Buttermilk Falls

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The origin of the name Buttermilk Falls is one of speculation.  At the time of the county atlas in 1875 it was known as Inglis Falls after the landowner at the time.  David Inglis called his homestead “Burning Springs” but his primary occupation was as a Presbyterian pastor.  McNab Presbyterian Church lists Inglis as their first pastor, having served from 1855 – 1872.  It has been suggested that the farm had been used for dairy at one point and the falls were named after this.  Another idea is that the falls appear to resemble buttermilk at some times.  David Inglis owned Lot 1, Concession 6 in Barton Township.  James Cook owned Lot 1 in Concession 7 where Albion Falls is located.  The plan was to visit both falls by approaching from creek level.  There is free parking on Mountain Brow Boulevard near the crest of Buttermilk Falls at Oak Knoll Park.

Buttermilk 1875

Also shown on the county atlas above is the Hamilton & Lake Erie Railway as it passes near the top of the two water falls.  Built in 1869 and absorbed into the Hamilton & North Western Railway in 1875 this is the final year the railway would appear on the atlas under the original name.  The line eventually came into the Canadian National Railway fold and was eventually abandoned.  It was converted into the 32-kilometre Escarpment Rail Trail in 1993.

Although there was a small flow today it runs dry sometimes so this falls is best viewed in the spring or after a heavy rainfall. The size of the bowl that is cut in the limestone reveals a much larger volume of water at the end of the last ice age, 12,000 years ago.


Mountain Brow Side Trail connects Buttermilk Falls to Albion Falls and provides some good views of the falls and the gorge it has cut.


We followed the trail until there appeared to be a suitable place to descend the escarpment.  There are no trails and few places that are safe for anyone except an experienced hiker.


Finding the bottom of the ravine we turned and made our way back up the creek toward Buttermilk Falls.  This creek has several little cascades between the falls and it’s confluence with Red Hill Creek.


Buttermilk Falls is a 23-metre high plunge waterfall.  The escarpment face reveals the upper layers of the Niagara Escarpment.  The red Queenston Shale for which Red Hill Creek and Parkway are named is the bottom layer of the escarpment.  Harder layers of dolostone are interspersed with softer layers of limestone.  This has created an opportunity to walk completely behind the falls and out the other side.


Red Hill Creek runs for 7 kilometres from Albion Falls to Hamilton Harbour.  Along with Albion Falls, two tributaries of Red Hill Creek carry waterfalls over the escarpment during that distance.  Having visited Buttermilk Falls we have yet to venture to nearby Felker’s Falls.


We followed Red Hill Creek toward Albion Falls until we came to this sign.  It is said that they are actively passing out tickets, which aren’t on our list of priorities.


This forced a retracing of our route until we were back at the top of the ravine.  From there you can follow the trail to Albion Falls.  This is one of the most beautiful falls in the area and well worth the visit.  On our previous hike to Albion Falls you could still access the bottom and there were dozens of people down there.  That story can be found at this link.


Scarlet Elf Cap (or Cup), like many cup fungi grow in the late winter or early spring.  The fruit bodies are usually hidden under leaves and are not known for being edible.  The natives used the plant for medicinal purposes, applying the ground fruit bodies to the ends of umbilical chords that did not appear to be healing normally.  This example was growing in the ravine below Buttermilk Falls.


The need to visit The Escarpment Rail Trail and Felker’s Falls will likely draw us back to this area at least a couple more times.

Google Maps Link: Buttermilk Falls

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