Toronto’s Most Urbanized River

By Nicole Czorny

At its headwaters, Taylor-Massey Creek collects sixteen hectares of stormwater from Highway 401, making it arguably Toronto’s most urbanized river, and an excellent example of the wear and tear cities have on a watercourse.

For the creeks entirety, storm sewers send an onslaught of untreated water directly into the creek, and during heavy rain, combined sewer outflows (CSO) send along sanitary waste.

As Taylor-Massey Creek makes its way into Lake Ontario via the East Don, years of hard work have gone into reclaiming and remediating Talyor-Creek for the health of the entire Don River and Lake Ontario.

Its Headwaters | From the Natural to HWY 401

In the 1950s, the headwaters of Taylor-Massey Creek flowed naturally from Victoria Park and Sheppard. To make the construction of Highway 401 easier, its headwaters were diverted over to Highland Creek.

Now, stormwater runoff collected from sixteen hectares of Highway 401, including cigarette buts, motor oil and road salt, are the new headwaters for Taylor-Massey Creek.

Located at Terraview Park and Willowfield Gardens Park (Pharmacy Avenue and Highway 401), stormwater management ponds and infrastructure do their best to clean the water before it heads south, and ultimately sending it into Lake Ontario.

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As the creek continues, it’s buried and channelled along residential and industrial streets between Lawrence Ave E and Eglington Ave E, and fed by countless storm sewers, watercourses and combined sewer outflows, as it is along its entirety.

It then winds its way through the Eglington Ravine, Farlinger Ravine and Pine Hills Cemetery before veering west to St. Clair Ravine and Warden Woods.

Warden Woods | St. Clair and Warden to Pharmacy Ave

At St. Clair and Warden, Taylor-Massey Creek emerges at Warden Woods.

During heavy rainfall, the contaminated water from the creeks upper reaches rushes downstream, causing massive erosion and damage to the sandy creek bed and trails, and major problems for the health of the water.

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The creek’s soft, sandy river bed is evidence of its history, along with the steep walls of the ravine and rugged contour, leftover from Toronto’s last glacial deposit (the Halton till), and the old shoreline of ancient glacial Lake Iroquois.

From the paved Gus Harris Trail running through Warden Woods, the views of the creek and steep valley walls are breathtaking.

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Thanks to the lands of Warden Woods being privately owned until 1959 by the Sisters of St. Joseph, Warden Woods is home to a mature growth forest and several Environmentally Significant Areas. Some trees are over a century old, and include rare and endangered species like butternut!

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Taylor Creek Park | Victoria Park to the Forks of The Don

The Gus Harris Trail ends at Pharmacy Avenue, and the trail picks up again past the Dentonia Golf Course at Victoria Park (north of the subway station) as the Taylor Creek Trail.

The Taylor Creek Park Wetland (north of the trail close to Victora Park) offers great habitat for birds and wildlife galore, and a wealth of ecological functions to clean and protect the land and water.

The trail and creek then heads west towards Dawes Road, covering the stretch of land that was once home to Toronto philanthropist Walter Massey’s farm, known as Dentonia Park, and the first farm to produce pasteurised milk in Canada.

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Taylor-Massey Creek as it flows under Dawes Road.

Past Dawes Road, the trail continues towards the O’Connor bridge, which marks the start of the Taylor Family estate, a prominent 19th century Toronto family that owned many mills and the Don Valley Brick Works.

At the Forks of The Don (located at Don Mills and the Don Valley Parkway), Taylor-Massey Creek merges with the East Don, and then the West Don, to finally form the Lower Don. (note: Taylor-Massey Creek merges with the East Don slightly before the Forks of The Don)

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At the Forks of The Don, the West Don meets with the East Don (which now includes Taylor-Massey Creek) to form the Lower Don.

The Lower Don flows directly into Lake Ontario at the Keating Channel, taking with it the contaminated water from Taylor-Massey Creek.

With continuing conservation efforts from local community groups and the TRCA, the health of Taylor-Massey Creek will hopefully only increase, and with it, the health of the entire Don River.

 

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Located past the Forks of The Don, under the Don Mills bridge, “Passages” by Labspace celebrates Toronto’s history with the Don River.

 

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One thought on “Toronto’s Most Urbanized River

  1. Great post on the Taylor Creek. I wonder if anyone has explored the two lower tributaries near the mouth. The Ferris and Curity ravines seem more “natural” then the main stream. Granted I haven’t followed them too deeply.

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