Category Archives: Don River

The Vale Of Avoca

Saturday Sept. 5th, 2015

In need of a shorter hike this week we set off to visit The Vale Of Avoca.  We investigated the collapsed ruins of an old saw mill, the eastern abutments of an old bridge and a 90 year old example of recycling as we explored a section of Yellow Creek.  It was 21 degrees early in the morning and quite comfortable, except for the unending mosquito attacks.  Only the female mosquito bites after which they live off the blood while 100-200 eggs develop.  They normally live for up to two weeks or until they land on me, which ever comes first.

We parked on Roxborough just off of Mount Pleasant.  From here the trail goes to the left and follows the creek to the lower portion of the Belt Line Trail.  We turned to the right and entered the Rosedale Ravine which we followed north to The Vale of Avoca, the name given to a section of this ravine.  As we walked north we came to the Canadian Pacific Railway bridge. This intricate concrete bridge replaces an earlier trestle bridge for which the cut stone foundations remain.

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In 1837 the Heath Family purchased the north west corner of Yonge Street and the Third Concession Road (renamed St. Clair Ave. in 1914).  They named the area Deer Park and built a hotel where patrons could feed the local deer.  Their lot was subdivided and by the 1870’s the community was well established.  Today the Heath’s are commemorated by a street name. Deer Park extended as far east as the ravine carrying the Yellow Creek, which St. Clair didn’t cross.  In 1888 John Thomas Moore began to market his community of Moore Park which would be constructed between Yellow Creek and the ravine to the east of it containing Mud Creek.  To support his community he built bridges across both ravines and also attracted the Belt Line commuter railway.  Just prior to reaching St. Clair an old abandoned bridge crosses the channelized creek in the bottom of the ravine.  This concrete bridge sits on an earlier stone foundation.

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Moore’s bridge across Yellow Creek was built of iron and didn’t follow the alignment of the third concession.  It angled slightly south west and aligned with today’s Pleasant Boulevard.  By 1922 the bridge was starting to become a safety concern and approval was given to build a replacement. It was decided to straighten the alignment of the road and provide for four lanes of traffic and two of street cars.  The new bridge was built over a period of two years and is 509 feet long and 89 feet high.  It opened in 1924 and cost the equivalent of $9M in today’s economy.  The bridge is a steel and concrete triple span bridge.  The picture below shows the steel arches under the bridge as well as three concrete arches at the other end.  The bridge and the valley they span were renamed The Vale Of Avoca in 1973. The name is taken from a poem by Thomas Moore called The Meeting of The Waters.  It is said that Thomas Moore the poet and John Thomas Moore the community builder were related.

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The Toronto Archives photo below shows the bridge looking west toward Pleasant Boulevard. Notice the lattice work iron railings on either side.

Construction photographs of St. Clair Avenue E. viaduct

When The Vale of Avoca opened in 1924 the old iron bridge was immediately removed.  The iron railings from John Thomas Moore’s bridge were cut up and recycled as fencing along the side of Avoca Avenue.  The Vale of Avoca bridge can be seen in the background.

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The archive photo below from 1925 shows the work in process of removing the old bridge.

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Just north in The Vale of Avoca lie the remains of an early sawmill. The  mill dam created a pond that stretched back upstream flooding part of what is today’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery.  This seems hard to believe looking at the present condition where the cemetery is on such higher ground.  The ravine that formerly held Yellow Creek through the cemetery property has been filled in with ten metres of soil that were excavated when the Yonge subway was built in the 1950’s.  The earthen works of the dam provided the first bridge across Yellow Creek at this location, prior to Moore’s bridge.  Today most of the structure of the mill has collapsed into a mess of shale on an otherwise soil covered embankment.  The horizontal tree in the middle of the picture below is resting on, and perhaps knocking over, part of one wall.  Near the left side of the picture there stands one of the other corners of the building.

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In the midst of the ruins of the collapsed mill I found the bottle pictured below.  It is embossed Buckingham Cleaner but bears no other markings.  The seam on the edge ends just below the lip suggesting a date between the late 1880’s and the introduction of the bottle machine in 1906.  Researching Buckingham Cleaner suggested to me that people in Buckingham have no excuse for dirt as you have a lot of cleaning services available.  The original product in this bottle is a little harder to find information about.

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We returned to St. Clair and crossed Yellow Creek on The Vale Of Avoca.  On the east bank of the creek just south of the bridge stand the remains of the abutments and footings for the 1888 bridge.  The original bridge abutment was made of cut stone.  A rectangular slab of concrete near the left of the picture is from a repair conducted just prior to replacement.  The cover photo also shows the former bridge abutment looking out across The Vale Of Avoca.

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The common Garter Snake lives in a wide variety of habitats and is completely harmless.   Various species of snakes either lay eggs or give live birth.  The garter snake is one of the species that gives live birth and the female can have as many as 70-80 snakes in a single littler.

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The teasel has nearly finished blooming for this year.  A few still have their purple ring of tiny flowers but these are only the ones which get less direct sunlight.  A group or cluster of tiny flowers such as these is known as an inflorescence.  The little flowers are actually specialized leaves known as bracts which bloom in a ring around the middle of the inflorescence and then progress toward the ends of the oval flower head.

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The Villa St. Clair was built in 1892 and added to Toronto’s list of heritage properties in 1984.  It has a small tower, or turret,  which looks out across The Vale Of Avoca.

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Old Post Road

Sunday August 30, 2015

Post Road runs through the most affluent neighbourhood in Canada and ends in it’s first planned community.  Between the two, the road is broken by Wilket Creek where there is no bridge crossing.  I had time for a short hike while my wife was sleeping off a stomach illness.

At the start of the 20th century the area of Bayview and Lawrence was becoming home to some of Toronto’s wealthiest people.  They started to build grand estates complete with horse stables for their riding pleasure.  We previously looked at some of these old homes in Bayview Estates.  In 1929 the bridge over the West Don River at Lawrence Avenue was rebuilt but the area north of it was still rolling farm land.  The area we now call The Bridle Path was marked by horse trails and was seen as a good place for an exclusive enclave of grand homes because of it’s limited road access.  In 1937 E. P. Taylor, who had designed Canada’s first planned community in Don Mills, bought a large plot of land north of the Bridle Path for his estate.  His wife named it Windfields and today it is owned by the Canadian Film Centre.  The park behind the estate is known as Windfields park.  George Black was partners with Taylor and he built the home on Park Lane Circle where he raised Conrad Black.  To keep the neighbourhood to the wealthy a North York by-law was passed requiring single family homes on a minimum two acre lot size. The streets in the neighbourhood take their names from horse racing and Post Road is the most northerly road in the Bridle Path and thus represents the post position, or starting position for the community.

Post road runs for about 700 metres east from Bayview Avenue through an area where there are only half a dozen homes.  This picture looks from where the paved portion of Post Road ends, east toward Wilket Creek.  You can park here for free.  The cover photo is taken from part way down the old roadway where a hydro line is visible passing through the new growth.

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There is only a little trail left of the roadway where it descends the hill toward the creek.  As is common with many closed portions of road there is always someone who thinks they should be used as dumps.  The west end of Post Road has it’s little caches of trashes.  I found a vinegar bottle from 1958 indicating that the trash was dumped after the development of the area had been well under way.  Canada Vinegars Limited was once the largest manufacturer of vinegar in North America.  They were located at 112 Duke street (now Adelaide) not to far from Toronto’s first post office.

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At the bottom of the hill there is no sign of any bridge remains.  Aerial photos from 1947 show the roadway but there was already no bridge here at that time.  This picture looks north up the creek bed.  On the left side there is a sewer access dated 1980 indicating that the overgrowth on the roadway is only 35 years old because heavy equipment was through here at that time.

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With the water level very low in the creek I was able to cross onto the east side.  The trail on this side is much more open and well used.  It appears that lacking personal gyms and pools for exercise, the inhabitants of the poorer side of Post Road resort to using the park more than their rich counterparts on the other end of the road.

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There are signs of former activity along Wilket Creek as you make your way north along the waterway.  There are several concrete formations that may have been related to mill dams or possibly to flood control.

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The creek bed and surrounding flood plains are composed of a lot of sand and the sides of the creek are in constant erosion.  There are fallen trees all along the creek including this one which has fallen over but continues to have green leaves on it.

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Goldenrod is starting to come into it’s bright golden flowers.  These flowers are essential to the bug community and you will see a wide variety of bees, beetles and assorted other insects on them.  This example is playing host to a colony of ebony bugs.

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Much of the floodplain for Wilket Creek is filled with new growth trees and is a quiet area to hike where I saw very little wildlife.  The trail leads to Banbury Park and Windfields Park.

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Post Road is split in the middle by Wilket Creek and there is no bridge to link the wealthiest properties on the west side with the planned community of Don Mills on the east side.  You stay on your side, and I’ll stay on mine!

Our top 15 stories as selected by readers.

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Hiking the GTA #100- Pernicious Plants and Beautiful Blossoms

April 28, 2014 to July 18, 2015

Presented below is a gallery of plant, flower and fungi  pictures taken during the first 100 hikes on the journey called Hiking the GTA.  This post concludes our celebration of chapter one in this adventure.

On July 21, 2015 I published my 100th post in this blog under the title Hiking the GTA #100 – Greatest Treks.  That post presented the 15 most popular stories on the blog, so far.  I’ve posted a gallery of animal pictures from those first blogs under the title Hiking the GTA – Amazing Animals.  Ontario has many edible plants, some very beautiful ones and several really nasty ones.  The pictures below are in no particular order except that the three most common poisonous ones are presented first.

Giant Hogweed is one of the nastiest plants in Ontario.  It can cause severe burns and even blindness.  These picture shows last year’s stocks and this year’s white blossoms and was published in the Canada Day post on July 1, 2015.

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Wild Parsnip is another plant with similar poisonous sap to the Giant Hogweed.  This picture was taken in Riverwood Part 1 – The Bird Property on June 28, 2014.

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A third poisonous plant is Poison Ivy.  This patch was photographed at Barbertown on Aug. 23, 2014.

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Burdocks have a tiny hook on the end of each stem that inspired velcro.  This one, complete with Lady Beetle, was photographed at The Winding Lane Bird Sanctuary on Oct. 11, 2014.

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Coral Mushroom are one of the plants that although relatively rare can be eaten.  This fungi was discovered on Canada Day 2015.

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Ontario’s provincial flower is the Trillium.  These were seen on our hike from Old Mill to Lambton Mills on May 17, 2014.

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The Yellow Iris is an invasive species that takes over our wetlands and chokes out other plant life.  This patch was seen on June 14, 2014 near Raymore Drive.

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Dog-Toothed Violets were seen on the hike where we discovered the Ovens Above Old Mill on May 10, 2014.

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The Vipers Bugloss has a brilliant shade of blue.  We found this example during our hike at the Devil’s Pulpit on July 11, 2015.

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We found young teasels growing at Glen Williams on June 27, 2015.

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Jack-In-The-Pulpit plants can live up to 100 years.  We found this large plant growing in Palgrave on May 30, 2015.

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Forget-Me-Nots were used in Newfoundland for their Remembrance Day celebrations before they joined confederation and adopted the poppy.  There were photographed near the Barber Paper Mills on June 6, 2015.

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Coltsfoot is one of the first flowers seen in spring.  We found this patch at Churchville on April 3, 2015.

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Canada Thistle isn’t native to Canada but appears on our Coat of Arms.  This bee was collecting pollen on a Canada Thistle near the Erindale Hydro Electric Dam on Oct. 19, 2014

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Black Willow trees grow in wet areas and reach massive sizes.  This one is in Riverside Park in Streetsville where we visited on Sep. 6, 2014.

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Trees suck the chlorophyll back out of the leaves and store it in the woody parts of the tree for re-use the next year.  These trees appear to be doing just that.  These were also photographed at The Winding Lane Bird Sanctuary on Oct. 11, 2014.

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Our parks are full of a wide variety of plants which keep the woods alive with splashes of colour from early spring until late fall.  Watch out for the pernicious plants and enjoy the beautiful blossoms as you have your own adventures, Hiking the GTA.

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Hiking the GTA #100 – Amazing Animals

April 28, 2014 to July 18, 2015

Presented below is a gallery of animal pictures taken during the first 100 hikes on the Hiking the GTA adventure.

On July 21, 2015 I published my 100th post in this blog under the title Hiking the GTA #100 – Greatest Treks.  That post looked back at the creation of Hiking the GTA and listed the top 15 hikes as determined by activity on WordPress.  This post presents some of the amazing animals that we encountered along the way.  By hiking quietly and keeping off of the beaten path you have the opportunity to come face to face with some of the wide variety of wildlife we share our parks with.  Most of the animals are more afraid of you than you are of them and will disappear quickly.  In reality some of the plants in our parks are more dangerous than the wildlife.  The following pictures are in the order in which I took them except that I saved my personal favourite for last.  Links to the related articles are provided where additional descriptions of the animals are presented.

This White Tail Deer buck was following me through the woods along Wilket Creek on June 22, 2014.  This was the only creature I saw all year that made me nervous as I’m usually the one doing the following.

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The little baby Cross Orb Weaver spiders in this picture are just hatching and look like grains of pepper leaving the egg sac.  The mother spider had previously brought a Daddy Long Legs spider into the web to provide a breakfast to the hatchlings.  Seen near Middle Road Bridge on Aug. 16, 2014

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This Red Tailed Hawk was feasting near Barbertown on Aug. 23, 2014.

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Also seen in Barbertown was this Dekay’s Brown Snake on Aug. 23, 2014

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The Monarch Butterfly below was seen at the forks of the Don on Sept. 14, 2014.

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Spadina House has it’s own resident fox as photographed on Dec. 21, 2014.

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This Snowy Owl was seen at the Adamson Estate on Jan. 24, 2015

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This coyote was photographed in West Deane Park on Jan. 31, 2015

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The beaver in this picture was seen in Etobicoke Valley Park on Feb. 28, 2015

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This White Egret was fishing near the dam at The Old Mill on May 10, 2015.

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The Red Breasted Grosbeak below was photographed in Norval on May 16, 2015.

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This Trumpeter Swan, complete with tracking tag, was seen at the mouth of the Credit River and featured in The Ridgetown – Port Credit on May 23, 2015.

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This Black-crowned Night Heron was published in The Forks of the Credit – The Stone Cutter’s Dam on July 18, 2015.  Unlike the Great Blue Heron in the cover photo it does not have long legs and neck.

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Hiding in plain sight in the picture below is a new born White Tail Deer Fawn.  This is my favourite picture of the past year and was taken near the Barber Paper Mills on June 6, 2015.

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This is just a sample of the some of the amazing animals we saw on our journeys in the first 100 hikes in this blog.  Many others were featured and many more will yet be photographed on future hikes.

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Hiking the GTA #100 – Greatest Treks

April 24, 2014 to July 18, 2015

The following is a look back on some of the most popular hikes in the past 100 blogs. Companion posts will include some of the more interesting plants and animals photographed along the way.

After years of hiking up down down the ravines in the GTA and collecting thousands of pictures I needed a better way to organize and describe my photos.  A friend suggested WordPress and so I took the pictures for Saturday April 24, 2014 and created my first post.  Since then I’ve had the opportunity to hike much of the Humber, Don and Credit Rivers along with a wide variety of other spots.  My mom has become an avid reader and I’ve picked up some other readers along the way.

We’ve visited some very interesting historical places, seen a lot of wildlife and the abundant nature the area has to offer.  We never missed a weekend due to rain-outs.  One hike this past winter never got published when I couldn’t differentiate between the polar bear picture and the egret due to the driving snow storm .  To celebrate this, my 100th post, I thought I’d take a look back at those stories that were the most popular in this first chapter of the ongoing adventure that is Hiking The GTA. Below are the top 15 posts and a link to the full story should something catch your fancy.

15. High Park – Colborne Lodge – Hike Date: Nov. 22, 2014

John Howard donated the land for High Park in 1873.  He built his house, Colborne Lodge in 1837 and it remains largely unchanged today.  This post explores the west side of the park including Grenadier Pond.

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14. Humber Bay to Bloor – Hike Date: May 24, 2014

One of the earliest hikes in the blog, this one covers the lower stretch of the Don River.  Near Bloor Street an abandoned building overlooks King’s Mill Park.

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13. Guildwood Park – Hike Date: Apr. 19, 2015

Home to the Guildwood Inn, this former artist colony features artwork from several of Toronto’s demolished buildings.

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12. Military Burying Grounds – Hike Date: Mar. 22, 2015

The first burial in York (Toronto) occurred in 1794 when Lieutenant Governor Simcoe buried his one year old daughter in the woods behind Fort York.  This became the site of the Fort York cemetery until it was declared full and a second military burial grounds was opened at the west end of the Fort York Commons.

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11. Don Valley Brick Works – Hike Date: Nov. 16, 2014

Starting in 1882 and lasting for close to 100 years, the Don Valley Brick Works produced much of the brick used in constructing early Toronto.  This post explores the various buildings as well as the old pit, now converted to a park.

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10. Erindale Hydro Electric Dam – Hike Date: Oct. 19, 2014

Constructed between 1902 and 1910 the electric power generation plant in Erindale operated until 1923.  This hike explored the old dam, the surrounding park and the intake housing for the head race to the power station.

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9. Bayview Estates – Hike Date: Nov. 2, 2014

The area of Bayview Avenue and Lawrence Avenue was home to several grand estates owned by Toronto’s millionaires in the early 1900’s.  This post visits several of these estates and stops by the pre-1929 Bayview Ave. bridge, pictured below.

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8. The Devil’s Pulpit – Hike Date: July 11, 2015

The area around the Forks of the Credit was home to quarries during the late 1800’s.  This post explores an old lime kiln and climbs the 100 metre face of the Devil’s Pulpit.  The picture below shows the view from the top.

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7 . Garbage Park Toronto – Hike Date: Apr. 13, 2015

This post was an example of me skipping stones in the big pond called city hall.  I was attempting to get the city to clean up an incredibly polluted stretch of parkland.  I went back and did a regular historical feature on the site in a later post called Dufferin Creek.  The Toronto Star featured the story in their column called The Fixer on April 22, 2015.  You can read their story here.

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6. Barber Dynamo – Hike Date: June 6, 2015

Built in 1888 the Barber Dynamo provided electricity to the Barber Paper Mills until 1913 when electrical power was brought from Niagara Falls.  This historic building stands about 3 km downstream from the paper mill.

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5. Pottery Road – Hike Date: Aug. 10, 2014

Pottery road likely followed part of an old Indian trail that ran along the Iroquois Bluffs.  When the Bayview extension was built in 1959 Pottery road was cut in two and the part west of Bayview was left to be reclaimed by nature.

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4. Half Mile Bridge – Hike Date: Aug. 13, 2014

Built in 1888 this bridge brought the CPR into Union station.  Prior to it’s contruction the CPR train had to back up all the way from The Junction to Union Station.  This bridge across the Don River Valley was abandoned in 2007 and trees now grow beside the rails along the former right of way.

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3. Barber Paper Mills – Hike Date: June 6, 2015

Situated on the side of the Credit River in Georgetown, the Barber Paper Mills were the first industry in Canada to build it’s own dynamo and transmission lines to provide electrical power to their mill.  A paper mill was operated here from the mid 1800’s until 1948 when it was closed.

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2. Limehouse – Hike Date: June 20, 2015

The village of Limehouse developed around a local lime industry.  The remains of set kilns from the 1840’s and an 1860’s style draw kiln along with the foundations of a lime mill with it’s stone arch and a powder house make this an historically interesting hike.  The Bruce Trail runs through an area known as the Hole in the Wall where you can climb through cracks in the rock face.

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1. Newmarket Ghost Canal – Hike Date: June 21, 2015

Although two previous plans to build a canal system using the Holland River had been abandoned when found to be impractical and too expensive, the idea was resurrected in 1904. The canal would run from Cook’s Bay on Lake Simcoe to Newmarket using three locks and four swing bridges.  Cost over-runs and insufficient water supply to fill the locks caused it to be cancelled in 1912 when construction was nearly complete.

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Who knows what the future holds?  One thing I’m sure of is this.  If I get the opportunity to do another 100 hikes I’m going to see some awesome things.  Thanks to everyone for coming along on chapter one and let’s see what’s in store in chapter two of the adventure that is Hiking The GTA.

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Dufferin Creek

Thursday May 11th, 2015

After previously publishing this area as Garbage Park Toronto I wanted to come back and show some of the beauty of this green space.  After pressuring the city through several agencies they came and did a very poor job of cleaning up the years of garbage that had accumulated.  I will continue to work at getting a satisfactory resolution to this mess.  In the mean time, this park has much to offer because it is virtually unused.  The pictures presented below were taken during several brief explorations on lunch breaks or after work, however, most of them were taken on the 11th of May on my lunch.

Dufferin Street, like other roads in York Township, went through seasons when it was impassable mud.  In 1855 The Gore and Vaughn Plank Road Company was formed to surface the road with planks.  These were cut strips of wood several inches thick that were held together by long steel nails.  The construction and maintenance of these roads was financed through the use of tolls.  A toll booth was built at Dufferin and Sheppard where it operated until 1891.  It can be seen in the historical atlas picture on the cover photo.  There are still traces of the early Gore and Vaughan Plank Road in the Dufferin Creek valley on the west side of the road.  These have been uncovered by the recent channel work on Dufferin Creek.  The picture below was taken on April 28th during a brief exploration of Dufferin Creek on the west side of the road.

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When the road was built the pioneers chose to make the decent into the valley by going along the edge of the ravine, crossing in the bottom and then curving back up the far side of the ravine.  The cover photo shows the 1877 historical atlas map of the area.  I have coloured Finch Avenue yellow and Dufferin Street in pink.  The park is green to denote it’s upcoming status as a green space instead of a polluted brown one.  The curve in the road is shown on Dufferin just south of Finch.  In the 1947 aerial photo below, the curve in the old road can still be seen. Dufferin now runs straight up on left side of the picture across a tall berm that hides a large culvert in the valley.  The old road bed can still be seen in the “S” curve that begins just to the right of the road just up from the bottom of the picture.  Finch runs across the top of the picture below.  Two homes (white spots) are seen in the park area just south of Finch with driveways off of Dufferin.  Three driveways of increasing length run south off of Finch, east (to the right) of Dufferin.  The home with the longest driveway is lost under a subdivision but the locations of the other four can still be found.

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This archival picture shows the corner of Dufferin and Finch in 1958.  The view is looking north where Finch crosses near the middle of the picture.  A house stands on the north east corner where the bus stop currently is.  Across the street on the north west corner stands an old blacksmith shop where a used car dealer now stands. Two mail boxes stand in the near right corner, one for the home whose foundations remain on that corner and one for the building across the road.

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Walking north from Dufferin Creek the driveway to the first house is marked by a yellow pole. There is an area of old concrete and the remains of the garage are along the side of the dell to the north of the house.  A tree is now growing in the former garage.

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The only trail in the park leads from the back of this former house down to the creek valley. Most of the park area to the east of the creek is untamed bramble and hawthorn bushes.  At the valley floor the creek spreads out into a large mud flat before passing under Finch Avenue and entering the West Don River in the G. Ross Lord flood reservoir.

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The house on the corner of Dufferin and Finch is almost completely lost now.  A few bricks and the remnants of a chimney are all that survive.  I went down to the valley floor where starting this spring the creek has been channelized for about half of its length.  This quiet section has been replanted with shrubs and small trees.

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Along the east end of the park are the driveways of the three homes that used to stand here. Two patches of pavement in the trees are all that remain to mark the location of the home that used to stand closest to Finch Avenue.

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The hairy woodpecker is considered to be a species that is not at risk because there are an estimated 9 million individuals in North America.  The one in this picture is digging for his lunch as I was thinking about my own.

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The picture below was taken on April 13 and shows the work crew busy creating the new channel for Dufferin Creek  on the east side of Dufferin Street.  A new mouth for the culvert under Dufferin is being constructed with large blocks of cut stone.  A new channel for the creek has been cut and lined with stone.  Along the edges a mesh has been laid down for erosion control.

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Now complete, the mesh has been covered with a spray of soil and seeds.  Small trees have been planted along either side of the creek.  Over the coming years this creek will become more natural along either side as the green takes over again and hides the efforts of the work crew.

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Dufferin Creek park is unique among our green spaces in that it doesn’t have any maintained trails.  When the city finally gets the mess along the two streets cleaned up this will be one of the truly pastoral places in the heart of our city.

Google Maps Link: Dufferin and Finch

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Toronto Port Lands

Sunday May 3, 2015

It was a beautiful day, sunny and 19 degrees by the edge of Lake Ontario. I parked at Cherry Beach with the idea of walking the beach east to Leslie Street where I could get around the shipping channel and back along Commissioners Street.

The Port Lands are an entirely artificial construction, tacked onto the end of an artificially straightened Don River.  Formerly marsh land at the mouth of the Don River, it was home to abundant wild life.  Gooderham and Worts used the marsh to dispose of animal waste and wheat swill from their distillery.  Soap factories and other heavy industry upstream as well as raw sewage worked together to create Canada’s most polluted river.  By the 1890’s the marsh had become so foul that there was constant fear of cholera outbreaks.  The Don River was straightened from just below Riverdale Farm, but silt continued to be a problem that required annual dredging of both the river and the harbour.  In 1912 the Waterfront Plan was implemented and the city began a program of filling in the Ashbridges Bay Marsh.  The cover photo shows the dredging operation that helped create what became the port lands.

There are some nice spots along the beach in spite of the fact that it is made of rubble and fill. In many places bricks and parts of demolished buildings litter the sand on the shore. Considering that there is a large concrete recycling facility along the Leslie Slip, just past the turning basin, I think cleaning this up must be too simple to occur to a politician.

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Although the city attempted to crowd the marsh out it has been re-established in places. New wetlands exist that provide habitat for birds and butterflies.  I notice that the robins and red-winged blackbirds are looking fat and are getting ready to lay their eggs.  The picture below was taken looking back toward the city across a field of Typha (cattails) and European Common Reeds.

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As you walk east along the beach the massive tower of the Richard L Hearn generating station remains a focal point along the way.  It stands on the south side of the ship channel beside the newer Port Lands Energy Centre.  Commissioned in 1951 as a coal fired generating station it was in service for only 32 years before being decommissioned in 1983.  At it’s peak in the 1960’s it was burning 400 tonnes of coal per hour which could be offloaded from ships right beside the generator.  The smoke stack was built in 1971 to replace the eight shorter ones that were considered to be polluting downtown. At 215 meters it was one of the tallest in the world at the time.  This is one of three old smoke stacks on the waterfront, all of them are out of service. The other two are on the Ashbridges Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant and Commissioners Street Waste Incinerator.  The picture below is taken from the corner of the ship turning basin looking at the two power generation buildings, with “The Hearn” being on the right.

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This boat is sitting beside the turning basin.  The name plate on the front identifies it as a CB2 made by Suka Van Vene.

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As you walk along Commissioners Street you come to fire hall No. 30, built in 1928.  This building has it’s single bay bricked off and is now used as a meeting hall.

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The four buildings along the east side of Cherry Street are all listed as heritage properties.  On the corner is the former Dominion Bank building from 1920.  It is currently in use as Cherry Street Restaurant.

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Next to it stands the 1930 Toronto Hydro Substation.

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One of the remaining industrial buildings in the port lands is the former William McGill and Company offices.  The company was established in 1871 on Bathurst Street as coal and wood merchants.  Much of the port lands was used for coal storage and distribution.

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The Bank of Montreal building on the corner also dates to 1920.  As the city looks to redevelop the port lands it will be allowing residential and commercial development on either side of the new Don river park.  This block has been proposed for condo development but the heritage buildings will be retained in some form.

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Also on this small block are some of the few remaining oil storage facilities on the port lands.  At one time large tracts of land were covered with these tanks.  Most of them have been removed and have left acres of contaminated soil behind.

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The plan for a new mouth for the Don river received approval Jan 28, 2015 on it’s final environmental assessment.  This clears the way for the river to be disconnected from the Keating Channel and given a new winding, more natural entrance to the harbour.  Soil would be removed, cleaned on site and used in berms to provide flood control.  Trees would be planted and a new green corridor leading into the heart of the city would be established.  A diagram of this was presented in the companion post, The Don Narrows. The picture below shows the area where the new river mouth would be built.  This was once the site of 40 or so oil storage tanks.

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An artists conception of the newly created park lands at the mouth of a naturalized Don River. In the background the artist has included the smoke stack from “The Hearn”.

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The Docks Entertainment Complex added a drive in theatre in 2000 making Toronto the only city in North America to have a downtown drive in theatre.  It stands on the site of the former Polson Iron Works Limited, a Toronto ship building company founded in 1886.  In the redevelopment scheme, Polson Slip, where they launched their ships, would be converted into the mouth of the river. The 1930 Strauss Trunnion Bascule bridge over the ship channel is seen in the background.

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Having seen the turning basin once, I don’t see why I would ever walk down Commissioners Street again.  The beach, however is another story.  You can walk along the beach in one direction and take a small nature trail on the way back.

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I’m waiting to see if they will actually complete the naturalization plan for the mouth of the Don River.  That may never happen, but I just might go with my wife to a drive in movie on the waterfront this summer.

Look for a gallery of unpublished photos at http://www.facebook.com/hikingthegta