Saturday, February 25, 2017
Devil’s Creek plunges 12 metres over the side of the Grand River cliffs and joins the river on its way toward Lake Erie. There are stories of smoke that used to be seen coming from a cave on the cliffs just north of the creek. Parents told their children that a devil lived in the cave to keep them from exploring the dangerous cliffs. In no time the little creek near Cambridge had taken on the name Devil’s Creek (Google Maps link).
Devil’s Creek Trail runs for 1.6 kilometres along the lower section of the creek. Devil’s Creek is only 2.8 kilometres long and starts near Devil’s Creek Pond. It is fed by springs making it a rare example of a cold water aquatic environment in an urban setting. There is parking in a small park along Blair Road for those who want only a short walk to the falls. Devil’s Creek Drive has street parking and allows for a visit to Grandview Pond and a longer walk to the falls. Grandview Pond is spring fed but also accepts a large amount of runoff and storm water. It fills up quickly but drains into Devil’s Creek to keep it running all year long. Unlike a deeper lake, sunlight reaches the bottom of the pond. The vegetation that this supports gives shelter to small mouth bass, painted turtles and leopard frogs.
In 1998 The Devil’s Creek Trail was completed north of the CPR tracks. The trail follows the CPR tracks through extensive wetlands.
Work was completed on the next section of the trail during the winter of 2001/2002. Winter was chosen so the impact on the local environment would be lessened. A boardwalk was constructed to carry the trail above the creek as it passes under the railway tracks. The concrete bridge over Devil’s Creek replaces an earlier wooden trestle, of which the pilings can still be seen between the boardwalk and the concrete as you pass by.
Both sides of the trail are marked as environmentally sensitive and hikers are asked to remain on the main trail. Thirty rare plant species and the Jefferson Salamander are being protected in these woods. Eastern Skunk Cabbage grows in wetlands and the woods along the trail support a large colony of plants. Skunk Cabbage is one of only a few plants known for its thermogenesis properties. It can produce temperatures from 15 to 35 degrees celsius above the surrounding air. It literally melts its way through the frozen ground and often blooms through the snow. The leaves do not surface until later in the spring.
In the 1970’s the surrounding area was developed for a subdivision and the section of Devil’s Creek between the CPR tracks and Bismark Street was straightened and widened. This channel ran through a park where manicured lawns extended to the water’s edge. The creek was shallow and without shade, it was too warm to support fish. By the 1990’s it was deemed that this section was a high priority for naturalization. Devil’s Creek once again was given a curved path with several deeper pools to provide colder places to shelter brook trout. Riffles were added to make the water gurgle over small rocks and pick up oxygen from the air in doing so. A streamside pool was also added as a breeding place for frogs and newts.
Riparian zones are patches of plant growth along the edges of a flow of water. They provide shade and habitat for land and aquatic creatures alike. The root systems help provide erosion control by stabilizing the stream banks. Native trees and shrubs were planted through this reach, including Purple Flowering Raspberry, Staghorn Sumac and White Pine.
Devil’s Creek begins its decent toward the Grand River just before the bridge on George Street. The creek flows over this small ledge of dolostone and then is forced into a short concrete channel as it flows under the bridge. The 12 metre falls is immediately on the other side of the bridge. This little waterfall was once the site of a footbridge that has since been washed away. The trail on the right leads to an abandoned set of wooden stairs leading to a fence and a former access to the subdivision beyond.
Devil’s Creek, and the Devil’s Creek Trail both pass under George Street before coming to their respective ends just beyond. Devil’s Creek ends in a 12-metre cascade down to The Grand River below. Devil’s Creek Trail ends at The Grand Trunk Trail which connects to several other trails in the neighbourhood.
Devil’s Creek has cut a narrow channel through the limestone cliffs over the years. From the crest of the waterfall, you can see down to the Grand River below. The cedar trees pictured below are clinging to the side of the cliff above the falls.
The limestone bluffs along the edge of the Grand River were formed 350 to 500 million years ago when this area was under the warm tropical Michigan Sea. They run along the west side of the river while the east side has the Galt Country Club which is at river level.
The Devil’s Creek waterfall empties almost directly into the river after spilling over the cliffs. The white water curling away from the edge marks the confluence which is otherwise lost when the river is flooding and dirty.
As you drive along Blair Road, returning to the 401, there is an unusual stone barn known as the Slit Barn. It was built by William Young sometime around 1840. This three bay barn was built in the traditional Scottish style but from the rear also incorporates elements of the Mennonite bank barns favoured by the German settlers in the area. The three rows of slits were designed to provide ventilation so that the grain would not rot in storage. The slits are three times as wide on the inside of the barn as they are on the outer wall. This increases the amount of light in the barn while keeping the rain to a minimum. The only other example of a stone barn with ventilation slits that we have featured so far was found at The Hermitage.
Other stories in The-Devil-Made-Me-Do-It series: Devil’s Punchbowl, Devil’s Pulpit, Devil’s Well
Our all-time top posts are featured in this special review.
Google Maps Link: Devil’s Falls
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