I first became interested in Black Creek when I happened to miss my left turn one day and came upon a channelized section along Humber Boulevard North around Weston Road, a remnant of the failed Highway 400 extension that is now known as Black Creek Drive. Strangely, I had never come across it, even though I had been documenting graffiti art in Toronto since the early 90s. And had put a fair amount of footwork in walking most of the drainage channels, culverts and bridges around the city.

I decided to walk the stretch from Steeles and Jane one day and quickly discovered, amid the fallen trees, rubble and water levels, that only the sections closer to the 401 were channelized and walkable. I still return to it a few times a year. Black Creek is smaller than other waterways in the city, however it’s far more fascinating. Development along its banks has put communities right next to it and overpasses right on top of it. The mix of concrete, nearby apartments and light industrial buildings make for an altered landscape mixed with natural solitude that is getting increasingly hard to find.
I’d recommend dropping in at Jane and Wilson where it’s easier to get in, but increased water levels in recent years mean your feet are bound to get wet. From there you can easily go south where you wind under the 401 in a huge culvert with some interesting acoustics. There’s some white noise from the freeway but you mostly just hear birds. The channel is too polluted to support fish. On occasion, I’ve seen evidence of squatters and homeless people, but haven’t actually encountered anyone.

Once you get under Highway 400, there is a cathedral-like overpass that has been painted by local graffiti artists. If you climb out of the valley at this point you can see a huge commissioned mural by Essencia Art Collective members on the 400 off ramp at Jane.
The best section is at Weston and Humber Blvd., which is open and feels like it was made for escaping the urban environs. There’s no trace of human activity except for hidden sections where there’s more graffiti and evidence of kids skateboarding. After a flood four years ago, the city removed what was left of the trees, but walk down past a few walkways and you end up in a section fully shaded canopy that feels like you have been whisked away to the country.

Around the bend at Alliance, Black Creek is joined by another neighborhood watershed, Lavender Creek. This area can smell kinda funky after rain, but it’s a nice place to stop and have a drink or bite, or take photos and chill. Be forewarned – after dark I’ve heard this stretch can get sketchy, but I’ve only ever encountered families and teenagers. The section under Scarlett Road is regularly repainted with graffiti, and also buffed. From there your journey ends at Lambton Golf & Country Club where Black Creek enters the Humber. A nice afternoon walk.

Images from this series date from 2008-2018. These images are a mix of 35mm, 120 Film, digital and also digital IR, shot for different reasons at the time.

This appeared in Now on August 16, 2017.