of up to 40 pounds before they make their only spawning run.  Then they will migrate from the lake into the same river in which they were born.  It is estimated that 20,000 Chinook make the trip up the Credit River each fall.  After spawning they die and their carcasses litter the river providing easy pickings for the local birds. The fish in the picture below was a recent catch from one of the people fishing in the river.  It looked to be about 25 to 30 pounds.

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The expression “busy as a bee” applies to this little creature.  Although the weather was too cold for most bees a few industrious ones were busy collecting pollen from late blooming Canada Thistles. This purple flower is coated with white pollen.  The bee is collecting it and storing it in the hair all over it’s body.  Bumble bees can’t fly unless their wing muscles are at least 30 degrees C.  On cold days such as this they beat their wings at the rate of 130 times a minute to raise their body temperature enough to take off.

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The Bulrush or Cat-o-Nine tails grows in wetland areas.  There is a stand of them growing close to the base of the old dam.  Various parts of the plant can be eaten and were part of the native people’s diet.  This makes them valuable as an emergency source of food in a survival situation. Peeled stems or leaf bases can be eaten raw.  The roots need to be cooked and peeled but they also are edible.  The roots can also be used as a poultice for burns and wounds.  Care must be taken not to eat bulrushes that grow in polluted water as they are a bio-mediator which absorbs pollution.  Signs of contamination include a bitter or spicy taste.

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At the foot of the dam on the west side of the river is a small mill race where the water is standing still.  The leaves floating on the water lend a sense of calm to the scene.  In the middle of the picture is a tire that appears to be standing on top of the water.  A close look at an enlarged photo shows the green neck of a male mallard duck which is having a bath just to the right of the tire.

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St. Peter’s Anglican church stands on the hill top on the corner of Mississauga Road and Dundas Street.  The first building was opened in 1825.  It was replaced with this stone building in 1887. Roy Ivor, who ran the Winding Lane Bird Sanctuary across the street, is buiried here.

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The north entrance to the water tunnel is located in the woods at the end of the last parking lot. This stood at the edge of Lake Erindale and a pair of sluice gates was used to control the water flow into the tunnel at the bottom.  This structure is decayed badlly and has a small forest growing in the open area inside the mouth.

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This photo was taken by holding the camera inside of the tunnel as it heads under Dundas street.  This is in effect the head race for the power mill.

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The tunnel passes under Dundas Street just east of Proudfoot Street.  It then emerges just past the end of Proudfoot Street where the river doubles back on the edge of town.  The power generating plant stood here until it was removed in 1977.  The picture below shows the power station and the tail race where the water was returned to the river.

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8 thoughts on “Erindale Hydro Electric Dam

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