If anyone asked me where in Ontario, or Canada, or even the world, I loved the most, I wouldn’t hesitate to say the Elora Gorge. It is one of the most fascinating and fun places around.
As an Elora child, I learned about the gorge and just had to go there. I had to take friends, too. Their parents hadn’t shown them. Sometimes we sneaked down without permission. Mostly, we told our families where we were going and what we were up to. That was probably wise. The gorge can be a dangerous place.
I was fortunate that my parents gave my brothers and I a full tour. They showed us around and explained what a few of the old foundations and buildings were. I learned about the Kiddie Kar Factory and how the water was brought through to power the equipment. My parents also ensured that I understood how dangerous some areas could be, and how to be safe.
The gorge is a wonder to look at from above. You can’t beat the view of the Irvine River from the David Street Bridge. It’s absolutely stunning. Just take care when crossing from one side of the bridge to the other when taking photos. You don’t want to surprise the drivers using the roadway. That bridge has a very long history. I was fortunate to interview a descendant of David Foote, who built the first bridge. I must write about that another time.
Lovers Leap provides another fabulous view. It’s a great way to see the Irvine meet the Grand River. You can’t quite see the Tooth of Time from here, but you can hear the water rushing around it, and tumbling down the rocks. This is a good spot for watching people in kayaks as they navigate the slower waters, then the rapids. Some adventurers also choose to start their tubing from this part of the grand. For those who really want to tube, go into the Elora Gorge Park. They have everything set up, including equipment rentals.
Look across from Lovers Leap and you’ll see one of the larger caves in the gorge. You can reach that one by climbing down a very easy access ravine near the old Kiddie Kar Factory. Just be careful climbing down. Some rocks are loose. One should always take care when out in nature.
While walking the trail along the top of the gorge, in Victoria Park, one may also see the zip-liners braving the air above the Irvine. It looks like they are having a lot of fun. I haven’t mustered the courage to try it, myself, but I am quite certain that it would be invigorating. Hats off to those who do it.
My friends and I often went into the gorge by way of the stairs in Victoria Park. It was always a challenge to run up the stairs and walk about afterwards with our legs feeling like jelly. Those stairs are quite the climb. It’s well worth it for the fun of hiking about in the water below, and along the riverbank.
While viewing the gorge from above is fun, climbing down the stairs to the water, takes you into another world. Even the air seems different. I loved to take my son down here on blistering hot summer days to cool off. He loved to climb up into the caves on the opposite side of the river. The one with the window has always been a favorite of children. How many people have had a photo taken of their faces smiling out of that well-placed hole?
My son was a true hiker at a very early age. He had plenty of energy, so I had no qualms about walking upstream in the gorge, towards Salem. This walk is not for anyone who tires easily. It takes several hours, and you must be prepared to walk back again. There are no easy ways to get in or out of the gorge, once you get to Salem. The walls are steep and all property is privately owned. You must wade in the water at many spots, so take care what you are wearing, and save the trip for older children or adults only.
Still, it’s a fascinating walk for anyone. In the Spring you will see nesting geese – be sure to stay away, they’re protective. Look into the water for crayfish. You’ll also see parts of them on the rocks. The gulls catch the crayfish and drop them onto the rocks for easier eating.
Be certain to look up, too. This is the section of the gorge where the bald eagles live. We have often spotted them as we hiked upstream.
Back to the part at the bottom of the stairs, where most people stay to play. There are rocks large enough for entire families to climb upon for a picnic. You’ll also notice the large concrete pillars lying in the river, downstream from the stairs. They are all that remain of the Irvine Footbridge.
It’s fun to wade through the water to the point where the Irvine meets the Grand. You can explore the flora along the water’s edge and chase minnows and water striders in the water. Close to the mouth of the Irvine is a long, low spot to explore. The water has carved it out. Some years it is too full of gravel to enter, and other years, the water has cleaned it out. This spot always has plenty of plants and mosses to look at.
At the mouth of the Irvine you can go up or downstream. The water upstream gets deep very quickly. You can climb onto the land and walk for a bit, but it is very overgrown and very steep.
It’s much more fun to go downstream where the water has worn the limestone into a lumpy, pockmarked shelf. Walking is easy with only a few challenging points. The sun shines down here, and you can sit for hours, just enjoying the peace and watching the people go by. You can also follow this shelf for a long ways. There are a few spots where you must wade in the water, but if you have shoes on that can get wet, you’ll be fine. Watch the rocks along the way. There is plenty to see. Many spots are pocked with holes where the water has spun stones to create little potholes. Many areas have some interesting moss specimens growing. I always loved the moss. My grandmother was a florist and she often sent us to gather moss to keep her arrangements fresh.
I could go on for hours about all of the wonderful things to see and do in the Elora Gorge. There is so much to experience. What more can I say? It’s my favorite place.