Walking the Humber River Trail With a Small Dog
I have a short post for you today, Dear Reader, but a good one if you like long walks or hikes. I am about to tell you about the Humber River Trail near Kleinberg. So lace up your walking shoes and follow me!
How It All Began:
The Humber River watershed encompasses 600 lakes, ponds and reservoirs, and 750 tributaries. The river has three branches: East, Main and West.
Archaeological evidence shows that First Nations people first occupied the watershed as far back as 12,000 years ago. When Europeans arrived in the early 1600s, they followed their First Nations guides along the Humber’s banks and beyond. Over the centuries, the trail along the river became one of the main trade routes, known as the Carrying-Place Trail.
The Toronto Carrying-Place Trail, also known as the Humber Portage, linked Lake Ontario with Lake Simcoe and the northern Great Lakes. The name “Toronto” comes from the Mohawk term “toron-ten,” which means “the place where the trees grow over the water.” In time, near the beginning of the 19th century, Young Street supplanted the Toronto Carrying Place Trail.
But the trail’s presence remained, as did the villages established along the trail in the river’s watershed: towns and villages such as Bolton, Kleinburg, Woodbridge, and their smaller cousins. Woodbridge, for example, got its name from the wooden bridge that once spanned the river.
The local Mississauga people called the river “Kabechenong,” which meant “gathering place to tie up,” while the English and French maps marked it as either the Toronto River or St. John’s River. When Toronto was purchased in 1787 by Upper Canada’s first Lieutenant Governor, John Graves Simcoe, he renamed the river “Humber” after a river in Yorkshire, England.
Humber River watershed is a special place with almost 143 species of birds breeding or migrating through. Independent surveys have identified 30 mammal species, 61 fish species, 10 species of reptile, and 14 different kinds of amphibians that live and breed in the watershed. The watershed is also home to 918 species of plants. On our walk, we bumped into a bunch of young folks in matching t-shirts, paired up and doing a new survey of the area. Education, conservation, and more right before our very eyes!
Because of its history and its biodiversity, the Humber River was designated as a Canadian Heritage River in 1999. It has since been included in the Canadian Heritage Rivers System, Canada’s national river conservation program. The Canadian Heritage River System promotes, protects, and enhances Canada’s river heritage and helps insure Canada’s leading rivers are managed in a sustainable manner.
About The River:
The Humber River is born from cool springs near the base of the Niagara Escarpment in Dufferin and Simcoe Counties and the Town of Caledon. The river then meanders for 126 km across the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Peel Plain.
The moraine is an enormous deposit of mixed sand and gravel left behind by the glacier as it retreated from this area over 12,000 years ago. Ever since the glacial melt, watercourses have been cutting deep meandering valleys and gullies into the moraine’s rolling hills, contributing significantly to the natural beauty of the area. The moraine, with its scenic hills and conspicuous wooded valleys, is especially valued as the natural aquifer that sustains Lake Ontario. It is the primary source of drinking water for the millions of people who live in the watershed.
Those watercourses draining from the uplands in the moraine join to form another branch of the river, the East Humber River. That branch then joins the main branch of the Humber, and together, they flow further southeast and empty into Lake Ontario.
The Humber River Trails:
But of course what you really want to know about are the trails. And, Dear Reader, these trails are phenomenal!
The trail, which is the historic aboriginal trade route, the Toronto Carrying-Place Trail, includes many significant natural habitats, cultural and heritage resources, and recreational and educational facilities. The first phase of the Humber Trail (3.5 kilometres) and the part that I visited have a link to the Canadian McMichael Art Collection and Boyd Conservation Area. The trail is open and free of charge for hiking, biking, and walking.
Now, there is a lot more to the trails than what I saw on my hour jaunt on the white limestone paths! The Toronto end of the trail, for example, runs up the eastern bank of the Humber River and splits in Woodbridge, with one fork crossing the east branch of the Humber and going up the west side of the river to the vicinity of Kleinburg where the trail re-crosses the river.
The other fork stays on the east side of the river and is angled cross-country to King Creek, joining the other fork before crossing the river near Nobelton. From there the trail runs north over the Oak Ridges Moraine to the Holland River, and then northeast into Lake Simcoe.
Many of the First Nations tribes lived in this area around and to the north of Lake Simcoe. Many rivers in this area lead to the lake, making it easy to travel and connect to the trail.
Once into Lake Simcoe, the trail continues north through straights on the north end of the lake into Lake Couchiching. From there, the trail follows the Severn River into Georgian Bay.
A second arm of the trail runs from the Holland River to the southeast, eventually into the Rouge River Valley, then to Lake Ontario from there.
Remember I told you the Toronto Carrying-Place Trail was a major trade route!
If you plan on hiking and following the trail, I invite you to print out or load the points of interest of the trails. Also familiarize yourself with the Trails User Code of Conduct, which states that you must:
- Hike only along marked routes, especially on farmland – do not take short cuts.
- Respect the privacy of people living along the trail.
- Leave the trail cleaner than you found it – carry out all litter.
- Light cooking fires at official campsites only – drench fires after use (better still, carry a lightweight stove).
- Leave flowers and plants for others to enjoy.
- Do not damage live trees or strip off bark.
- Keep dogs on a leash, especially on or near farmland.
- Protect and do not disturb wildlife.
- Leave only your thanks and take nothing but photographs.
And if the Humber Trails are still not enough for you, you are in luck! The Humber Trails link to a number of other trails maintained by other municipalities. These include, among others, the Bruce Trail at the northern end of the Humber River Trail.
The Humber Trails are municipally maintained hike (and bike) trails with a limestone screenings surface. This makes the trails easy to spot and follow. The trails are well used (but not crowded) for family outings, dog walking (on leash … ahem, yes I know, I know … I am a bad boy), and exercise on foot or bicycle. Near Kleinburg (link to post), you can pay to park at the McMichael Gallery of Canadian Art and connect to the trail, or park elsewhere for free and follow the Humber Trail to the Gallery.