Tag Archives: Misissauga

Winding Lane Bird Sanctuary

Saturday Oct. 11, 2014

A chilly start to the day at only 5 degrees.  The sun was out and the sky was bright blue.  To access Sawmill Valley Creek near Dundas and Mississauga road it is easiest to park in Erindale Park and walk across the bridge over the Credit River.

Many of the trees are still green, which is nice.  When the cool evenings of the fall signal the onset of winter, deciduous trees begin the process of collecting and storing the useful resources in the leaves.   The tree stores the green chlorophyll pigment and other photosynthetic parts of the leaf in the roots, trunk and branches of the tree for use again the following spring.  The removal of the green from the leaves produces the bright colours we enjoy.

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Sawmill Valley trail enters the north west corner of Mississauga Road and Collegeway.  As you follow the trail you will soon come to the start of a fence.  If you follow to the right of the fence you will find yourself on an old winding laneway.

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This is the laneway of Roy Ivor, also known as the birdman of Mississauga.  In 1928 Roy, along with his assistant Bernice Inman-Emery, started the Winding Lane Bird Sanctuary.   During the 50 years he ran the bird sanctuary he cared for thousands of birds.  He was a regular contributor to National Geographic during the 1950’s as well as teaching countless school children about birds.  Ivor died in 1979 shortly before he would have turned 100.  He is buried close to home at St. Peters Anglican Church in Erindale.  Bernice ran the sanctuary from the time of his death until she moved to a retirement home in 2007.  The sanctuary has been closed since then and all of the bird cages have been removed.  Recently the property has been purchased by the city for incorporation into the adjacent parkland.

Ivor’s house is featured in the cover photo showing how it looked before it burned down on December 29th 1970.  A portion of the large central chimney remains standing.

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The outline of the east wing of the house is still clearly visible.  When the house burned down a trailer home was brought in and parked over this end of the foundation.  Here life went on pretty much as it had before.

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Each Burdock seed pods contain hundreds of stems that stick to clothing and fur.  Inside the pods are little tiny seeds that get transported around and then discarded to start new plants elsewhere.  In the early 1940’s Swiss inventor George de Mestral was out walking his dog when both of them got covered in burdocks.  Curious about how the burdock attached itself to his clothes he looked at one under a microscope.  He noted the little hook on the end of each one of these little spines.  De Mestral patented Velcro in 1955 based on the hook and loop system used by burdock.  The hooks can clearly be seen on the burdock in the picture below.  Inside the burdock pictured below is a lady beetle.  There are over 5,000 species of lady beetles but all are protected by noxious body fluids based on cyanide.  Their bright colours are used as a warning to birds that might consider eating them.

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Geo-caching is an activity that rose to world popularity in May 2000.  When GPS restrictions were removed a high-tech game of hide and seek began.  A cache is hidden which includes a log book, pen or pencil and often trinkets.  People hunt for the caches based on a set of co-ordinates using a GPS.  When the log book is found it is signed and carefully re-hidden.  Geo-caching never achieved the prominence that is made possible in the era of cell phones with GPS.  One possible explanation for this is 9/11.  Security scares have become common with police bomb squads having been called in after suspicious activity has been reported.  Several schools and even Disneyland have been locked down.  We found a geocache with a skeleton in it.  Since we were the first to find the cache, and that quite by accident, the skeleton may be symbolic of a dead pass-time.

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Other Erindale hikes featured on the historical atlas below include:

  1. Erindale Orchards, 2. Erindale Hydro Electric Dam, 3. Credit River at Erindale and 6. Mullet Creek’s Secret Waterfalls.

 

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Streetsville’s Forgotten Foundations

Saturday Oct. 4, 2014

Autumn has certainly set in.  It was cool at 14 degrees and the skies were dark with clouds.  We decided that it wouldn’t dare rain on us so we set out.  Having parked on Mill street in Streetsville we were right in the area where Timothy Street had built the mill in 1819 that got the town started.

In 1818 the final parcel of land along the Credit River was ceded by the natives to the government.  Timothy Street financed the task of surveying the area while Richard Bristol conducted the work.  In exchange for his work Timothy was given 1000 acres of land which is now known as Streetsville as well as 3,500 other acres scattered throughout Halton and Peel counties.   Timothy Street is listed in the town directories as a tanner.

In 1825 he built the house in the picture below which looked out over his business empire.  This house is believed to be the oldest remaining brick house in Peel County.

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Access covers are one of many items that are usually dated and can therefore tell a little of the tale of a place.  Main street crosses the Credit near Timothy’s house.  At this point the name changes to Bristol Road in honour of Richard Bristol for his work in surveying the area.  Access covers usually indicate the date on which a road or bridge was built or restored.  The cover featured in the photo below is unique in the fact that it has a fish on it.  Dated 2011 it came from St. George which is near Brantford.  It is appropriate because this bridge is a suitable place to stand and watch the fall salmon run in the river.  We didn’t see any this week because the river was too dirty and cloudy.

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From the west bank of the  Credit River we had seen a set of foundations that we believed were another of the five mills that once lined the Credit River around Streetsville.  We went north in Timothy Street Park along the Culham Trail.  When we finally had a chance to check them out they appear to be a little less obviously mill foundations.  There are four thick concrete pillars which run in a slightly curved line with the first one beside the river, pictured below, having four holes formed in the side.  The fourth one abutting against an earthen mound has a mounting surface on top of it.  The mound behind it runs in a curved line off through the trees.  The cover picture shows the four pillars from the side of the mound looking out toward the river.  Large trees growing in places between them.  Having visited the site it is hard to see this as a mill.  It looks more like an unfinished roadway of some kind.  A member of the Streetsville Historical Society suggested that it may be related to Timothy Street’s mills but the use of concrete suggests a date around 1900 or later.

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The picture below shows the third pillar in the foreground and the fourth behind it.  Notice the step down on the side of number three. The fourth one has a full ledge along the front as if something was mounted there. Forgotten by time and seemingly undocumented on the internet this project could be up to about 125 years old.  Older bridge supports would likely have been made of cut stone and not concrete. If anyone has any information about this artifact please feel free to leave a comment.

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When we visited Riverside Park on Sept. 9th the wild cucumber were in full fruit.  A seed grows in each of four chambers inside the cucumber.  In the fall the bottom of the fruit literally pops open and the seeds are dropped out.  The plant dies off every winter and relies on these seeds to carry on the following season.

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The fall is a time when many berries ripen.  Several types of berries last on the bush and provide food for birds that spend the winter here.  The red berries in this picture hang in clusters on a plant with serrated edged leaves.  After looking through countless sites dedicated to berries in Ontario, I have to conclude that this is not a native plant and that it has escaped from a garden somewhere.  One way plants can escape from gardens is when their berries are eaten and the seeds pass through the bird and remain viable.  A seed that gets dropped in a soil condition in which it can grow may be found miles from the original plant.

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The male Bank Swallow chooses a colony to join.  Colonies are founded in areas of loose soils for easy digging.  The male will then select a site for his burrow which is normally about 2/3 of the way up the embankment to reduce access to ground predators.  The tunnel will extend about 2 feet into the soil where temperatures are more stable and here a larger chamber will be dug for the nest.  When the nests are complete, female Bank Swallows will hover in front of the nests to choose a mate.  The female will then collect the grasses to line the bottom of the nest where she will lay her eggs.  Several holes were seen along the river bank, one of which is shown below.

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Here is another view of Hyde mills which clearly shows the 1840 part of the mill built of stone on the right (closer to the river) and the 1906 portion built of bricks on the left.  Having reached here we came to the most southern point on the Riverview Park hike a couple of weeks ago. This completes a section of the river but the mystery of the four concrete supports and the earthen wall remains, for now…

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Credit Meadows Park

Saturday Sep. 13, 2014

A rainy Saturday morning and only 11 degrees.  We parked in the parking lot on Creditview Road just north of where the Credit River crosses near Britannia Road.  This is the second lot north of Britannia and was home to Ephraim Steen who lived here from 1842 until he died in 1921.  Ephraim also owned land on the other side of Creditview as well as the land where Riverside Park and subdivision now stand in Streetsville.  This lot of land was taken over by the conservation authority in the late 1950’s and named Credit Meadows Park.

We didn’t wander too far from the cars but there is always something to see.  There is frequently one or more great blue herons that like to fish on either side of the bridge. We watched one feed across the river from us.  Heron’s in this part of the credit are likely feeding on Blacknose Dace which are one of the most common minnows in the river.

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Near the parking lot is a stand of mature trees which includes several old black walnut trees. They can live for 130 years and attain heights of 40 meters.  The tree in the cover photo has had a tree fort built in it many years ago but only the ladder remains today.

Pileated Woodpeckers feed on beetle larvae and ants that live in trees.  They are known to bore out large, roughly rectangular, holes in trees while searching for food.   The tree in the picture below features a shelf mushroom just below the woodpecker hole.  These mushrooms are also known as The Artist’s Conk.  They have a soft white underside that is perfect for carving in. When they dry they become as hard as a piece of wood and can last for many years.  They usually will stand up on the flat side where they grew on the tree.  They can grow to be 50 cm in length by 30 cm wide.

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We found a branch growing a fungi called Turkey Tail.  Turkey Tail grows on fallen hardwood. This fungi is known for it’s medicinal properties especially as a supplement for conventional cancer treatment.  It is helpful for overcoming the side effects of chemotherapy.

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Wood frogs are easy to miss as they blend in well with their surroundings.  The small specimen in the centre of the picture is only a couple of centimeters long.  Wood frogs winter close to the surface and have the ability to withstand being frozen and thawed many times during the winter.  They convert their body fluids to urea and glucose, both of which don’t freeze as easily as water.

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Wild Grapes, also known as River Bank Grapes have been climbing the larger trees in GTA parks for many years.  They can reach the tops of the largest trees and are capable of smothering the tree and killing it.  The woody vine can be several inches thick where it sprouts from the ground. The vine in the picture below is about four inches thick and easily supports the weight of an adult.  My picture of a Canadian Tarzan, however, will have to remain in my personal collection.

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This mushroom is known as a Dung Loving Bird’s Nest.   When mature they have a cap that has a few spore capsules that look like eggs in a bird’s nest.  It is designed to use the force of falling rain to distribute it’s spores and can throw it’s spore capsule up to two meter’s with the force of a single raindrop.  These mushrooms have already launched their spores.

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The Yellow Waxcap mushroom is edible but is not recommended as there is a poisonous mushroom that looks very similar.  They appear in late summer and there were many of them scattered throughout the woodlot.

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Riverside Park Streetsville

Saturday Sept. 6, 2014

It was a cool morning following a night of rain.  We decided that there was time for a short hike. Parking on Riverside Place we walked the path down to the east bank of the Credit River.  We thought we just might find evidence of Timothy Street’s mill, after which the town of Streetsville was named.  Streetsville has retained it’s small town feel even as it has been surrounded by the city of Mississauga.  In 1953 two of the first suburbs in Canada were built near Streetsville.  The one on the north east was called Riverside and opened in 1955.  The park at the bottom of the hill along the river may have contained the mill pond.  The tree in the cover shot is a massive black willow that stands near the side of an old mill race.  It is likely over 100 years old and witness to many changes in the river valley.

We watched a female downy woodpecker looking for lunch on a dead tree.  The downy is the smallest woodpecker in Ontario.  The males can be distinguished from the females by the red cap on the back of the head.  The downy and the hairy woodpecker look almost identical, yet they come from different genera.  Downy woodpeckers average about 6 inches while the hairy is normally around 15 inches in size.  They have the same markings except the white feathers on the tails.  Being unrelated they cannot inter-breed raising the question as to why they look so much alike.  Scientists use the term “convergent evolution” to describe two apparent random sets of independent mutations that, against all odds, somehow produced the same result.

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The Goldenrod Gall Fly is a small brownish fly that lives it’s entire life cycle around the plant.  In the spring the male will wait on a plant for the female to arrive so he can dance for her.  After mating she deposits her eggs directly into the stem of the young goldenrod plant.  The eggs hatch in about 10 days, roughly the same time as the adult completes it’s two week life cycle and dies.  The larva live their whole lives inside the plant where they chew a nest.  Their saliva causes the plant to grow a gall around the larva, up to the size of a golf ball.  Just before winter the larva will chew an escape tunnel out almost to the outer skin.  Then it converts most of its body fluid to glycol, a substance like anti-freeze, and sets down for the winter.  In the spring the larva wakes up and molts into the pupa from which the adult fly will hatch.  The adult will escape through the tunnel it dug the fall before.  When it reaches the end of the tunnel it inflates special pouches in it’s head to “blow apart” the skin of the gall.  The male fly then begins its two week life cycle on the outside.  Goldenrod galls are easy to find but it is rare to see two galls on a single plant.

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Wild cucumbers grow along the edges of Toronto’s rivers and streams.  They are related to cucumbers, squash and other gourds but unlike other members of it’s family, are not edible. The fruit will contain 4 seeds which drop out of the bottom after the pod has ripened.  The plant dies each fall and re-grows in the spring from the seeds of the year before.

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Milkweeds produce a pod which contains hundreds of little seeds.  These little seeds each have a silky tassle which allows them to be blown by the wind to aid distribution.  Milkweed is essential to the life cycle of monarch butterflies.  They lay their eggs on the plant and the emerging caterpillars eat it.  Monarch butterflies travel 4,800 km to Mexico to winter every year. In the winter of 2013-2014 only 44% of the butterflies arrived compared to the year before.  In order to improve the future of these butterflies the David Suzuki Foundation has a program promoting the planting of milkweed in Toronto.

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We found the old Streetsville mill but it was on the other side of the Credit River.  Exploration awaits…

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Middle Road Bridge

Saturday August 16, 2014

It was 15 degrees and perfect for a hike.  We parked on 43rd street beside the Etobicoke creek.  43rd Street is only a short stub north of Lakeshore today.  In 1954 it extended to the lake and, along with Island rd., contained houses on both sides of the creek near the lake.  A trailer park existed at the time on the west bank of the river between Lakeshore Road and the railroad tracks.  Seven people were killed and numerous houses washed into lake in October 1954 when hurricane Hazel hit Toronto.

Visible from Lakeshore are a triple set of tracks, now used by GO Transit as well as many CN freight trains.  When the Grand Trunk Railroad (GT) was built in the 1850’s it was two tracks wide.  The bridge in the photo below was built in 1856.  When the GT was incorporated into the Canadian National (CN) in 1923 a third track was added.  In the photo below the older track is sitting on the large cut stone blocks while the newer addition on the left is constructed on poured concrete which had become popular around 1900.

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Coca Cola was invented in 1886 in Atlanta by a pharmacist, Dr. John Pemberton. Originally it was sold as a syrup that was mixed in the pharmacy and sold at the counter by the glass.  in 1915 the distinctive “hobble-skirt” bottle was created.  Selling for 5 cents it contained a 6 oz serving.  Pepsi was created in 1893 and stole a share of the market by selling 12 oz bottles also for 5 cents.  The coke bottle below was made in 1959.

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A brickyard was opened in Port Credit in 1891 on the west side of the Credit River.  The business expanded and soon a scarcity of labour resulted in the use of immigrants to work in the brick yard.  Bunk houses were built to provide homes for the workers.  By the 1920’s the business was operating at a loss and it was closed down.  That means that the brick in the picture below is likely over 100 years old.

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The brick yards as they looked in 1907.

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When hiking in the woods in August it is necessary to carry a small stick in front of your face to keep from eating spider webs.  The Cross Orbweaver is one of the more common ones, although it is not native to North America.  Females wrap their eggs in a protective sac of silk.  There are between 100 and 800 eggs in a single egg sac.  We found an egg sac that had just hatched.  The picture below shows a “daddy-long-legs” spider which has been captured and left for food for the little babies.  Note the tiny dots below the egg sac which are the emerging young.

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Just north of the tracks is the first old dam on the creek.  This dam has retaining walls which extend all the way to the edge of the ravine on both sides of the creek.  This is a good example of an old dam as you can clearly see the slots in the river bottom to hold the boards that would retain the water for the mill pond.

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Delco radios are standard on GM products.  In the 1960’s it was common to have only an AM radio in your new vehicle.  FM radio, CD players and MP3 inputs were all many years in the future.  We found an old AM radio with 5 preset channel function.  Having 5 preset stations was a luxury at the time as you didn’t have to try to tune the dial while driving (let alone dial your cell phone).

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The Etobicoke creek was calm and clear.  The west bank of the creek is a shale cliff which is slowly being eroded away from below.  Shale is formed from fine particles of sand that is deposited in slow moving water.

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The second dam across the Etobicoke creek.  Unfortunately, I haven’t found much information about the early miller families on the creek.

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Today was a day for hot water tanks.  We found two of them along the way.  One would wonder why someone would carry one of these out here to dispose of it.  Most likely these are remnants of the mess left when Hurricane Hazel ripped homes apart and washed them away.

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Along the way we noticed that there was a white line on the pathway.  Walking trails normally don’t have divider lines and so we suspected that this may have been used as a road at one time.  A few minutes later the roadway was lined with the remnants of a old parking lot on either side of the road.

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A couple of minutes later we saw the arch of an old bridge poking through the trees.  It turns out that this is called Middle Road Bridge and it was built in 1909.  It stands on the foundations of an older bridge.  Originally designed to carry people and horses it quickly became too small in the days of the automobile as it was 1 lane only.  It is the first example in Canada and only the second in North America of a reinforced concrete arch bridge.  The Middle Road was a major connection between York and Peel counties. Middle Road got it’s name from the fact that it ran in the middle between Lakeshore Blvd and Dundas Street. Prior to the Queen Elizabeth Way being completed in the late 1930’s this was a major 4 lane road running as far as Hamilton.  The portion of the old road which we had seen south of the bridge has been re-named Sherway Drive but it appears to be suffering from neglect as well.  The bridge is protected by two historical societies.  One end by Toronto and the other by Mississauga.  The cover photo shows the bridge from the western elevation.

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Riverwood Part 3 – Zaichuk Property (Mississauga)

Sat. June 28, 2014

Having made our way through the Bird and Riverwood Estates we followed the trail that led up the hillside and left the main trail near the river to be hiked on our return trip.  The upper trail leads past an old red brick foundation from a house that used to stand on the crest of the hill.  John and Theodosia Zaichuck had purchased the northern lot from Ida Parker in the 1940’s and this would have been one of their buildings.  As you near the crest of the hill you pass a small pond on the side of the hill.  When you cross the open field on the trail you will be following the track of an old horse raceway.

Just around the first curve you come to the remains of an old baling machine.  Around 1940 the first machines were made that tied up a bale of hay.  The machine has a set of rakes that collect the dried hay and packed it into a cube.  The cube is tied with two strings and cut into lengths called bales.  Each bale could weigh 70 – 100 lbs.  These were manually stacked into mountains in barns for use by horses, cows and sheep during winter.

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We found a Massey Ferguson Logo and the number 9 on one side of the baler.  Massey Ferguson is an international company today, but it had it’s origin just east of Toronto in Newcastle.  In 1847 Daniel Massey opened a simple shop to make farm equipment.  Hart Massey took over his father Daniel’s business in 1855.  He moved it from Newcastle to Toronto where he competed with Alanson Harris.  He merged with Harris in 1891 creating Massey Harris.  Hart wanted to give back to the city and he did so by creating Hart House for U of T students.  He also purchased a lot at Shuter and Victoria streets to create an auditorium for the citizens of Toronto.  Massey Hall opened on June 14, 1894.

Another merger, this in 1953 with Harry Ferguson of England, created what would become Massey Ferguson in 1958.

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The MF 9 bailer was sold in 1970 and shared an owner’s manual with the MF 12.  In the manual’s cover picture below the hay is being thrown onto a wagon.  The wagon in the cover photo for the previous hike on Riverwood Estate may have been an earlier version of a hay wagon.

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The old orchard that runs down the middle of the field attracts deer in the fall who come to enjoy the fruit.  There are several pieces of farm equipment scattered around the Zaichuk property.  A few in the field and many more in the woods on the south end of the field.  The Tiller featured in the cover photo is near the old orchard.  At the west end of the orchard a tangle of grape vines conceals a manure spreader.  Animal manure was saved up to be spread on the fields every year to replace the nutrients in the soil and improve crops.  The auger took the manure and threw it over quite a wide distance.  I remember driving along country roads as a child and seeing these machines at work.  You didn’t pass a field when the farmer was fertilizing it with the car windows rolled down.

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Walk back across the field toward the large willow at the south end.  Behind the willow you will find the basement from an older building  This was a small barn or a perhaps a house.

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The trees to the east of this foundation contain a large field of garbage.  There are a lot of broken soda bottles here from the 40’s to the 60’s.  A decade ago over 50 intact specimens were rescued from a possible similar fate.  These include a near perfect 1959 Hires Root Beer, a 1954 Wishing Well and a 1959 Canada Dry.  There is also a large amount of household garbage, including the kitchen sink.  This 1960’s gas can looked like it has seen better days.

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This piece of equiment appears to be older than most.  It sports seating for two and a large drum on the front.  The drum has a window like a fire-hatch on it.  This leads us to believe it was steam operated.

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There are many other things to be seen in the south woods, including parts of an old truck and an old refrigerator.  This area is best explored in late April to mid May before the leaves are out if you are interested in finding some of the many artifacts that are strewn about.

Milkweed grows in patches throughout the Zaichuk property and also on the Bird property.  This weed has been in decline due to the use of herbicides, to which it is particularly sensitive.  Monarch Butterfly larva live on milkweeds and the decline in the plant has been matched with one in the butterfly.

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There is a paved pathway that follows the river and will lead back to the parking lot.

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Riverwood Part 2 – Riverwood Estate (Mississauga)

Sat. Jun. 28, 2014

Having begun in the lower parking lot off of Burnhamthorpe we had made our way through the Bird property and arrived at the double row of pine trees that mark an old driveway.

In 1833 Peter McDougall acquired 200 acres of land as  a crown grant.  The property changed owners a few times until 150 acres of it was purchased in 1913 by W. R. Percy and Ida Parker. In 1914 they built a stone cottage on the top of the hill and used it in the summer to get away from their home in Toronto.  The lane way leads up the side of the ravine to the cottage.

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Climbing the lane you come to the stone cottage.  It was built on the foundations of a previous building near an existing barn.  In the 1930’s Ida Parker sold the lower parcel of land, including the stone cottage, to her daughter Margaret MacEwan. The cottage was expanded in the 1950’s with the intention of matching the style of the earlier piece.  It was quite well done and the part of the cottage below that looked like the older was in fact the newer part.  I have read in one place that this may be the pickle factory put to a new use.

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The barn dates to 1865 and is a remnant of the early farming on the property.  Although it has been re-clad with new exterior boards, the interior still contains the original timber frame.

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In 1918 Percy commissioned the building of a new home on the property to be called Riverwood.  It was built of stone which was hauled up from the river on the lane way past the stone cottage. The main part of the building, behind the grand fireplace, was a large party room.  Several Canadian Prime Ministers are said to have frequented the home. William Lyon Mackenzie King visited  here often during his 22 years as Prime Minister.  This was also one of the first homes in Toronto Township to have electricity.  Along the front driveway sits an old wagon, featured in the cover shot.

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This stone cistern was originally used to hold water that was pumped up from the Credit River.

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Riverwood sits on a point of land between two small ravines.  Chappell ravine on the north side and on the south, MacEwan ravine.  When the house was built a swimming pool was built on the MacEwan ravine.  The sides and front of the pool are lined with concrete and a set of stairs is built into the south corner.  When it was built it was the first swimming pool in what is now the city of Mississauga.  It was cold and hard to keep clean so it was eventually abandoned and a new pool was built on the front lawn.

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The pool is accessible by a stone walkway from the back yard of the house.  The walkway passes in front of the pool and leads to the tennis court beyond.  In the 1920’s it was very fashionable to have your own tennis court and no estate was complete without one.  It is said that Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau played tennis here.  Careful examination can still reveal some of the white lines on the court surface.

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If you return to the main trail near the pine trees that mark the old lane way you can make your way further north in the park.  Soon you will come to this old set of stone stairs. Even with some missing, there is still over 100 steps on the hill side.  These will take you back up to the back yard of Riverwood.

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Percy lost his fortune in the stock market crash of 1929 and died in 1931.  Ida Parker struggled after this and sold off the property in three pieces.  She sold the southern portion to her daughter in the late 1930’s.  In the 1940’s she sold the northern farm lot to John and Theodosia Zaichuk.  (We’ll visit that property in Riverwood part 3).  Finally she sold Riverwood itself to Hyliard Chappell in 1954.  Chappell was the federal Liberal MP from 1968 to 1972, serving in Trudeau’s government.  It was likely during this time that Trudeau visited what was then known as Chappell House.

A summary of our 15 top hikes is presented here.

Google Maps link: Riverwood Park

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