Guidelines for Lost River Walks

Objective of Lost River Walks

To encourage understanding of the city as a part of nature rather than apart from it, and to appreciate and cherish our heritage. To create an appreciation of the city’s intimate connection to its water systems, by tracing the courses of forgotten streams, by learning about our natural and built heritage; and by sharing this information with others.

Topics that could be discussed on Lost River Walks
and which would help accomplish these aims:

  1. The name of the watercourse, and where it got its name; where it began, where it ended, and where it goes now; its past and present use for water, power and transportation.
  2. The nature and form of the watershed; how the watershed came to be - its origin in the landscape; the influence the glaciers, old lakes and time.
  3. Where the water goes now: sewers, ground water, water table, springs, the water cycle; why the creeks were put in sewers; how it is affected by precipitation and human input.
  4. The history of how the area changed over time; how land forms and urbanization influenced the streams; aboriginal factors, early settlement, travel routes, increased density & paving, recent public emphasis on ecology. Stress factors on vegetation.
  5. The relation between water conservation, water quality and a healthy City. Point out water conservation programs such as the Yellow Fish Road, downspout disconnecting, roof and storm gardens, and soft drainage.
  6. How to locate “lost rivers” - use of old maps, sewer grate locations, landscape features (contours - on maps), local history reports, archival images.

Three priorities cover every event.

  1. Participant safety
  2. Protection of the environment
  3. Participant pleasure.

These priorities are not interchangeable

Suggestions for Leaders

  1. Prewalk the area ahead of time, noting difficult terrain, drinking water availability, washrooms, and TTC connections.
  2. Research the walk route. Check the Lost Rivers website; check the local history collection in the local public library for information, maps, and photos.
  3. The starting point is best at a TTC stop, a street intersection with ample room for people to meet, or a park entrance. If at an intersection, state on which corner to meet.
  4. Walks proceed rain or shine, but may be cancelled at the discretion of the leader if weather or terrain appear hazardous to participants on the day of the event. Ice storms, flooded areas or extreme heat and smog alerts are examples. The leader is responsible for someone to be at the start point to explain the cancellation.
  5. An understudy or assistant should be appointed to takeover if you are unable to conduct a walk for some reason. This person could co-lead the walk if the group is large, help with safety, and keep the group together.
  6. Arrive early after checking flyer or notice for the exact time and location stated for the walk.
  7. Greet everyone - especially new members and visitors. Have everyone sign the attendance and disclaimer sheet.
  8. Count the number of walkers. If more than 20, the assistant could possibly lead part of the group along an alternate route and all meet up at an agreed upon meeting place and time. Appoint someone to act as a sweep in any case.
  9. Describe the purpose of the walk, the area to be covered and when and where you plan to end. If meeting for lunch, announce where and approximately when.
  10. Rest pauses and washroom stops are a good idea, especially if the walk is a long one.
  11. Cross busy streets at lights.
  12. Provide information and flyers for any group partnering in the walk. Most of our walks are in partnership with the Toronto Field Naturalists so point out who has TFN flyers. Point out who has handout information.
  13. Announce points of interest in a loud voice, allowing all an opportunity to see them. Encourage people to ask questions or provide additional information. Encourage other knowledgeable people on the walk to participate. DON’T think you need to know all the answers.
  14. If a hazardous situation occurs, arrange for mutual help to overcome it or alternate easier routes for those that would prefer. It is recommended that leaders carry cell phone.
  15. Stay on paths in parks and natural areas, remind participants to not pick or collect specimens, and to be quiet in order to observe birds or animals.
  16. Have a clear end point and summarize your walk at the end so participants leave with a clear understanding of the event.
  17. If you would like your walk listed on the Walk Schedule on please notify The Streamwalker, giving Date, title, theme, starting time and meeting place of walk. It is also useful to include how long the walk will be and how difficult or strenuous it will be.
  18. After the walk please send in a report. A suggested format and automatic e-mail is on this site.

Some suggestions for clothing and equipment to make walks more enjoyable:

Statistics that could be useful for walk leaders:

  • Of the Earth’s total water, only 2.5% is freshwater; and 2/3 of this is locked in glaciers.
  • Length of sewers under the City of Toronto is 10,002 km
  • Municipal water loss due to pipeline leaks, estimated at 14%
  • 25% of the total municipal water supply is flushed down the toilet
  • Half of treated municipal water is sprayed onto lawns/gardens in the summer
  • One litre of oil can contaminate 2-million litres of water
  • Installing an ultra-low flush toilet cuts water flushed by traditional toilet by 70%.
  • A 5-minute shower with a low-flow shower head uses 35 litres of water, whereas a standard bathtub typically is filled with 60 litres of water
  • Usual drop in water consumption after a water meter is installed, 18-25%.