Words & Photos by Zak Erb
Water has ever been the lifeblood of Owen Sound. The Sydenham and Pottawatomi rivers wind their way through the city like two major veins, pumping their water into Georgian Bay — the beating heart of this port city. It’s easy to imagine the original Ojibway inhabitants of this area marvelling as they stood at the mouths of the two rivers and gazed across the placid waters of Lake Huron. Indeed, this access to Lake Huron is the very reason European settlers first founded the former town of Sydenham — now Owen Sound.
As if sitting at a gorgeous inlet to Georgian Bay weren’t enough, the city also has the good fortune to find itself bracketed on the landward side by the Niagara Escarpment. So, on the one hand, we have several picturesque rivers pouring themselves into a scenic bay. On the other, we have an ancient, world renowned network of breathtaking cliffs. I’m sure you can guess what the union of these features creates. Hopefully the cardiovascular analogy above didn’t throw you off the trail … we are talking waterfalls baby! Specifically, how to visit four of Owen Sound’s best in a single day. Indian, Jones, Weavers Creek, and the big guy; Inglis.
Ok I know, I know, you waterfall buffs are already calling foul. You’re shaking your knowledgeable noggins and muttering that only Weavers Creek falls within city limits. You’re right of course. But as Indian, Jones, and Inglis seem to embrace Owen Sound from the North, West, and South respectively, so too do we humbly welcome them as honorary denizens of our fair city. Enough quibbling – let’s get touring!
Up first is Indian Falls. These horseshoe shaped falls lie at the terminus of a 1 km hike through the Indian Falls Conservation Area. Visit Indian first for two reasons: first, it’s best viewed earlier in the day while the sun lights the 15 metre face of the falls and the trees above it. Your selfies will suffer once the sun sits above or behind the falls. Secondly, it is the most challenging hike. Despite being only 1 km, the trail is tough, sometimes steep, and often runs right along the edge of the river. Note that later in the summer Indian River may dry out. Don’t be dissuaded! Even if the falls aren’t in fact falling, there’s still lots to see, and dry conditions have the added benefit of allowing you to walk straight up the creek – making the hike a cinch.
Jones Falls, located in the Pottawatomi Conservation Area, is a quick 10 km drive from Indian. While there are several good locations at which to park and hike in from, I suggest making use of the Owen Sound Transportation Company lot. They’re a great tourist information centre and the hike in to the falls is scenic and direct. Follow the trail and the growing roar of the falls and you’ll be there before you know it. There are numerous vantages from which to enjoy this cascading 12 metre beauty. Tread carefully and enjoy the view atop the escarpment or follow a short side trail to the base of the falls. It lies to the East of the falls and leads you through an impressive crevice. If you’ve packed a picnic lunch (and why wouldn’t you?) the base of Jones makes a great place for a quick bite. The noise of the falls provides an amiable soundtrack and if the wind is up you can expect a nice cooling mist. Once you’ve had your fill of trail mix and egg salad, pack up your picnic (no littering please) and head back to the car.
You’re headed to the South end of Harrison Park to take in the hidden gem on this list. Weavers Creek Falls is certainly not the most jaw droppingly huge of our local falls, nor will reaching them leave you feeling like a rugged trail warrior, as they lie at the end of a short, stroller friendly boardwalk. However, the grandeur lacking in these understated falls is handily compensated for with charm, accessibility, and a more subtle brand of beauty. The creek burbles along invitingly as it tumbles over the falls onto a tangle of moss covered logs. From the logs it splashes its way happily through the park until it merges with the Sydenham. Bring the kids, doff the shoes, splash in the creek, it’s lovely. Hike to our next destination via the Harrison Park side trail and Bruce Trail (3 km total), or drive, both options are scenic and both deposit you atop the crown jewel of Owen Sound; Inglis Falls.
Inglis is an 18 metre cascading marvel. Water positively thunders down these falls and you will hear them long before you see them. As Inglis tumbles down the escarpment it fans out from a narrow crest into an impres- sively wide base. This is both the Sydenham River and the Niagara Escarpment at their best. The might of the Sydenham has steadily pounded the base of the falls into a deep gorge, into which massive splintered rocks of the escarpment have tumbled, creating a beautifully chaotic scene. Take in the spectacular long view from atop the falls and breathe deep the fresh air of summer – you’ve had quite the day.