Beneath an inlet grille, in North York's enormous Wilket Creek drain
Massive storm conduit built in the 1960s-70s to bury a major North York creek

As far as I know, this is the largest storm trunk sewer in Toronto. Stretching from north of Finch Avenue to the intersection of Bayview Avenue and York Mills Road, the Wilket Creek Storm Trunk Sewer grows to become a round pipe more than 4m in diameter, and then splits into a pair of rectangular concrete ducts of similar dimensions. This size is punctuated by a series of minimalist chambers where ceiling grilles cast light into the drain's enormous spaces and allow water to drain from the flood plain above it.

The view from the outfall of the Bayview Extension culvert, near the Bloor Viaduct

The Three Tenors

Triple-barrelled cut-and-cover concrete drain for Yellow Creek fragment

This culvert was built at the bottom end of the Park Drive Reservation to carry the fragment of Yellow Creek fed by the Spadina Storm Trunk Sewer beneath the Bayview Extension and its accompanying ramps to Bloor Street.

Some of the eponymous steps, with the Yellow Creek overflow window in the background.

21 Golden Steps
Drains the sewer-fed fragment of Yellow Creek from David A. Balfour Park to the Don River

Named colloquially for its three short flights of concrete stairs, this sewer serves to drain the fragment of Yellow Creek that now emerges from the outfall of the Belt Line Sewer south of Mount Pleasant Cemetery and flows through the ravine in David A. Balfour Park before entering the inlet of 21 Golden Steps. Its early 20th century rectangular concrete conduit would have been installed to permit the 'improvement' of the ravine southeast of Mt. Pleasant Avenue and the construction of a road providing access to the Don Valley.

The stone-clad outfall of the Belt Line Sewer, at the top end of the Vale of Avoca, just south of Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

Belt Line Sewer
East of Yonge Street and north of St. Clair Avenue, a drain runs out of Mount Pleasant Cemetery into the Vale of Avoca, flowing cold and clear, and feeding one of the remaining open stretches of the Yellow Creek. Toronto has no shortage of lost creeks in drains, but the Belt Line Sewer carries more ghosts than most as it flows from north of Eglinton southeast through Toronto's largest cemetery; these are the ghosts of a buried creek, the city's buried citizens and leaders, and a failed railway and suburban development scheme from the last decade of the 1800s.
A complicated network providing drainage and overflow for Forest Hill

East of Yonge Street and north of St. Clair Avenue, a drain runs out of Mount Pleasant Cemetery into the Vale of Avoca, feeding one of the remaining open stretches of the Yellow Creek. In her novel Cat's Eye, Margaret Atwood wrote about Mud Creek, just to the east of here, which shares with the Yellow Creek a similar landscape and contemporary provenance, as both now emerge from beneath the cemetery. Atwood's narrator in Cat's Eye describes her perceptions of the creek:

The last of the large waterfalls on the way up the Spadina Storm Trunk.

Spadina Storm Trunk Sewer
One of the largest drains in Toronto, built by Metro for the Spadina Expressway

The Corporation of Metropolitan Toronto's dream to drive the Spadina Expressway into the heart of lower Toronto died in 1971 at Eglinton Avenue, when then-Premier Bill Davis announced that his government would not support extending the highway. The decision was a victory for a coalition of citizens' groups that had opposed the expressway since it had first been announced more than ten years earlier.

Looking downstream in the Glendale Avenue Storm Sewer. This junction is indeed designed backwards.

Sisters of Mercy

1960s concrete storm sewer built as relief for Earlscourt and Emerson

The drain we called Sisters of Mercy would have been built in the 1960s or early 1970s, and provided for the partial sewer separation of Earlscourt and neighbourhoods to the southwest (Emerson, Roncesvalles). There is also probably a combined sewer overflow somewhere in the upstream portion of the drain, but we didn't find it on our one visit.

At the Bloor Subway, the sewer drops about twenty feet, from a small, shallow sewer in the neighbourhoods north of Bloor, to the deep, excavated trunk conduit that reaches southwest to the lake. This chamber, its vertical wall, and the long journey from the bottom of Parkdale led us to call the system "Pilgrimage."


Installed in the early 1960s, this modern concrete storm sewer runs deep beneath Bloorcourt and Parkdale, providing overflow relief for the Garrison Creek Sewer's small western tributary sewers at several points between the Iroquois shore and Queen Street.
1960s deep concrete storm sewer relieves west side of Garrison watershed

Pilgrimage was the first part of the Garrison sewershed that myself and my colleagues found ourselves inside, though at the time we had no idea that these were related at all. We were looking for ways to reach the Western Beaches Storage Tunnel (WBST, an objective that remains unfulfilled), and the storm sewer connection at Cowan Avenue was the first WBST connection we found access to.

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Michael Cook is available to speak to your organization about infrastructure history, lost creeks, current conditions, and opportunities for change in our management of and communication about urban watersheds, and to work with teams proposing or implementing such change. Get in touch.