The end of the Rouge River is a bit anticlimactic. The river is pinched between the massive stone abutments of an 1855 Grand Trunk bridge — a reminder of how completely the railways dominated Toronto's lakefront from the mid-19th century.
The Rouge then empties into Lake Ontario, flanked by beaches and a view of the Pickering Nuclear Power Station — emblematic of advanced 20th-century technology.
But great things that speak to timeless nature lie upstream. Widening from the marshes near the river mouth, the Rouge Valley boasts one of the largest urban nature parks in North America. A large chunk of the Carolinian life zone is protected, thanks to waves of preservationist activity dating back to the 1940s. Park-making by Metro Toronto was underway long before a citizen's group, Save the Rouge Valley System, formed in 1975, but its mantra "Wild in the City" became a rallying call for greater action throughout the entire Rouge watershed.
Decades of advocacy is set to pay off. The federal government recently promised to make the Rouge "Canada's first national urban park." Parks Canada is now contemplating a 5,600-hectare park stretching from Lake Ontario to the river's headwaters on the Oak Ridges Moraine — wild yet accessible, being within easy reach of 20 per cent of Canadians.
By Wayne Reeves