The King's Mill and The Humber Marshes

common parking lot birds, the cute Kildeer
King's Mill Park is located just south of the Old Mill Subway Station in Toronto (if you are getting there by Toronto Transit) or east of Bloor W and Islington by car (Vehicles can enter at Humber Valley Drive, north of Riverwood Parkway or from Old Mill Rd).   If you are biking it, you can travel through the park on the beloved Tommy Thompson Trail.  

It's a little over a half a km walk so I decided to cover a longer stretch in this post, from our walk from Kings Mill to the South Humber Park which is is over a 2 kilometre walk.  It that takes you through large open and leveled park lands which I recognize to be a similar characteristic all over Etobicoke.  
...and some pretty interesting pieces of history as well.  One thing I learned was that most of what is Kings Mill Park is a land fill site from the early 50's.  

this kildeer tried to run away, but I still caught him
After you pass the Toronto Humber Yacht Club, which was established in 1956, there's a strange looking flying-saucer like structure off into the distance.  It kind of reminded me of those old-fashioned drive-in restaurants from the 50's, but as it turns out it was nothing more than a neglected and vandalized public washroom. 

Abandoned flying saucer building
clockwise: hidden bike trails, and the flying-saucer
Historically speaking, this large open park was once the site of the King's Mill and Reserve, established by Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe in 1793 as Etobicoke's first industry. In 1821, Thomas Fisher leased the King's Mill, just below the Old Mill site, where he built his home.

The Humber River and Marshes, as you may know is the largest one in Toronto and is a crucial corridor for migratory song birds and monarch butterflies.

The Humber River has over 60 different species including some sports fish like trout, pike and salmon.  The Humber Marshes are one of the few remaining river mouth marshes in Toronto and provide a breeding habitat for ducks, turtles and fish.  Humber River’s importance is recognized now by its designation in 1999 as a Canadian Heritage River.

Overall an easy walk through some pretty areas just before you reach the shores of Lake Ontario at the South Humber Park, which is next.

I wanted to mention something about the Kildeer, because I posted it a couple of times here.  They are actually very common shorebirds that you can see without ever having to go to the can spot them often on lawns or golf courses and football fields and even parking lots! They are so cute and scamper hurriedly in jolts stopping now and then to check their progress.  Their calls are high-pitched can be heard often even at night when the are in flight.

Raymore Park (feat Hurricane Hazel)

Original footbridge starting network of trails in 1995
Boulder relocated from 'Hazel's aftermath
Newspaper captions pasted on fallen cement block
Raymore Drive and the surrounding parkland of the Humber River valley was one of the areas of Toronto hit the hardest in the aftermath of Hurricane Hazel, over sixty years ago.  The Hurricane started in the afternoon of October 5, 1954 just off the island of Grenada.  Its winds were already peaking over 160 km per hour shifting east through the Caribbean islands up through the Carolinas and heading towards the mid Altantic states and finally into Canada.

The hurricane left a path of destruction killing over a thousand people in Haiti, and destroying homes and properties and six more lives in the Bahamas.  For nine straight days the storm traveled at an alarming forward speed of over 45 km per hour, the winds picking up to 250 destroying the entire town of Garden City, South Carolina. 

Cement dropped from strong winds

Twelve hours after leaving South Carolina it forged ahead with extreme speed passing Washington D.C. , into Pennsylvania and New York and up into Southern Ontario with a fury on October 15, 1954, sending a wall of water 7 metres high down the Humber River Valley.

The damage reached over 1.5 billion with over 100 lost lives in Ontario, including firemen and other rescue workers (there's a plaque in Home Smith Park commemorating them)  In the aftermath, Toronto was left with massive flooding which left over 1,800 families homeless and 4,000 and over 80 people lost their lives in Ontario .  One of the streets which had been completely washed away was Raymore Drive  

'my heart' web :)
Today there is scattered evidence of the force of winds and power of the Hurricane Hazel in Toronto.  Raymore Park for one has a few large pieces of cement that was picked up and transported by the gale.  It baffles the mind to imagine a wind being that powerful.  In all there was over 300 million tons of water that had fallen during Hurricane Hazel leaving it one of the worst Hurricanes in history.

Raymore Park was the site of another distillery and a number of mills in Toronto which used the Humber river as a viable natural resource.  In the 1850's the land was owned by the Scarlett family up until '57 when a local businessman proposed to build a canal four metres deep and fourty wide, with sixty four double locks to link Lake Onatrio and Georgian Bay through Lake Simcoe.  Cutting through Raymore Park, the canal route followed the Humber River Valley.  It was never completed even though it cost over $35million.

On a positive note, the province of Ontario stepped in to build a new footbridge in 1995 completing the Humber Trail and greenway system which we all enjoy today.  The footbridge called, The Raymore Bridge was the start of Toronto's goal for a network of regional trails in Toronto and throughout Ontario and beyond.

Ukrainian Canadian Memorial Park

North of Eglinton Avenue and East of Scarlett Road you will enter into a beautiful Toronto park that is dedicated to the Canadians of Ukrainian origin who served in the Military.

You'll know you are in the right place when you see a monument dedicated in honour of them at the entrance of the trail.  The epitaph is etched in Ukraine adorned with floral wreaths at the base.  

As you walk (or jog, or ride your bike) down the winding trail you'll get some brief relief in a shaded woodland which has its own little waterfall.  It's really more of a watershed, but we climbed down to take a shot anyways, never missing an opportunity to photo shoot a waterfall.

Surrounded by trees and street graffiti, this was a photo waiting to happen.  Climbed up to continue the trail through the park heading north.  Several winding trails cutting through fields of green, perfect for picnics and kite flying.  

Another waterfall drop, just a few metres ahead which is one of many along the Humber River.  Plenty of geese flock together rushing for the water as I zoom in to listen in on their daily chatter.

The Ukrainians have a rich culture in Toronto, as do many other heritages here.  There is a Ukrainian Cultural Centre located in Toronto on Christie Street which is the hosts of many of their events.  The "Christie" as is dubbed is a particular area in Toronto that is the heart of the Ukrainian community bringing together people with a common culture to share important ideas and keep their heritage alive.  
Carrying on further north along the Humber are some historical news up ahead on my next post.

Rowntree Mills Park

Rowntree Mills Park is a very lovely portion of the Humber River Valley between Kipling and Islington Avenues.  The river winds its way under foot bridges and parallel along tree-lined trails and ends up in Lake Ontario.

There are some very lovely large green spaces in this park areas as well which would be great for family picnics or large corporate gatherings or fundraising events.  In fact you would think you would see tons of activity here on weekends.  Not quite.  You see in 2009 a City councillor had closed off this park from cars due to criminal activity and rowdy parties.  This decision was a difficult one, but the idea to reverse this decision is not coming anytime soon either.

However, there are some positive sides to having no motor traffic in a park.  For instance, as you make your way deeper into the park you will find more exclusionary places for some peace of mind.

You can still get here on foot or bicycle and some have witnessed deer sightings here.   I spotted a raccoon hiding out in a little spot under some bushes.  He (or she) appeared wet which I thought was strange as he was no where near any water, so figured he may have been injured.  I happen to find raccoons adorable as opposed to being pests, and finding a baby one was neat.  I was told to not go near it though and he didn't seem to be all that interested in having any personal human contact either. 

Rowntree Mills Park, like Raymore Park was damaged by massive flooding caused by Hurricane Hazel in 1954.  Today, there are some very large remnants of that damage including large chunks of cement that remain here as a reminder.

Although the park is closed off to cars of the general public, vehicles are still allowed in by special permit. 
One final note, historically the Rowntree Mills Park was named in the honor of Joseph Rowntree who built a sawmill on the west bank in 1843 and a grist mill on the east bank of the Humber River in 1848.  These two mills were operated until the 19th century and were knowns as the Greenholme Mills.

Upper Mill Falls - Ancaster

The Upper Mills Falls  (also known as Ancaster Falls or Old Mill Falls) is situated beside the Ancaster Old Mill Restaurant and is about 7 metres high and 4 metres across.

It is considered a complex classic cascade, but I just consider it beautiful.  As in any waterfall picture, a tripod is necessary unless you can rest it steadily enough on a rock or ledge of some kind.  These two pictures are obviously taken a different times of day and from different vantage points.  

The waterfall is adjacent to the Ancaster Mill Restarurant which serves the classic fare that you can expect from an upper middle class menu.  A very popular location for wedding receptions because of its picturesque views from within the restaurant.   

Although the water treatment of the falls are man made outside the restaurant, the actual water source is taken from the Ancaster Creek and is an all-year-round flow (more or less) although it does sometimes freeze up in the winter.

Just a little background about the Old Mill Restaurant (Ancaster Mill).   In 1832 Harris and Alonzo Egleston who had once worked for the William Wiard's foundry had made enough money to eventually buy him out. 

They then expanded their own business and rebuilt the Grist Mill in 1863, which is now known as the Ancaster Mill on Old Dundas Road.  This was the 4th mill in Ancaster and the third to be rebuilt at the current location.  The originals were all destroyed by fire, one in 1812, the second in 1818, and the third damaged by fire in 1954. 

Scarlett Mills Park - (Humber River)

 In Toronto's west end about half-way between the Queensway and Hwy 401, there are a string of parks and trails to explore heading northwest from Eglinton Avenue west to Steeles West.

The first one located on the west bank of the Humber River is Scarlett Mills Park.  It's only about .9 miles long but it's got lots of nice little secret paths off the main trails.   Under a neat little cove surrounded by trees are clean and clear openings to the river, you can sit back and relax and try your luck on a line or two in the water or just enjoy the peace from the busy city.

Was funny to see an old black couch which has been meticulously placed by the river bank.  It looked a little worn, and probably used by many a ponderer or fisherman.  

Historically, the Scarlett family were early settlers in the area north of Lambton Mills where numerous members of the Scarlett family made it their home.  Father John Scarlett owned a sawmill and a distillery.  

Most of the Scarletts' estate is used today as a Golf and Country Club (Lambton Gold and Country Club).  

Another historical fact is that after the notorious Hurricane Hazel in 1954, many sources had contributed their time and money to restore the land and lives destroyed by this event to form the Scarlett Mills Park.


Further Notes:
The park can be entered by vehicle from Edenbridge Drive.  It is also accessible by TTC.  A special note to cyclists you can travel through the park along the Tommy Thompson Trail.