By Water

Travel by Water

The first main lines of transportation throughout Canada were waterways

...and it remained this way until the late 1700s. Canada was almost entirely covered in dense forest making travel by land slow and tedious.

The first transportation lines that were not rivers or other waterways were small portage routes that linked lakes and served as paths for travellers primarily travelling by water. Many of the first roads built in Canada follow these original portage routes cleared by the First Nations.

The waters of the Rouge, Humber, and Don rivers in the Toronto area were fairly shallow with steep banks, which limited navigation to only certain times of year. Such conditions encouraged the development of roads and other alternative routes across land.

Florence Wideman and friend in a boat made by Norman Wideman in Milne’s Pond, 1922

Photo: Florence Wideman and friend in a boat made by Norman Wideman in Milne’s Pond c. 1922. Wideman Collection M.1980.20.2.24

While they are still shallow, people today do enjoy boating on the waters of the Rouge River, with several touring companies offering kayak and canoe tours. Toogood Pond (formerly Willow Pond), Woodland Park, and Markham’s largest municipal park, Milne Conservation Area, are also popular spots for hiking, cycling and fishing.

Gaythorne John Hardy paddling a cedar strip canoe.

Photo: Gaythorne John Hardy paddling a cedar strip canoe. Gift of Terry Clendening M.1989.27.272.

Eco Camp @ Chimo is located on 20 acres of land at Milne Park in Markham. Campers learn to appreciate nature and the great outdoors at Camp Chimo. Activities include: archery, canoeing, nature hikes, high ropes, arts & crafts, indigenous peoples workshops, special guests, theme days and more.

Toogoog Pond, 1920
Photo: Toogood Pond c. 1920. Gift of Anne Weighill M.1996.11.110


The Rouge River continues to support small water craft. Markham youth may learn about paddling at Camp Chimo.

In the early 20th century Toronto & Markham residents would cottage, camp and canoe in the reservoirs at Toogood Pond, Milne Dam and Woodland Park.

On loan from City of Markham, Camp Chimo

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