Even now that the pandemic curve is slowly flattening, physical distancing is strongly encouraged. Walking outside is good, but walking in our own neighbourhoods is best. For my husband Peter and me, our neighbourly Humber River has become a lifesaver.
We are not the first travellers to stroll along the banks of the Humber River. In fact this river has been a pathway for First Nations people and explorers for more than Twelve Thousand Years! Archaeological evidence shows that Paleo-Indian nomads first wandered along its banks from 10,000 BC, followed by the Archaic People and then woodland farmers, who used the river to set up farming sites from around 1,000 BC until the 1500’s.
In 1615 Etienne Brulé became the first European to walk the valleys of the Humber River, from Lake Simcoe to Lake Ontario. Soon other Europeans followed this route, which became known as the Carrying Place Trail. Another well-known European, my husband, has been following this trail too, ever since he immigrated from Italy in 1958.
Peter’s first house, where he lived with his mother and his older brother, was near Black Creek, a tributary of the West Humber. He says that, when his mom wanted him to do chores, he used to sneak away on his bike and ride along the river. When he got married, his first house was near the West Humber and he took his kids for nature walks there. Then the family moved to King City where a branch of the East Humber was almost in their back yard.
My first acquaintance with the Humber River was when I met Peter. On one of our early “dates” he took me wandering through the snowy forest near his King City house. Not watching where I was going, I suddenly plunged through the snow into water, soaking my boot and pant-leg. “Well,” he said, “there you are in a branch of the mighty Humber River!” I was not impressed at the time.
Our new house in the city is located south of where the many branches of the Humber merge into one, and the river flows resolutely towards Lake Ontario. We can walk the riverside trail south from near our house, and under the iconic Humber Bridge, until we reach the lake. Or we can walk north, across the heritage-designated Etienne Brulé bridge and past several waterfalls where salmon jump upstream during October. The river path carries on to highway 401, and all the way north past the McMichael Gallery in Kleinberg. We haven’t walked that far…yet.
We have also paddled on the Humber; once a few years ago going north from Sunnyside beach, and again last fall on the 20th anniversary of the river being designated a Heritage River. The TRCA hosted a paddling celebration for the public. We joined in and went south from the Old Mill to the lake. With old people, teenagers, dogs and kids, it was a paddling party!
The Humber River hasn’t always been so accommodating. Back in October, 1954, Hurricane Hazel swept furiously down the river, flooding its banks, destroying bridges and homes, and killing 81 people. But these days, as we search for somewhere outside where we can briefly escape from our home to enjoy the outdoors, the Humber River, keeping a safe distance away, is our companion.
Stay safe and keep walking.
4 thoughts on “The Mighty Humber”
Good for you and Peter. John and I have been here over 19 years and we love the area and The Humber
and it’s history which you have outlined so well. Now you are ahead of us. Keep writing. I look forward
to your blogs weekly. Love Ruth
Great read Sue. You are lucky with the beauty of the river so close by. Did a Toronto Botancial Garden Tour a few years back and some of the home we visited were right on the Humber. Stunning.
We lived for four years on Woolner Avenue at Jane, with Black Creek running in the valley below, albeit between its concrete flood banks. There was a dump, but also piping plovers and spotted sandpipers, who did not mind the view. Some of my Runnymede pals lived in the upscale neighbourhood called Baby Point, proudly pronounced Babby Point. Just to the west lay the Humber. The last place I visited Toronto with Sylvia (before her stroke) was that very bridge over the Humber, and I took her picture. I was nice read about the love we share of its beauty and significance.
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Loved this history lesson, as Bill says. I hope one day we get to join you in a walk.