The Don River empties into Lake Ontario where The Don Valley Parkway joins The Gardiner Expressway and Lakeshore Boulevard. Or if you’re from England – a few miles east of downtown/the city centre. Around 9km (5.6 miles) upstream, The Taylor-Massey Creek joins The Don River. I walked much of the Taylor-Massey Creek a couple of weeks ago, and you can read about that here. North of confluence, The Don River splits into East and West branches. Those branches eventually lead to The Oak Ridges Moraine (a system formed during the previous ice age that I’ll maybe write about another time). This particular hike covers the area where I last finished off – where The Taylor-Massey Creek joins The Don, heading south to Lake Ontario. The blue dotted line in the map opposite.
I decided to make the trek along the Don River on April 1st, which may indeed have been foolish, as according to the forecast the previous day, rain showers were forecast for around 2pm. I figured I could manage it by setting off at 8am, but the day turned grey pretty quickly.
The weather is my excuse for all the photos turning out kinda grey and miserable looking, but honestly, the Lower Don Trail is nothing like as nice as the one running through Taylor Creek Park. It is more urban and the trees seem to have sustained more damage from the Toronto Ice Storm of 2013. You’re also never too far from The Don Valley Parkway on this trail.
The Don River was named by Lt. Gov. Simcoe because it reminded him of The River Don in Yorkshire (he also named Scarborough under the same reasoning). In the late 19th Century, the river was heavily polluted by the industry that had built up along its banks, including a paper mill at Todmordon Mills and The Don Valley Brickworks, at one time both operated by the Taylor Family mentioned in my earlier post. The mill at Todmordon Mills was restored into a museum and arts centre and The Don Valley Brickworks is a park and community and cultural centre.
There have been efforts to restore the quality of The Don River, and in areas where wetland habitat has been created, there were signs of life. A few Red-winged Blackbirds cheeped their territorial calls, and a couple of pairs of Northern Cardinals were engaged in a quarrel. I also heard the verse of several Song Sparrow. Although I didn’t have time to explore Crothers Woods, it is a designated sensitive natural area.
North Toronto Wastewater Treatment Plant (i.e. Sewarage works) releases water into The Don River as shown opposite. They must be doing a good job of filtering the water. A group of Mallards and a lonely Bufflehead seemed to enjoy swimming through it.
I began to speed up my walk as I passed the halfway mark and the time was approaching noon. A more recent weather prediction was calling for rain… anytime now. I didn’t really have a plan to escape the trail in the event of a downpour, and I didn’t really want to quit now.
The Prince Edward Viaduct System (a.k.a The Bloor Viaduct) is named after King Edward VIII (Price Edward at the time of naming). It carries traffic on top and the Bloor-Danforth subway line below that. It was another messy construction area as I passed, but just beyond it was a grass pasture filled with dozens of American Robins, scuttling around like children playing Grandmother’s Footsteps/Red Light, Green Light, (What Time is it Mr Wolf/What’s the Time, Mr Wolf). I then immediately entered a dank tunnel plastered in graffiti.
Progressing, as the rain began to spit down, the trail became increasingly urban. Foot and road bridges began spanning the river, including the arteries of Gerrard, Dundas and Queen, followed by Eastern Avenue. Due to the tidal effect on Lake Ontario, The Don appeared to be running in the opposite direction at this point. A pair of Mute Swans took advantage, ambling upstream. The CN Tower was never too far out of sight, now. I crossed some freight rail tracks/train tracks in increasingly heavy rain before the trail detoured due to, you guessed it, more construction.
For the last few hundred yards, I was forced on to the sidewalk/pavement and under the crumbling Gardiner Express, the rusty iron that once lived inside the concrete structure ominously visible. Finding my way back to the river, I saw (as Wikipedia aptly describes the scene) The Don River unceremoniously dumping itself into Lake Ontario, still a little frozen in places.
I took the TTC/bus back to the car… Looking for a brighter adventure next time!