Tag Archives: lamprey

Koliba Park

Saturday, May 30, 2020

There is an interesting enclave in Mississauga in the area of Barbertown and Streetsville.  In 1945 three Slovakian farmers were returning to Canada after serving in World War 2 and together they purchased 10 acres of land just north of Eglinton Avenue.  The little park they established was given the nick named “Midgetville”.  There is no parking close by and so we parked some distance down river and made our way north toward the site.  The trail along the river has become quite naturalized through the section known as Hewick’s Meadows.

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Heavy rains have caused the Credit River to flood its banks and divert a large flow of water onto the walking trail.  This has led to some major erosion of the path.

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On the north side of Eglinton Avenue you join Barbertown Road to make your way toward Koliba Park.  Barbertown Road used to contain many houses built for the people who worked in the various mills in Barbertown.  Most of these old workers cottages have been replaced with modern homes but there are still a couple remaining from the mid-1800’s.  The picture below shows a typical duplex of the era, although it has been covered up with siding.

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A little farther along Barbertown Road you will find another small abandoned home that housed a single family. Likely a new home will fill this site in the near future.

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Koliba is a Slovak word that means “Shepherd’s Hut” and it suits the small cottages that were built in the valley at the bottom of Barbertown Road.  Over the years most of the 10 acres of the original property was sold of and has been developed but the small park with its cottages and playgrounds has been retained.  It hosts several Slovak events each year as well as being rented out by Slovakian churches for their services in the summer months.  Due to the fact that the site is isolated there has been a number of cases of vandalism over the years and so the gates are kept locked.  We were forced to take our pictures through the fencing.

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Under normal circumstances the park hosts an opening weekend banquet on the first Saturday in May but that was cancelled this year due to the pandemic.  The Slovak Canada Day picnic that normally happens at the end of June will likely not happen either.  Instead of the park being filled with weekend campers the swing sets sit idle this year.

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The Barbertown bridge was originally built to bring the mill workers from the houses on Barbertown Road to the mills that still line the east side of the river as it flows though Streetsville.  More information on the mills can be found in our post on Barbertown.  We decided to stay on the west side of the Credit River to see if we could make our way upstream to the Streetsville Dam.

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Oyster Mushrooms are one of the most commonly harvested wild mushrooms in Ontario.  During the First World War the Germans began to cultivate Oyster Mushrooms for food and today they are commonly cultivated around the world.

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As we made our way along the river bank we disturbed a family of Canada Geese with their five goslings.   The jumped in the water and began to cross the river with the two adults keeping the little ones safe between them.

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Along the side of the river we found a dead Sea Lamprey.  Their mouth is as large or larger than the head and has no jaw.  The circular rows of teeth and suction cup mouth allow it to attach itself to fish where it slowly kills the fish by draining its blood.  Lampreys spawn in fresh water after which the adults die.  The larvae burrow in the silt at the bottom of the river and live in fresh water for several years.  They then undergo a metamorphosis that allows them to switch to salt water and they migrate to the sea.  A year and a half later they return to the fresh water rivers to span and die.

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The view inside the Lampreys mouth is like something out of an old horror movie.

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A pair of Turkey Vultures were circling above the river.  Perhaps one of them will eat the remains of the Lamprey.

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We reached a point where the river flows beside a steep embankment where we were forced to turn back.  It might be interesting to return to Koliba Park when they are participating in Doors Open Mississauga so that we can get a look inside the buildings.

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Milne Dam Conservation Area

Sunday July 12, 2015

It was 25 degrees and partly cloudy.  Having hiked small portions of the Rouge River in the past I decided it was time to feature some part of it in a blog.  I drove to the founding place for the town of Markham to investigate the Milne Dam.  I parked just off of Highway 7 near Milne Lane, a lane way that once led to the Milne property and dam.

William Berczy was born in 1744 and came to Upper Canada with Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe and basically co-founded York (Toronto).  With a group of German settlers he cleared part of the town site for York as well as building a powder magazine for the Queens Rangers to help protect the town.  His men then cleared Yonge Street from Eglinton to Elgin Mills, a span of 15 miles.  With 64 families Berczy then settled in Markham Township in an area which came to be known as German Mills.  The settlement didn’t thrive but Berczy did and his son Charles became Toronto’s first postmaster.

Alexander and Peter Milne built a dam and a mill on The Rouge River in the 1820’s.  The business prospered and soon there was a woolen mill, fueling mill, ashery and general store. Soon a community named Markham was growing along Markham road to the north of the mills.  The Milnes were also responsible for building mills in the area of Edwards Gardens and in Milne Hollow.  In 1911 Archie Milne, grandson of Peter, built the first concrete arc dam in Canada.  It was washed out in a flood in 1929 but replaced right away.  When it was washed out in the flood of Hurricane Hazel in 1954 it wasn’t replaced.  The Toronto Region conservation Authority bought the property in the 1950’s when they began to acquire the lands in the city’s floodplains.  They replaced the dam in 1973 as part of a master flood control plan and created Milne Dam Conservation Area.

The cover photo shows the side view of the dam where the water falls over the rim and onto the diversion weir at the bottom.  From there it flows to another small dam before being released through a spillway into the open river again.  The picture below is from down stream looking back up at the ten foot dam.  The Milne Fishway can be seen at water level on the right.

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The photo below shows the view up into the fish ladder.  The Milne fishway was constructed in 2001 and opened in 2005 at a cost of over $1 million.  Prior to that, the dam had presented a migration obstacle for fish but now another 45 km of the Rouge River was opened to migration. Records show that Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Smallmouth Bass and 10 other species have used the ladder to reach upstream.  During periods of migration, such as spring time, a cage is placed on the top end of the fishway.  This allows the removal of undesirable species such as sea lampreys.  Sea lampreys attach themselves to fish with a suction cup-like mouth and feed on them until they die. The Milne dam is the final barrier to lampreys to keep them out of the upper Rouge River.

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The Toronto region has been subject to flooding from the earliest days of it’s founding.  The first written records of floods start in 1797.  The first major destruction was caused by 5 inches of rain that fell in 24 hours in 1878 and washed out mills, bridges and dams.  Other floods happened over the next 66 years until 1954 when Hurricane Hazel hit.  With a death toll of 81 people it was time to get serious about flood control.  15 dams and flood control ponds were planned of which only three were built so far.  Claireville dam in 1964, G. Ross Lord dam in 1973 and Milne Dam in 1973.  The view below is from above the dam looking out across the smooth surface of the Milne Reservior behind the dam.  The orange floats collect debris and prevent it from going over the dam.

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These mushrooms look like Fly Agaric which is a psychoactive drug capable of producing hallucinations.  It actually more closely resembles Amanita Crenulata, of the same family, which is highly poisonous. The ring around the stipe tends to be a single fuzzy ring rather than several concentric rings. These mushrooms are the type that are typically shown, although most often red, in pictures featuring elves and fairies.  In a strange twist, children’s books are filled with pictures of poisonous or hallucinogenic mushrooms.

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There are some real quiet places along the side of the reservoir where you can sit and watch the fish jump in the air.  As I sat on a log, and roasted in the heat, the yellow tree branch hanging over the water reminded me to enjoy summer while its here because its over far too soon.

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With lots of wetlands and woodlands the park is home to a wide variety of wildlife.  It’s excellent for migratory birds and I caught a great blue heron in flight along the far shore in the picture below.

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The black raspberry has a distinct taste from it’s red cousin but they were juicy and plentiful. Not to mention how good they taste when put on top of rich french vanilla ice cream.

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Where the Rouge River crosses under Markham road stands one of the early businesses in Markham.  Archibald Barker bought this piece of property in 1844 and took out a mortgage in 1852 which likely indicates the date the house was built. The building was constructed to house a store on the south half and the Barker residence on the north half.  Aside from running the store, Barker was a notary public and ran the Rouge Mills.  This building stood near the mill complex and may have provided a place for workers to purchase supplies.

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Markham has plenty of history waiting to be investigated in future posts but the Milne Dam Conservation Area is a great place to visit and as I only hiked around one corner of the 305 acre park I’m certain to be back.

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