2018/05/12 – Burke Brook

Good day for a walk, starting at Sunnybrook Hospital. This road kind of reminds me of some access into a provincial park. Reaching the West Don, my suspicions are confirmed: this used to be a creek ravine.

Anyway, I’ve reached my target: Burke Brook. Starting to follow it from its confluence here at the West Don.

Fantastic trail for dog walking alongside the Brook, complete with protections for wetland areas, until halfway to Bayview. Then it’s a hop over a stormwater discharge channel, and a footpath.

It looks like some erosion control works were done down here. And it’s hard to tell between erosion and wind damage from the storm. But a side-by-side comparison to my walk from March last year shows the erosion is still going on.

My biggest pet peeve of Burke Brook, however, is the road embankments. These should be bridges, allowing for grade separated trails, natural hydrological flows, and wildlife passage. Culverts for this size of a ravine and stream make no sense, particularly here at Bayview.

Sherwood. Much of the east part of the park is elevated boardwalks, because of groundwater discharge. Makes for interesting vegetation, and significant erosion risk. This is why you gotta keep your dogs inside the fenced area.

Being on the boardwalk, it’s hard to see that Burke Brook briefly goes under Mt Hope Cemetery. North of the inlet, it looks pretty good through to Blythwood.

Now I’ve been to Sherwood and Sunnybrook a few times, my wife is a huge fan of the area. But I’ve never been north of Blythwood, so it was a shock to see Burke Brook resemble a reach of Black Creek: straightened in concrete, intermittently buried.

Burke Brook gets totally buried as it reaches Alexander Muir Gardens and Yonge Street. Natural walking areas are maintained, so it’s not the worst. The Brook reappears west of Duplex Ave.

Chatsworth Ravine is probably the last open reach of Burke Brook. Looks pretty great until the outfall, which had a lot of standing water. Spent a few minutes clearing garbage and excess woody debris, got it flowing better over the rocks.

After the Chatsworth outlet, Burke Brook can trace its roots in these school fields. There’s also a hockey rink that says “Otter Creek”. I’m wondering if that’s the name of the tributary that continues more west.

Surprise! I guess Burke Brook reemerges north of Lawrence, in the Douglas Greenbelt. It’s short-lived, it becomes buried again. But its former path is clear; there’s a bridge still standing here.

North of the bridge is Bedford Glen, private condos that prohibit public access to Burke Brook’s path. Look at this, it’s buried, and they made fountains out of it and everything.

West of Avenue Road, Burke Brook reappears again, albeit for a limited time. As this linear park starts getting tighter between houses, surface ditches appear, much like the ones I saw in North York. Eventually, the trail ends, and dumps you onto the street.

North of the top of Grey Road, a couple more surface ditches before it’s totally lost. I’m continuing to go north of the 401 though, I might have some leads on something close to the headwaters by Downsview Airport.

Limited evidence of anything against the 401, not even an old culvert.

So decades ago before this area was developed and the 401 was built, historical imagery shows Burke Brook going through the intersection of Wilson and Bathurst, draining agricultural land. Today, there are these rights-of-way. Don’t know if they’re surface ditches or the Brook.

Alongside a school playground. Going to say this is a surface ditches as there’s no discernible outlet, just an inlet.

Historical images show Burke Brook ending near this interchange (Allen/Transit Road/Wilson Heights). Lots of surface ditches here too, but I’m going to say this is the top of the headwaters and call it, here on this random deck.


Date: May 12, 2018
Length: 14.2 km
Type: Riverine


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