The Humber River’s natural heritage, though not a part of its designation, is certainly unique. The river is an important corridor for monarch butterflies and migratory songbirds. It passes through the Oak Ridges Moraine, the Niagara Escarpment, the Humber Marshes, and the City of Toronto before entering Lake Ontario. Approximately 45 percent of the watershed is urban and a large portion of the remaining rural land is under agricultural use.
High Park, in Toronto, shelters one of Ontario’s last remaining Black Oak Savannah habitats as well as a remnant prairie habitat. The Humber watershed is home to the nationally vulnerable red-shouldered hawk and more than 50 species of fish, and provides high-quality wetland habitat for birds.
Extensive archeological evidence indicates the Humber River has experienced human settlement for almost 10,000 years. First Nations peoples developed the Carrying Place Trail, which connects Lake Ontario to the upper Great Lakes. This trade route made the area attractive to European traders and explorers upon their arrival in the 17th century and led to its designation as a national historic site.
Toronto’s first European settlers were French traders and missionaries, who remained in the area until 1793 when British settlement began. However, it wasn’t until after the War of 1812 that major settlement of the watershed began.
The Humber watershed is an oasis for recreation within Canada’s most urban area. Approximately 11 percent of the watershed is public land, and includes many trail systems, such as the Humber Valley Heritage Trail and the Shared Path, which includes interpretive panels that tell the stories of the First Nations, fur trade, settlement and industrial development of the area.
Opportunities for camping, fishing, canoeing, picnicking, hiking, swimming, cross- country skiing, nature appreciation, and environmental education are all easily accessed within the watershed.
Who Manages the River?
The Toronto Region Conservation Authority is responsible for the management of this watershed and Canadian Heritage River, and the Humber Watershed Alliance, a voluntary organization, is responsible for implementing the watershed’s action plan at a community level.
Crossing the Humber: the Humber Heritage Bridge Inventory, completed by the Humber Watershed Alliance, provides detailed information on the 33 bridges that cross the Humber River.