Bronte Creek: A river runs through Appleby


One of the striking geographical features near Appleby Line in Burlington and Oakville is Bronte Creek. Historically, it was the life blood of the community, providing economic and recreational benefits to the region.


The Bronte Creek watershed flows within one the most populated zones of southern Ontario, where more than 300,000 people live in close proximity to its waters. It is managed by Halton Conservation and besides being important for the protection of our drinking water, the watershed has many social benefits including nature appreciation, fishing, agriculture, recreational and boating.


Tributaries for the Bronte Creek start at the Badnoch and Beverly Swamps in Flamborough. Bronte Creek or Twelve Mile Creek, as it was once called, drops from an elevation of approximately 800 feet creating many small waterfalls and rapids as its waters flow south 31.5 miles to Lake Ontario. Many mills and thriving villages sprang up along its banks during the 19th Century.


These early settlers didn’t see the value of its wetlands and consequently some were drained. Today, however these wetlands are valued by naturalist since they are brimming with birds, amphibians and rare plants. Another tributary begins near the forgotten village of Darbyville in Nassagaweya Township, where it flows into the Puslinch Township.


Close to this area, a tributary has been damned to create a 202 hectare reservoir at Mountsberg Conservation Area, which is used to control water flow. As these tributaries unite, Bronte Creek is born flowing though the Carlisle Conservation Area, across to Lowville and into the vanished villages of Cumminsville and Dakota.


Tragically, in 1884 there was an explosion in this area at the Hamilton Powder Company, which killed five men. People living in Owen Sound claimed to have felt this explosion. The Creek flows through the Cedar Springs Valley and then continues eastward past rich farmland and past Bronte Provincial Park before flowing into Lake Ontario.


The park is visited by more than 325,000 people a year. During the Ice Age 13,000 years ago, melting glaciers flowing to ancient Lake Iroquois carved a gorge for the creek to flow at the Park.


The deep valleys and steep cliffs of this gorge thankfully discourage construction and consequently protect the watershed from development. At the mouth of Bronte Creek, in Oakville, there was once a village surprisingly called Bronte.


In fact, local residents still refer to this area as Bronte. In 1820, Mississauga chiefs surrendered their hunting and fishing rights here. In 1856 a harbour was built and boatbuilding and fishing became a thriving industry in the area.


Today, the harbour attracts tourists and local residents and it is mainly used by recreational boaters.