Insight into the Hidden Waterways of Toronto

by Pranav Panday

Toronto is rich in history and our ravines and waterways are pivotal to the livelihood of the city. Many have been paved over by development and by learning about the ravines and rivers that have been hidden away, This knowledge allows us to connect with Toronto and further develop into a more modern city.


Garrison Creek was the largest creek in Toronto’s early history, it started north of St. Clair and drained into the Toronto Bay near Bathurst and Fort York Boulevard. The creek was built into underground sewers under city streets and the original ravine trail was filled in with soil. The creek had clear water and was famous for its salmon fishing. Additionally, The British built Fort York at the mouth of the creek to guard against possible American attempts to invade Canada.It became clear that sewers designed in the 1800s and early 1900s were not fit to suit modern development. By the early 1900s, the stream was entirely diverted into the sewer system. During heavy storms, the sewers would overload, thus, resulting in sanitary sewage overflowing untreated into the lake. Beaches became polluted and swimming in the lake became dangerous due to contamination from the rainstorms. Communities living in the creek’s vicinity would like to see parts of the ravine system restored.

Due to this, the creek has been designated as an area of concern. Interest in Garrison Creek arose in the 1980s. In 1996, the City of Toronto passed a resolution calling for the revitalization of the Garrison Creek Ravine System. During heavy storms, the sewers would overload, thus, resulting in sanitary sewage overflowing untreated into the lake. Beaches became polluted and swimming in the lake became dangerous due to contamination from the rainstorms. Communities living in the creek’s vicinity would like to see parts of the ravine system restored.


Taddle Creek was a buried stream that flowed southeast from St. Clair Avenue West of Bathurst Street through Wychwood Park, through the University of Toronto and into the harbour next to the Distillery District.. In the 1900’s, the creek was converted into an underground sewer. Currently, an outline of the park can be found as the popular footpath “Philosopher’s walk” follows the ravine formed by Taddle Creek, and starts in between the Royal Conservatory of Music and the ROM.


Small’s Pond used to be located in the area near Queen St. East and Kingston Road,and was one of the largest ponds of its kind. It was fed by three streams, around 40 feet wide, and roughly resembled a U- shape. The first stream that Small’s pond was near Gerrard and Coxwell, and the second was near Woodbine. The third stream that fed Small’s pond was called Small’s creek and was the largest out of the three. It flowed in from north of Gerrard and is still visible today at select times of the year in Williamson Park ravine.


In the 19th century, ice from Small’s pond was cut and sold to keep food refrigerated and cold. It was one of the only ponds that had harvestable ice since the other bodies of water around it were too polluted to be used for this purpose. In 1909, the pond was redirected into sewage and became stagnant and polluted soon after the 1920s. In 1935, the pond was drained and filled with soil. Today, some of the lands that were once occupied by Small’s pond have become parkland, and all that is left of the pond are some deviations in the ground.


By gaining knowledge about the hidden rivers and ravines in Toronto, we can better understand the geology of the city. It can be used to improve weak areas in the city that were built centuries ago to suit modern infrastructure while helping the citizens of Toronto connect with the natural regions of the city.


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