Tag Archives: Rouge National Urban Park

Glen Rouge Campground

Sunday, April 12, 2020

In the midst of a global pandemic we are looking through thousands of photographs for opportunities to bring you previously unpublished stories.  This feature story presents  a series of pictures we took in Rouge National Urban Park on December 21, 2019.

Starting in 1923 Jack Graham developed Graham Park on the Rouge River near Kingston Road.  There was space for about 10 campers who paid $40 for the entire season.  There was no electricity and so the park was lit at night by Coleman lanterns.  Water was carried from a natural spring nearby.  Campers were allowed to collect wood for their cooking fires and were even permitted to cut down cedar trees for fire wood.  By 1950 a large pool had been added by damming the river.  The children would sit below the dam and allow the water to cascade over them, pretending it was Niagara Falls.

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In 1952 a new office and Graham Park Restaurant was built where a full meal could be had for $2.90.  Following Hurricane Hazel in 1954 the park was bought by the Toronto Region Conservation Authority who continue to operate the campground.  We decided to visit during the off season to check it out.

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The campground has the advantage of being only about 35 kilometres from downtown Toronto and is easily accessed from the 401.  There isn’t a lot of activities for the children but there are plenty of trails to enjoy.

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The camp sites at Glen Rouge campground have water and electricity provided.  You don’t have to carry water from the spring any more although lighting the campsite with Coleman lanterns may still be the preferred way to relax in the evening.  There are also some sites that are not serviced for those who want a more traditional camping experience.

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A small bag of fire wood has been left in one of the campsites.  No longer are the guests allowed to collect wood from the park.  Today we recognize that the fallen branches and dead trees provide habitat for many insects and small animals.  It is also possible for the larger crowds who can camp here to strip the woods clean in no time.

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Parks Canada operates a few cabin/tent lodgings called oTENTiks in the park.  These 19 x 24 foot tents provide a comfortable camping experience for families and others who don’t want to rough-it in a traditional tent.

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The Rouge River was just starting to freeze over with slush forming and floating downstream.  There is an interesting pattern in the ice in the middle of the river where the slush has piled up.

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With a thin layer of fresh snow it makes it possible to see where the local wild life has been running around.  This set of tracks looks like a small rodent such as a mole or a vole.

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It was four days before Christmas and the park was quiet.  Most of the birds had left for the season and although we saw plenty of deer tracks we didn’t get to watch any of them.

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The campground was scheduled to be closed for the 2020 season to allow underground improvements to water and sewage management.  This is perhaps the first time it has had a period of rest for almost 100 years.  I think the wild life is going to be very happy this spring.

Other hikes in Rouge National Urban Park include:

The Mast Trail

Beare Hill Park

Vista Trail

Maxwell’s Mill

Google Maps Link: Glen Rouge Campground

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Lapp’s Cider Mill

 

Saturday January 12, 2019

The community of Cedar Grove has become a ghost town compared to the former glory days in the 1800’s when it was a industrious mill town.  All four saw mills and both grist mills have disappeared leaving only the cider mill.  Peter Lapp erected the building in 1872 with the idea of taking advantage of the abundant local apple crops.  Lapp started making apple cider but soon added other products such as cider vinegar.  Lapps Cider Mill is considered to be one of the earliest and biggest examples of this industry in Markham.   The building is starting to show signs of disrepair after sitting vacant for years.  The front canopy has begun to droop badly and several boards have fallen away.  However, a steel roof has been added in the recent past indicating that someone had plans for the building.

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Two small dormers with six over six windows lit the upper floor of the mill.  These small glass panes are mostly intact with one just small fracture.  Just below the main roof line a small set of windows is broken out which lets the weather into the building.

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The elevator shaft had three doors, one for each interior floor.  Small lightning rods can be seen on top of the elevator and the corners of the roof.  Lightning rods are designed to carry energy from a potential lightning strike through a wire and into a ground rod where it can dissipate harmlessly.  The north face of the building has a frame construction with tightly spaced boards.  On the west side of the building a layer of Insulbrick has been added.  This was likely done in the 1920’s when this asphalt siding was at the height of popularity.

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The west side of the building reveals something quite interesting.  The larger north end section appears to be a later addition.  This is suggested by the foundation which is made of precast concrete blocks that would not have been available in 1872.  This means that this end of the building was either raised onto the foundation or added after 1900.

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Ironically the plaque that announces this building is historically designated is attached just below the business sign that can only be partially read. Many of the letters have fallen off.  At Markham Museum there is another building known as Lapp’s Cider Mill.  It is a drive shed that was moved from a different Lapp property in Cedar Grove.  Lot 3 on the south side of Little Rouge Creek belonged to James Lapp who was the town blacksmith.  His blacksmith shop is now also on display at Markham Museum.  The press and other inner workings were moved from this building to the one at the museum where they are once again operational.

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The length of the hoist over the loading doors suggests that full orchard boxes of apples could be transferred from a truck into the mill.

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Two levels of loading doors with a provision for a hoist provide yet another access for snow and rain to enter the building.

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There is a set of ground level doors are at the south end of the building and once again we find more broken windows on the upper floor.

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It is truly a shame that this building appears to be slowly decaying.  You can read more about Cedar Grove in our story Cedar Grove – Ghost Towns of the GTA.

Google Maps link: Cedar Grove

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Rouge National Urban Park – Vista Trail

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Rouge National Urban Park continues to grow with new properties being added to the park this fall. The park is currently about 63 square kilometres but will expand to include over 79 square kilometres when it is complete.  There are over 12 kilometres of trails at the moment but this too is set to increase.  The Vista Trail is a 1.0 kilometre loop with a 0.6 kilomtre tail that takes you out to Twyn Rivers Road near The Mast Trail and Maxwell’s Mill.  We accessed the trail from Zoo Road where we were able to park.  The historical atlas below has been rotated 90 degrees to make it easier to read and to fit better.  The Vista Trail has been drawn in black between the Little Rouge and Big Rouge.  The original location of the Pearse House has also been circled for reference.

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In the 1830’s three Pearse brothers names James, John and George left England and moved to Toronto.  James Pearse bought 200 acres at the intersection of today’s Meadowvale Road and Old Finch Avenue.  The family grew and the 1869 farm house was enlarged until in 1893 it was rebuilt around them as they continued to live in the house.  The brick veneer was decorated with ornate patterns and the picture below shows the date above the upstairs window.  When the property was purchased for use as a new zoo in the early 1970’s The house was moved to the present location and restored for use as the visitor centre for Rouge Park.  The coating of plain white paint that had been added over the years was removed to reveal the brickwork below.

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Ontario Power Generation has been in partnership with the park since 2010 and was responsible for building a viewing platform along the trail.  Rouge National Urban Park has over 1700 different species of plants, animals and fungi including all eight native species of bats.

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From the top of the viewing platform you have a great view down to the Little Rouge.  The vista from here would have been quite different a couple of weeks ago when the fall colours were still out.  Today, you can pick out the oak trees easily due to the brown leaves that still cling to the trees.

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The Vista Trail is well named because you get a view as you make your way along the ever narrowing strip of land.  The slope on the right drops away toward the Rouge River while the one on the left leads to the Little Rouge.

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Ferns growing along the side of the trail provide a splash of green among the dead leaves and snow.  Christmas Ferns are evergreen and for that reason are often grown in winter gardens.

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Having reached Twyn Rivers Road we made our way back up the hill to the point where the loop splits.  This time we took the trail to the left keeping closer to the Rouge River.  We find some odd things in the woods most weeks but one of the more unusual ones is the skeleton of a transport truck.

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It would appear that there are many more explorations to be made in Rouge National Urban Park.  Here again are the links to the Mast Trail and Maxwell’s Mill.

Google Maps Link: Vista Trail

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