Saturday, May 12, 2018
John and Mary (Mingle) Felker were born in 1758 and 1769 respectively. Johann Friederick Voelkel changed his name to John Frederick Felker when he emigrated from Prussia and purchased two lots in Saltfleet Township in 1820. After taking up their land grant they went on to raise seven children. When John passed away in 1838 the farm went to the oldest son, John Frederick Felker II. The younger Felker also married a lady named Mary (Bently) and they had a family of 13 children who helped to operate the farm. In 1880, following the death of John II, the land was split between the sons, with the part containing the falls going to the youngest son, Hiram A Felker. On the county atlas map below Hiram’s land is seen along with Davis Creek which flows over the escarpment creating Felker’s Falls. Two other properties belonging the the Felker Family can be found, all three of which are outlined in green. Frederick Felker’s property has a small cross that marks the site of the family cemetery.
Hiram Felker was born in 1844 on the farm and lived there until he died in 1911. His son Joseph Benjamin Felker was born there as well and he carried on the family tradition until his death in 1956. His children sold the farm to a developer in 1961 and most of the table land was developed for houses. This has caused Felker’s Falls to be located in a subdivision. Around this time there was a land acquisition program along the Niagara Escarpment in an effort to preserve as much of this UNESCO world biosphere as possible. The Hamilton Conservation Authority currently owns and operates the land.
We parked at Paramount Park and followed a short side trail until we reached the Bruce Trail. It follows the top of the escarpment and provides some great views out toward Stoney Creek and Hamilton Harbour. We turned to the right and headed toward Felker’s Falls. The conservation area is only 74 hectares in size but contains a section of path that it shares with the Bruce Trail. We circled around the top of the falls looking for the best way to the bottom. From the crest of the falls we could see the quickest way down was to follow the water. Being careful not to go over the falls we crossed to the other side. Upstream from the falls is a section of creek that flows through a hole in the escarpment and and runs underground until emerges into the waterfall, part way down. This is known as karst activity and is similar to what can be found at Eromasa Karst.
Felker’s Falls is a terraced ribbon falls. A water fall that is much higher (22 metres) than it is wide (6 metres) is known as a ribbon falls. A terraced falls has an obvious step part way with two distinct drops. Felker’s, like the nearby Devil’s Punch Bowl, exposes many of the layers of the escarpment in a stunning bowl around the falls. These falls reveal a much greater flow of water at the end of the last ice age.
There are a couple of places where experienced hikers can get to the bottom of the ravine. From there it is fairly easy to follow the stream back to the water falls. With caution, it is possible to reach the edge of the falls but there is a lot of loose talus that makes passing behind the falls unsafe.
On the return climb from the falls we made a brief pit stop to check out this small cave created by the erosion of softer limestone from beneath a harder layer of dolomite. It is large enough to have a few little seating areas as well as a fire pit.
Returning to the main trail we made our way back to where we were parked and carried on toward Glendale Falls and the abandoned section of Mount Albion Road. One of the early plants on the forest floor each spring is the Mayapple. Also known as a mandrake or ground lemon, the plant is poisonous. The fruit is ripe when it turns yellow and can be eaten if you remove the seeds. The name is a little misleading because the flower comes in May but the fruit grows in the early summer. The plant has been used by natives and early settlers for various medicinal properties. They were used to control vomiting, help with bowel movements and may also have been used to expel parasites from the intestines. Modern medicine uses a compound from the plant to cure plantar warts.
The trail will lead you to the top of a steep ravine that contains Montgomery Creek. The creek may have changed course somewhat since the Red Hill Parkway was constructed and now contains several small waterfalls listed as Upper, Middle and Lower Glendale. It is possible to reach the bottom of the ravine and follow the creek back toward the waterfalls. Depending where you start and the flow of water, you may be limited on the number of falls you can reach on this creek.
Mount Albion Road is coloured in brown on the county atlas above and provided access from the bottom up to the top of the escarpment near the community of Mount Albion. The road has gone through several stages from a muddy access road to two lanes of pavement. When the Red Hill Parkway was built in the early 2000’s it crossed the former right of way for Mount Albion Road. The section climbing the escarpment has been abandoned and now serves as part of the Bruce Trail.
The Felker Family Cemetery has at least 46 interments of family members including Frederick on whose property it is located. Hiram, who was owner of the falls when the county atlas was printed, is buried by a rose coloured head stone on the right.
This is an area that will need further exploration. There are at least four more waterfalls between Felker’s and The Devil’s Punchbowl if you follow the Bruce Trail in the other direction.
Google Maps Link: Felker’s Falls
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