Highland Creek: Toronto's River?


Gatineau Hydro Corridor

this story

David Thomson was the head stonemason for the construction of the new parliament buildings near the marshy lands of the Don in the town of York. When he needed a healthier place to reside with his wife, he chose the beautiful valley of Highland Creek in Scarborough, where he was the first settler.

Highland Creek, c 2012 (public domain)

In March 1796, David and Mary Thomson had followed an Aboriginal trail (now part of Danforth Road) to Scarborough and built a home. In 1799, they petitioned for, and were granted, the plot of land that extends between the Scarborough Museum and St. Andrew's Church in Thomson Memorial Park. A walk from the museum to the church includes crossing a tributary of Highland Creek.

The Highland is an urban creek with more than 85 kilometres of watercourses draining an area of 102 square kilometres. It would be a good candidate for the title of "Toronto's River." While the Don River and watershed are top of Torontonians' minds, 95 per cent of Highland Creek's watershed lies within the city. By contrast, only 58 per cent of the Don watershed lies within the city.

Only 0.5 per cent of Highland's original wetlands remain due to the pressures of urbanization. Nevertheless, remnant forests, wetlands and meadows provide habitat for a range of wildlife. There is also a long history of Aboriginal settlement, represented by the Tabor Hill Ossuary, which was found in 1956, and similar locations.

By Sandra Shaul

Visit The Canadian Encyclopedia for more on Scarborough.

A footbridge over Highland Creek, c 1927 (courtesy City of Toronto Archives/Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 4986). View the image gallery