Upper Beaches hidden urban creek

Updated: Oct 17, 2021

WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? Two good reasons to get out of the house: the hidden creek in Upper Beaches + a scrumptious treat from a cute bakery on Gerrard East. (Note: This courtesy self-guided tour is not included in the 26 urban strolls and 52 mini-walks in the author's Toronto guide.)

A few weeks ago, while searching for fairy houses (yes, I’m addicted to kitsch), I discovered a hidden ravine in East Danforth, where Small's Creek runs before flowing under the railroad tracks.

I later checked on Google to see if this stream disappeared downstream and found that it runs through Williamson Park on the south side of the railroad (down to Gerrard Street). And this side of the track is even more spectacular! A real oasis in Upper Beaches.

About Small's Creek

Small's Creek stretches for 700 metres on either side of the railroad. It is the only visible remnant of a natural system that fed Small's Pond, a large pond dammed by gentleman farmer Coxwell Small, who operated a sawmill at the top of Queen East and Kingston Road. The pond was filled in in 1935.

When you look at a historical map, you can see that the pond was located where Orchard Park is now.

The 5-minute clip Small's Creek: A brief history is an interesting resource to learn more about this almost buried watercourse, turned into a sewage system over the years. It gives us a greater appreciation of the treasure currently hidden in Williamson Park Ravine.

Williamson Park Ravine

There are three accesses to Williamson Park. For my 2.4 km walk, I recommend accessing it from the northwest entrance, at the end of Gainsborough Road. You can park on the street and take the grand staircase, to immediately immerse yourself into the forest.

I am always impressed to discover these large staircases in the middle of nature! During my visit, a woman was going up and down them without interruption. No need for a gym!

Around the small bridge that straddles the creek, I explored the dirt path that went towards the railroad tracks. You soon come to the Metrolinx fences that now prevent walkers from crossing to the other side of the tracks.

You will notice coloured ribbons on several trees, drawing our attention to the fact that this part of the ravine is to be very soon threatened by the Lakeshore East corridor transformation project. A petition continues to circulate requesting that Metrolinx facilitates the greatest preservation of this natural jewel.

Back at the small bridge, I saw an opening to the trail that runs west along Small's Creek for 400 metres. At first we see the back of the houses at the top of the ravine, then we are swallowed up by a beautiful bucolic forest crisscrossed with live water. It is easy to forget that we are in the middle of an urban area.

Local residents have added small makeshift bridges to get over muddier sections. Here and there, the stream sings, under the sun that pierces the canopy. Beautiful!

The trail leads up a staircase to Gerrard East, the southern access between Wembley Drive and Hollywood Crescent. Turn left, east, to continue the loop.

Turn north on Woodbine Avenue to view the murals under the overpass. Then, retrace your steps up the stairs to Wildwood Crescent. Less than 10 minutes from Woodbine, you'll pass the northeast entrance to Williamson Park on this lovely residential street. From there, you can walk down into the ravine and up the stairs back to Gainsborough Street. Note that you can also easily park on Wildwood Crescent for this loop.

Want more? Add 3.1 km to this walk by combining it (from Woodbine) with my exploration of the small enchanting corners of East Danforth, which includes the northern portion of Small's Creek.

While you are there

East of the park's south entrance, a short 5-min walk away, you’ll come across the friendly Bodega Henriette (1801 Gerrard St. E, open Saturday 9 am-10 pm, Sunday 9 am-4:30 pm, Monday and Tuesday 8:30 am-4:30 pm, and Wednesday through Friday 8:30 am-10 pm).

They have a small dapper terrace near the entrance and a nice lighted terrace behind, as well as two small bis