Natural Toronto

From the bridge at Queen Street or by following the foot and cycling trail along its west bank, one can sense the Don’s place as an urban river. It bears hints of its natural heritage, north of Winchester Street in Cabbagetown, and scars of its industrial past and its revitalizing future as you look towards the lake. In the 1790s, Elizabeth, wife of Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe described the abundance of wildlife and flowers in the summer, and festive skating parties dashing along the ice in the winter. In contrast, by the 1880s, a highly polluted Don was straightened to reduce pollution and make it suitable for shipping. Its banks became industrial land and provisions were made to improve railway access. However, with the demise of shipping and the industries along the Don, work is underway to restore the river to its natural beauty and to develop the surrounding area as prime parkland and a new residential district.

An aerial view of the Leslie Street Spit, c 2000s (courtesy Friends of the Spit).

Toronto's landscape was created 10,000 years ago when the last glaciers receded. The shoreline of glacial Lake Iroquois looms above Davenport Road. Over the past 200 years, urban development has buried creeks and streams and vastly altered the landscape. The sites of this theme show the city’s sometimes uneasy and other times creative relationships with its natural environment.

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