Humber River (Ontario)

The Humber River is a river in Southern Ontario, Canada.[1] It is in the Great Lakes Basin, is a tributary of Lake Ontario and is one of two major rivers on either side of the city of Toronto, the other being the Don River to the east. It was designated a Canadian Heritage River on September 24, 1999.[2]

The Humber collects from about 750 creeks and tributaries in a fan-shaped area north of Toronto that encompasses portions of Dufferin County, the Regional Municipality of Peel, Simcoe County, and the Regional Municipality of York. The main branch runs for about 100 kilometres (60 mi)[2] from the Niagara Escarpment in the northwest, while another major branch, known as the East Humber River, starts at Lake St. George in the Oak Ridges Moraine near Aurora to the northeast. They join north of Toronto and then flow in a generally southeasterly direction into Lake Ontario at what was once the far western portions of the city.[3] The river mouth is flanked by Sir Casimir Gzowski Park and Humber Bay Park East.

Humber River
Humber River from the Dundas Street Bridge
The Humber River in Toronto
Humber River (Ontario) is located in Toronto
Humber River (Ontario)
Location of the mouth of the Humber River in Toronto
RegionSouthern Ontario
DistrictDufferin County, Regional Municipality of Peel, Simcoe County, Regional Municipality of York
MunicipalitiesToronto, Adjala–Tosorontio, Brampton, Caledon, King, Mono, Vaughan
Physical characteristics
SourceHumber Springs Ponds
 - locationMono, Dufferin County
 - coordinates43°56′36″N 80°00′14″W / 43.94333°N 80.00389°W
 - elevation421 m (1,381 ft)
MouthHumber Bay, Lake Ontario
 - location
 - coordinates
43°37′56″N 79°28′19″W / 43.63222°N 79.47194°WCoordinates: 43°37′56″N 79°28′19″W / 43.63222°N 79.47194°W
 - elevation
74 m (243 ft)
Length100 km (62 mi)
Basin size903 km2 (349 sq mi)
Basin features
River systemGreat Lakes Basin


The river was named "Cobechenonk", for "leave the canoes and go back", by the area's most recent native inhabitants, the Anishinaabe.[4] A French map from 1688 called the river "passage de taronto",[5] while Popple's map of 1733 shows the "Tanaovate River" beside the native settlement of Tejajagon.[6]

Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe named it the Humber River, likely after the Humber estuary in England.[7]


The Humber has a long history of human settlement along its banks. Native settlement of the area is well documented archaeologically and occurred in three waves. The first settlers were the Palaeo-Indians who lived in the area from 10,000 to 7000 BC. The second wave, people of the Archaic period, settled the area between 7000 and 1000 BC and began to adopt seasonal migration patterns to take advantage of available plants, fish, and game. The third wave of native settlement was the Woodland period, which saw the introduction of the bow and arrow and the growing of crops which allowed for larger, more permanent villages. The Woodland period was also characterized by movement of native groups along what is known today as the Toronto Carrying-Place Trail, running from Lake Ontario up the Humber to Lake Simcoe and eventually to the northern Great Lakes.[2]

The Short Portage - The Carrying Place, La Salle on the way over the Humber
By the 17th century the area was a crucial point for travel, with the Humber River making up the southern portion of the Toronto Passage.

It is believed that Étienne Brûlé was the first European to encounter the Humber while travelling the Toronto Carrying-Place Trail. Brûlé passed through the watershed in 1615 on a mission from Samuel de Champlain to build alliances with native peoples, but left no written record. The Trail became a convenient shortcut to the upper Great Lakes for traders, explorers, and missionaries. A major landmark on the northern end of the trail in Lake Simcoe was used to describe the trail as a whole, and eventually the southern end became known simply as "Toronto" to the Europeans.[2] During the 1660s this was the site of Teiaiagon, a permanent settlement of the Seneca used for trading with the Europeans. Popple's map of 1733 shows a prominent river beside "Tejajagon" which is assumed to be the Humber.

During late-17th and 18th century, the portage along this river was frequently used by the French traders as a short cut to the upper Great Lakes and the area north of Toronto.[8] In an attempt to secure the trade route from the English/British, the French established Magasin Royal, a trading post along the Humber River, near Baby Point. Completed in 1720, the trading post was abandoned shortly after the British fort in Oswego, New York was completed, as it diverted trade away from Magasin Royal.[9]

In 1750, the French built another fort near the mouth of the Humber River, with the intention of diverting aboriginals using the Toronto Carrying-Place Trail from proceeding to the British in Fort Oswego. Known as Fort Toronto, the fort saw immediate success, with demand outstripping the supply of goods the Fort was able to provide.[9] The success of the fort persuaded the Governor General of New France, Jacques-Pierre de Taffanel de la Jonquière, Marquis de la Jonquière to order the construction of a larger fort, with more trading capacity and military potential, in an effort to consolidate its hold of the region, and its trade routes. Fort Rouillé, located in present-day Exhibition Place (east of the Humber River), was completed in the spring of 1751.[9] The fort continued to operate until 1759, during the Seven Years' War. The fort's garrison was instructed to evacuate and burn Fort Rouille should Fort Niagara be captured. Following the French defeat at Fort Niagara in July 1759, the garrison at Fort Rouille burnt down the fort, and withdrew to Montreal.[9]

However, no permanent European settlement occurred until the arrival of Jean-Baptiste Rousseau in the late 18th century. Rousseau piloted John Graves Simcoe's ship into Toronto Bay to officially begin the British era of control in 1793. Most of the British attention was focussed to the east of the Humber, around the protected Toronto Bay closer to the Don River. Settlement was scattered until after the War of 1812 when many loyalists moved to the area, who were joined by immigrants from Ireland and Scotland who chose to remain in British lands.[2]

Flooding of Humber River, June 2, 1947
The Humber River saw water levels rise significantly after Hurricane Hazel. The resulting flood devastated nearby residences on Raymore Drive.

Upon his arrival in York, Simcoe was keenly aware of the need for a lumber mill and grist mill in the area. He had constructed a sawmill on the west bank of the river near present-day Bloor Street in 1793, which was operated by John Wilson. In 1797 Simcoe managed to get a grist mill established on the Humber River. It was owned and operated by John Lawrence. Over the years, numerous mills have been operated along the river by such men as William Cooper, W. P. Howland, Thomas Fisher, John Scarlett, William Gamble and Joseph Rowntree. The last grist mill on the Humber, Hayhoe Mills in Woodbridge, closed in 2007.

By 1860 the Humber Valley was extensively deforested. This decreased the stability of the river banks and increased damages done by periodic flooding. In 1878 a disastrous flood destroyed the remaining water powered mills. As the Toronto area grew, the lands around the Humber became important farming areas; in addition, some areas of the river's flood plain were developed as residential. This led to serious runoff problems in the 1940s, which the Humber Valley Conservation Authority was established to address. But in 1954, Hurricane Hazel raised the river to devastating flood levels, destroying buildings and bridges; on Raymore Drive, 60 homes were destroyed and 35 people were killed.

The Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (MTRCA later TRCA) succeeded the Humber Valley authority in 1957 (the word "Metropolitan" was dropped in 1998).[2] More recently, a task force within the Authority was formed to further clear the Humber as a part of the Great Lakes 2000 Cleanup Fund.


The Humber River begins at Humber Springs Ponds on the Niagara Escarpment in Mono, Dufferin County[2] and reaches its mouth at Humber Bay on Lake Ontario in the city of Toronto. The West Humber River goes through the Claireville Conservation Area, joining the east branch at Summerlea Park.


Foot of the Humber River Toronto1
The mouth of the Humber River at Lake Ontario

The Humber watershed is a hydrological feature of south-central Ontario, Canada, principally in north and west Toronto. It has an area of 903 square kilometres (349 sq mi), flowing through numerous physio-graphic regions, including the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Niagara Escarpment.[10] The watershed is bounded on the west by the Credit River, Etobicoke Creek and Mimico Creek watersheds, and on the east by the Garrison Creek, Don River and Rouge River watersheds, all six of which empty into Lake Ontario; on the north by the Nottawasaga River which empties into Lake Huron; and on the northeast by the Holland River, which empties into Lake Simcoe.[2]

Unlike the Don to the east, the Humber remained relatively free from industrialization as Toronto grew. Since the flooding of Hurricane Hazel, it has been largely developed or redeveloped as parkland, with the extensive and important wetlands on its southern end remaining unmolested. Whereas the mouth of the Don is often clogged with flotsam and is obstructed by low bridges, the Humber is navigable and used for recreation and fishing.

Today the majority of the Toronto portion of the Humber is parkland, with paved trails running from the lake shore all the way to the northern border of the city some 30 km away. Trails following the various branches of the river form some 50 km of bicycling trails, much of which are in decent condition. Similar trails on the Don tend to be narrower and in somewhat worse condition, but the complete set of trails is connected along the lake shore, for some 100 km of off-road paved trails.


Railway Bridge over the Humber River in Toronto
Railway bridge over the Humber River
  • Albion Creek - The Albion Creek is a tributary of the West Humber. It flows south-west from east of Bolton, meeting the West Humber from the north, between Islington Avenue and Martin Grove Road. It is approximately 9 km long.
  • Berry Creek - Berry Creek originates at Martin Grove Road just north of Rexdale Boulevard. It flows south-east to meet the main Humber from the west, west of the intersection of Albion Road and Weston Road, where Albion Road crosses the Humber. It is about 3.8 km long.
  • Black Creek - The Black Creek originates north of Toronto in Vaughan and meanders southerly to meet the lower Humber from the east about 800 m north of Dundas Street, in Lambton Park.
  • Centreville Creek
  • East Humber - The East Humber flows from north of Toronto, meeting the main branch of the Humber in Woodbridge, just north of Highway 7. Its watershed extends east to Yonge Street and north to King City. Its source is Wilcox Lake and its wetlands east of Yonge Street and the village of Oak Ridges.
  • Emery Creek - Emery Creek flows from its source west of Finch Avenue and Weston Road, south to meet the main Humber 500 metres west of Weston Road, about 1 km south of Finch Avenue. It is about 2.4 km long.
  • Humber Creek - The Humber Creek runs south east, from its source near Islington Avenue and Dixon Road through residential areas, meeting the lower Humber from the west about 750 metres north of Eglinton Avenue. It is about 3.8 km long.
  • King Creek - King Creek is a tributary of the East Humber. It flows southerly from near Highway 27 and 16th Side Road to meet the East Humber south of King Road, east of Nobleton. The settlement of King Creek is located to the east of the confluence.
  • Purpleville Creek
  • Rainbow Creek
  • Salt Creek
  • Silver Creek - The Silver Creek runs south-westerly from its source about 300 metres west of Eglinton Avenue and Royal York Road, partly within a golf course, through residential areas to meet the lower Humber from the west about 1.2 km south of Eglinton Avenue. It is about 2 km long.
  • West Humber - The West Humber meets the main branch of the Humber east of Albion Road and about 800 metres west of Sheppard Avenue and Weston Road. The West Humber itself has several branches flowing from north-west of Toronto.

Source: Toronto and Region Conservation Authority,[11] The Atlas of Canada.[12]

See also


  1. ^ "Humber River". Geographical Names Data Base. Natural Resources Canada. Retrieved 2012-03-15.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Humber River". The Canadian Heritage Rivers System. 2011. Retrieved December 5, 2011.
  3. ^ "Humber River". Atlas of Canada. Natural Resources Canada. 2010-02-04. Retrieved 2012-03-15. Shows the course of the river highlighted on a map.
  4. ^ Roberts, Wayne (July 11, 2013). "Whose land?". Toronto, ON: Now.
  5. ^ Leduc, Timothy B. (2016). Canadian Climate of Mind: Passages from Fur to Energy and Beyond. McGill-Queen's Press. p. 53.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-07-05. Retrieved 2015-10-02.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "The real story of how Toronto got its name". Natural Resources Canada. Archived from the original on 2013-11-09.
  8. ^ Seputis, Jasmine (14 October 2015). "'Tarontos Lac': Geographer finds oldest known reference to Toronto on 340-year-old French map". CBC News. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d Levine, Adam (2015). The Carry Place. Toronto: Biography of a City. Douglas & McIntyre. pp. 11–12. ISBN 1-7710-0022-8.
  10. ^ "Humber river watershed plan: Pathways to a healthy Humber" (PDF). Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. June 2008. p. iii. ISBN 978-0-9811107-1-4. Retrieved 2012-03-15.
  11. ^ Humber River: State of the Watershed Report – Aquatic System (PDF) (Report). Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. p. 27.
  12. ^ "Natural Resources Canada: Toporama". Natural Resources Canada.

Other map sources:

External links

Canadian Heritage Rivers System

The Canadian Heritage Rivers System (CHRS) (French: Le réseau de rivières du patrimoine canadien) is a joint program administered by the federal, provincial and territorial governments to conserve and protect the best examples of Canada's river heritage, to give them national recognition, and to encourage the public to enjoy and appreciate them. It is a cooperative program of the governments of Canada, nine provinces, and the three territories. A 14-member national board, created under the Parks Canada Agency Act, administers the program and approves the designation of specific rivers.

Effects of Hurricane Hazel in Canada

The effects of Hurricane Hazel in Canada included 81 deaths and C$137,552,400 ($1,299,967,047 in 2018) in damages. Hazel, the deadliest and costliest storm of the 1954 Atlantic hurricane season, reached Toronto, Ontario by the evening of October 15, 1954. It peaked as a category 4 storm, but by the time it reached Canada, it was an extratropical category 1 storm after merging with an existing cold front south of Ontario. Due to an area of high pressure to the north-east, Hazel stalled over Toronto and lost most of its moisture.

The worst-affected areas were communities near the Humber River, Holland Marsh, and Etobicoke Creek. Prone to flooding, the Humber River raced downstream from Woodbridge when an earthen dam failed. In the weeks prior to Hazel, Toronto had received copious amounts of rain, and the soil could not hold as much as 200 mm (7.9 in) of rain; consequently, over 90% of it went into Toronto's waterways. The Humber heavily flooded Weston, and killed 35 people in Raymore Drive. Holland Marsh was severely flooded; while no one was killed, the economic losses were severe as the region's crops were harvested but not collected. In the neighbourhood of Long Branch, the Etobicoke Creek killed seven people and swept numerous dwellings into Lake Ontario. Toronto's infrastructure also took a major hit, with as much as 50 bridges being washed out by the rising waters.

The situation was exacerbated by the lack of preparedness and awareness. Torontonians did not have prior experience with hurricanes, and the storm as whole proved to be extremely unpredictable—even the arrival of Hazel came as a surprise. Also, the low-lying areas near the Humber were mostly residential, which were among the worst-affected during the storm. In fact, following Hazel, residential development in areas along Toronto waterways was prohibited, and they became parks instead.

To help with the cleanup, the army was summoned. Due to the destruction in Canada, as well as the United States and Haiti, the name Hazel was retired, and will never again be used for an Atlantic hurricane. Since it was retired before the creation of formal lists, it was not replaced with any particular name.

Flood control

Flood control methods are used to reduce or prevent the detrimental effects of flood waters. Flood relief methods are used to reduce the effects of flood waters or high water levels.

Humber Bay

Humber Bay is a bay of Lake Ontario south of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is located between Ontario Place on the east and Mimico Creek to the west. The bay gives its name to Etobicoke's Humber Bay neighbourhood.

Humber River

There are several rivers in the world called the Humber River:

Humber (estuary), Yorkshire, England, on the eastern coast

Humber River (Newfoundland), near Corner Brook in Canada

Humber River (Ontario), Canada, a major river in Toronto with tributaries throughout the Greater Toronto Area

King Creek, Ontario

King Creek is the old name for what is now known as the East Humber River. Originally a small community called "Humber Trails" nestled in the valley around the King Creek west of The Mill Road. After hurricane Hazel, in the fall of 1954, the Toronto Regional Park Authority expropriated the land creating the Humber Trails Conservation area. One street named Elmpine Trails, on the south side of the King Creek, was not expropriated as the homes were on high ground with no chance of a flood damaging the houses. Several properties on the Mill Road were also not expropriated for the same reason. For approximately fifteen years the Humber Trails Conservation Area was a manicured Park. However a decision was made to allow the park to become a nature preserve. Today there are few signs that streets and homes and later, a manicured park had existed in the valley, except for a few walking paths and a Humber Trails post office structure that was assimilated into the buildings of a private residence and working farm located on either side of Mill Road. King Township, Ontario, Canada.The area is located immediately east of Nobleton. To the east is King City.

List of tautological place names

A place name is tautological if two differently sounding parts of it are synonymous. This often occurs when a name from one language is imported into another and a standard descriptor is added on from the second language. Thus, for example, New Zealand's Mount Maunganui is tautological since "maunganui" is Māori for "great mountain". The following is a list of place names often used tautologically, plus the languages from which the non-English name elements have come.

Tautological place names are systematically generated in languages such as English and Russian, where the type of the feature is systematically added to a name regardless of whether it contains it already. For example, in Russian, the format "Ozero X-ozero" (i.e. "Lake X-lake") is used. In English, it is usual to do the same for foreign names, even if they already describe the feature, for example Lake Kemijärvi (Lake Kemi-lake), or Saaremaa island (Island land island). On rare occasions, they may be named after a specific individual who shares their name with the feature. Examples include the Outerbridge Crossing across Arthur Kill, named after Eugenius Harvey Outerbridge and the Hall Building on the campus of Concordia University, named after Henry Floss Hall.

The Queensway – Humber Bay

The Queensway – Humber Bay, known officially as Stonegate-Queensway, is a neighbourhood in the south-west of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is located in the south-east of the former City of Etobicoke.

Thistletown Collegiate Institute

Thistletown Collegiate Institute (also known Thistletown C.I. or T.C.I. or TCI) is a high school in northwest Toronto in the Thistletown area of Rexdale, northern Etobicoke. It was built originally for the Etobicoke Board of Education and is now a part of the Toronto District School Board.

The school is located at the corner of Fordwich Crescent and Islington Avenue. The split-level school is located next to the western branch of the Humber River (Ontario). The school building is a square complex with a curved auditorium; its architecture was inspired by a school building in Switzerland. Construction of the school began in 1956, and its first students were admitted in September 1957. The late 1960s witnessed a notable expansion, mainly of technical and vocational facilities. Thistletown has a very diverse student population and its students have consistently performed adequately in both athletic and academic endeavours.

Thistletown C.I. offers many resources to its students, from a free daily breakfast programme that started in 2008 to multiple after-school clubs, and an in school police officer. Thistletown C.I. has also launched its well-known charity event "Cuts for Cancer" where students donate and shave their hair in efforts to raise cancer awareness. This event has raised on average of $2500/year in donations to the Canadian Cancer Society. Other student philanthropy initiatives include the annual World Vision 30 Hours of Famine, the UNICEF CN Tower Climb, and Red Cross Relief Efforts. Outside of school hours, Thistletown C.I. is the location of 700 David Hornell V.C. Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets.

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