Tag Archives: Red oak

Hilton Falls

Sunday November 1, 2015

Hilton Falls makes a scenic 10 metre drop over the escarpment beside the ruins of a thrice abandoned saw mill. We decided to visit the falls and investigate a section of the escarpment we had never been through before. We parked on the sixth line at the parking lot for the Halton Regional Forest Britton Tract and set off on an extended hike to the falls.

The Britton Tract has been managed by Halton Region since 1952 and contains the Bruce Trail as well as several side trails.  The escarpment here is dolomite which can hold water in pools close to the surface providing a large amount of water in streams and wetlands.  It also leads to the growth of extensive amounts of moss on the rocks.  The trees don’t tolerate the wet conditions and many fall before they reach their full size giving the forest a youthful appearance.

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The autumn meadowhawk, as implied by it’s name, is seen in late summer or fall.   However, the name may suggest a bird rather than a dragonfly.  This dragonfly has relatively large eyes as compared to most members of the genus.  They feed on insects including the beloved mosquito and they themselves are eaten by fish.  Large Mouth Bass are known to catch them as they touch the water when the male and female are locked  in the process of mating.  It’s Latin name means “with rock” and refers to their habit of sunning themselves on the rocks along the shoreline of lakes and steams.

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Along the side of the blue trail we found a glacial pothole. These potholes generally are wider in the middle than either the top or bottom. Early concepts of their creation suggested that aboriginal people had carved them. Smaller ones supposedly being used for cooking. They are also called “Moulin Potholes” and are now believed to have been formed when water poured through a hole in a melting glacier and eroded the stone beneath. They range in diameter to over 25 feet and the one pictured below is about 15 feet deep.

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As we made our way through the woods we saw an old stone wall on the left of the path.  Stone fences were the easiest solution for disposing of rocks during the annual clearing of farmland. This particular tract of land was difficult to farm and the fields have been left to go wild again. Now the stone walls are running through the forest where once they would have divided fields.  Like other surfaces in the area the stone fence is covered with a thick layer of moss.

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The water in the wetlands is controlled by means of a modern sluice gate.  The pipe on the top houses the cylinder that presses a metal plate down to seal the flow of water.

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Following Sixteen Mile Creek we came to a place where the sunlight sparkled on the water as it vanished over the crest of a waterfall.

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In 1830 Henry Young gained title to lot 8 in the fifth concession.  He allowed Edward Hilton to build a saw mill in 1835 which Hilton operated until 1837.  This was when he decided to leave to fight in what came to be known as the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837.  The mill was left to rot and it appears Hilton didn’t return for about twenty years.  Hilton gave his name to the falls although he only operated a mill here for a short time.  Hilton Falls plunges over the escarpment and provided the power to turn the water wheel for the saw mill.

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In 1856 the site was purchased by Dr. George Hamilton Park who had the mill rebuilt.  He likely bought it under speculation and it was operated under several names until 1863 when it burned down.  At the foot of the falls stand the remains of the water wheel housing from Dr. Park’s mill.  This cut stone structure supported a wood and iron wheel that was reported to be 40 feet in diameter.  Estimations of the site suggest that 26 feet was more likely the size.  The water was brought from a mill pond above the falls through a flume to the top of the wheel.  The stone arch provided an exit for the water after it turned the wheel.  The wheel housing and the mill were solid construction.  The saw mill was 30 feet wide, 50 feet long and stood 18 feet tall.  The wheel housing can be seen below as well as in relation to the falls in the cover photo.

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Along the way back we decided to take a brief trek along a side trail near the sluice gates. Here we discovered this small pond.  The white rock along the far shore of the pond is another large glacial pothole.

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Ontario’s crown forests cover almost two thirds of the province.  When almost all of the original tree cover was harvested in the first century of settlement the government set out a program to encourage reforestation.  Tax grants were made available to people who planted a portion of their land with forests.  The land in the escarpment was poor for farming and was often reforested with trees planted in straight rows as seen below.

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This small red oak tree has it’s bright red leaves shining in the fall sunlight.  This tree can grow very fast and in 10 years can reach up to 20 feet tall.  As noted earlier, the growing conditions here will likely cause it to die before it reaches it’s potential of 500 years old.

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The Niagara Escarpment was named a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1990. Development and land use are strictly controlled along the escarpment.  Mineral extraction is one of the permitted uses of the escarpment under tightly controlled conditions.  The Milton Quarry is across the street from where we parked and has filled up with water.  On the far side of this photograph is a white building.  Behind it a foot bridge carries the Bruce Trail across “The Gap” in the escarpment.  This gap can be seen from the 401 and was created in 1962 when the quarry was opened.  The trail over The Gap makes for a fun hike that I hope to repeat soon.

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Taking the scenic route it was 5.9 km to the falls but the more direct route back was only 4.26 km for a total hike of 10.25 km.  This is a lengthy hike but there is a shorter means to access the falls from Hilton Falls Conservation Area.

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High Park – Eastern Ravine

Saturday Jan. 17, 2015

There are plenty of nice days for hiking in the winter and this was one of them.  It was minus 8 with a wind chill of minus 16 and absolutely free of bugs.  In recovery mode from a head cold I was likely over-dressed which isn’t a good thing as you don’t want to sweat.  Sweating in the cold air can actually leave you feeling even colder.  Today I accessed the park from the Keele subway station.  Two visits to the park in November had explored the west side and then the middle sections.  The first ending at Colborne Lodge and then the second taking in The Zoo. This time the target was the area known as the east ravine. This 176 acre section of High Park had belonged to Percival Rideout until it was sold to the city and added to the park in 1876.

Prior to any ice ages, the Laurentian River drained much of Ontario through what has become the St. Lawrence River.  Ice age debris has buried the ancient river channel and much of it now lies under the Great Lakes.  As the cover picture of the 1890 map of the river system shows, it was believed to have passed through the Toronto area.  In 2003 a 15 meter geyser led to the discovery that the preglacial river system still flows 50 meters below the surface under bedrock. High Park sits above the southern terminus where the Laurentian River system is blocked from entry into Lake Ontario.

Following the last ice age the lake was larger than today, reaching to the area of Davenport road.  This lake was known as Lake Iroquois and it left large sand and gravel deposits along it’s shore.  The area of High Park sits on extensive sand banks.  In one place there is a sink hole ten feet deep where the sand is being washed away.

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There is a large oak forest on the eastern ravine of the park.  This hollow red oak tree is capable of concealing various kinds of wildlife including the specimen hiding inside it in this picture.

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Toronto Urban Forestry maintains 4.1 million trees in the city including about 3.5 million in our parks.  Every year they plant about 100,000 trees to replace diseased or unsafe trees that are removed.  Red oak number 26827 is tagged in the picture below.  It stands, along with others in the same number sequence, along one of the sand rills behind Colborne Lodge.

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A rear view of Colborne Lodge and the carriage house.

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Crown galls are caused by a bacterial infection and can attack thousands of different species of plants. They cause galls to form, often near the soil line of the plant.  The red oak featured in the picture below has a gall larger than a beach ball.

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Spring Creek flows down the eastern ravine and has been dammed near Colborne Lodge, perhaps to create a swimming pool.

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Spring Creek empties into Lower Duck Pond where it is fed into the lake by means of pipes and a detour through Grenadier Pond.  The picture below looks from the south end of Lower Duck Pond back into the park.  The willow tree in the middle of the picture will become a harbinger of spring in a few weeks when the branches start to take on a green colour.

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In December 1913 a set of gates was constructed on the entrance off of Parkside drive in honour of John George Howard for donating the property.  Ironically, they are constructed on the Percival Rideout property that the city acquired in 1876 and not on the former Howard property .  The metal work in this 102 year old structure is highly ornate.  The city had just received electricity from Niagara falls a couple of years earlier and this must have looked quite special with it’s central light and two corner post lamps lit.

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This large oak branch is lying on the ground with it’s leaves still intact.  As discussed in the post Winding Lane Bird Sanctuary the tree will extract chlorophyll from the leaves and store it in the wooden parts of the tree for the winter.  It then forms a scab and a new bud for the next spring. This process causes the tree to eject the old leaf.  As this branch fell prior to that happening, the leaves will remain on the branch until they rot enough to be blown off by wind, rain or snow.

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The tree branch broke off early in the season when the acorns were just beginning to form.  For scale a baby acorn is placed beside a 1974 5 cent piece.

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High Park has plenty left to discover in future visits.  For a gallery of additional photos please visit our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/hikingthegta