Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lower Don River walking tour

We're finally into a spell of nice weather, and that means it's time to get out and explore the city. What better way to do it than on foot?

To get to know the local environment, I like to organize occasional walking tours. Last weekend's tour, organized with fellow SEJ member Saul Chernos, was in Toronto's Don Valley. The Don is often described as Canada's most urbanized and polluted river. It's also one with a rich history that is undergoing tremendous changes.

Lower Don River walking tour route
Our walk began on the east side of Riverdale Park, where there's a fantastic view of the Toronto skyline. There are also views north to the Prince Edward Viaduct, which is just south of historic sites such as Todmorden Mills and the Brickworks.

We walked down into the valley and joined the trail at the footbridge in Riverdale Park. As we strolled along, John Bacher told us about the valley and its history and environment.

Our particular group included writers from various parts of Canada who were in town for the MagNet conference. Most are members of the Professional Writers' Association of Canada, so there were plenty of questions for our guest speakers.

The Mouth of the Don
As we continued down the river past Queen Street, we heard from Brenda Webster. She works for Waterfront Toronto and was with us to discuss plans to change the mouth of the Don River and redevelop former industrial areas such as the docklands and the West Donlands.

The redevelopment plans are inspiring, particularly the plans to create new wetlands at the mouth of the river.

It was a beautiful day, and the local wildlife was out in force. There was a close, and thankfully fairly cute, encounter with a raccoon. Lots of redwinged blackbirds with brilliant crimson flashes on their wings. The usual assortment of robins, finches, sparrows and mallard ducks. A couple walkers even saw a black-crowned night heron. Despite the pollution, there were plenty of fish jumping, minnows swimming and cormorants diving.

A fine end
The walking tour continued across Lakeshore and into the docklands. We followed the edge of the Keating Channel, which today serves as the mouth of the river. A jovial group welcomed pints and nosh at the Keating Channel Pub, which has a patio right at the point where the river's water flows into Toronto Harbour.

We'll be looking forward to organizing other walking tours in the future. They're a great way to get to know your city and its environment, and a pollution-free way to enjoy a day.

Click here for tips on organizaing your own walk.

Want to walk, but not organize the walk yourself? Check out the list of Jane's Walks near you.


Virginia Heffernan said...

Craig - I hope we can get you to take the PWAC Toronto Chapter out. Maybe this fall?

Great blog.

Craig Saunders said...

Saul and I are planning to host more walking tours, perhaps one headed north (a much prettier walk). We'll certainly design a walk with SEJ and PWAC members in mind.

Michelle Morra-Carlisle said...

Hi Craig,

I just came across this blog of yours by accident because I was trying to remember the pub we ended up at. I really enjoyed the Don River walk and would be interested in hearing about more of your walking tours. Cheers, Michelle

Craig Saunders said...

We're working on a new one to coincide with the PWAC conference in the spring.