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High Park is the largest park in Torontomarker, Ontariomarker, Canadamarker. It spans 161 hectares (398 acres, 1.61 km²). It is a mixed recreational and natural park, with sporting facilities, cultural facilities, educational facilities, gardens, playgrounds and a zoo. One third of the park remains in a natural state, with a rare oak savannah ecology.

The park is located to the west of downtown, north of Humber Bay. It stretches south from Bloor Street West to The Queensway, just north of Lake Ontariomarker. It is bounded on the west by Ellis Park Road and Grenadier Pond and on the east by Parkside Drive. (See map of High Park in PDF.)


Curling in High Park.
An 1836 watercolour by John George Howard, the original owner of High Park
In 1836, John George Howard purchased a property in the County of York, to the west of Toronto, for a sheep farm, at the cost of $1,000.00. It was here that Howard designed and built Colborne Lodgemarker, a Regency-style picturesque cottage in 1837 to complement its natural surroundings as the residence for himself and his wife Jemima Frances Meikle. The Howards named their property 'High Park' as it was situated on the highest point of land along the Humber Bay shoreline. After a successful career as architect, engineer and land surveyor to the City of Toronto, Howard retired here in 1855.

Map of High Park, 1870s
In 1873, Howard and his wife agreed to convey their country property to the City of Toronto. There were several conditions to the conveyance, including that the Howards continue to live at their residence, no alcohol ever be served in the park, and that the City hold the park "for the free use, benefit and enjoyment of the Citizens of Toronto for ever and to be called and designated at all times thereafter High Park". The city council voted 13 to 2 to accept the Howard's conditions. The two dissenters felt the park was too far away from the city to be of any use to its citizens. At the time, direct access to the Howard property was only by boat, the Great Western Railway line to the south or a toll road. Soon afterwards the "Road to High Park" was built from the Lake Road to the park lands, today's Spring Road and Centre Road. Howard received a lifetime pension from the City in exchange for the property.

In 1876 a portion of the Howard's property formed the original park, along with bought from Percival Ridout east of the Howard farm. The remaining southern of Howard's property, including Colborne Lodge, passed to the city after John Howard's death in 1890. The western addition of added in 1930 was purchased from the Chapman estate. The Howards are buried in High Park, under a stone monument that is fronted by a portion of fencing from St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England, across the street from Colborne Lodge. Today, Colborne Lodge is a museum containing many of the original Howard furnishings including John Howard's watercolours of early Toronto. The museum is open year-round.

Natural geography

The landscape in the park is hilly, with two deep ravines extending the full north-south distance of the park.

Eastern ravine

The eastern ravine starts at the north-east corner at Bloor and Keele Streets as a forested area around a spring-fed pond. The ravine has a small stream winding south to small ponds just north of The Queensway. South of the forested area are the grassy, developed areas for picnicking, the adventure playground, and the zoo. The ponds, which also hold back storm water, drain into pipes and into Lake Ontario.

The eastern ravine lies over a buried river. In 2003, city workers found strong evidence of the pre-glacial Laurentian River System when capping two artesian wells at the pond at the north-east corner of the Park. The wells began spewing a plume of water, sand, shale and gravel 15 metres into the air. With this discovery, geologists finally pinpointed the southern terminus of this ancient river system whose southerly flow begins near Georgian Bay. The watercourse, flowing 50 metres below the surface in pure bedrock, has remained undisturbed for thousands of years. The water probably originates around Georgian Baymarker; it tastes of iron.

Central plain and savannah

The central section is a large plain encompassing most of the northern boundary, slowly narrowing to a point overlooking the lake, which is the location of Colborne Lodge. While most of the plain is developed for picnicking, gardens and sports fields, it has a stretch of open habitat called oak savannah, of which there are few other examples in Ontario. The towering black oak trees found throughout High Park are a characteristic of this habitat. The savannah is under the special care of the City and volunteer conservationists. Forested areas of High Park are maintained to mimic natural conditions, with downed trees left to decay. Regular controlled burns are done to mimic forest fires and their beneficial effects for oaks. Non-native plants outside the ornamental gardens are weeded out by volunteers. There is, however, no shortage of non-native trees including Colorado Spruce, Scots Pine and Northern Catalpa.

Grenadier Pond

Grenadier Pond from the southern shore
Grenadier Pond, is a large ( ( ) ) body of water located on the western edge of the park. It is named after the local Town of York garrison of the 1800s and their use of the pond for fishing. There are two local myths circulating about the Pond. One is that British Grenadiers fell through its thin ice when crossing to defend the city in the War of 1812. Other myths include that the pond is 'bottomless', that is, its depth cannot be measured due to the amount of mud. Fishing remains a popular pastime. Fish caught in the pond are safe to eat, and fishing derbies and casting contests have been held there.

Initiatives have been made to improve the Pond's health and environment. Grenadier Pond receives some of its water from Wendigo Creek, Wendigo Pond and underground streams feeding it from the north. The northern end of the Pond was naturalized, building a wetland to filter the waters the Pond receives from the stream. The southern and south-western shore of the Pond was also naturalized, removing the manicured lawn and concrete bank to improve the Pond's health and discourage Canada geese. Signs now ask people not to feed the waterfowl. Grenadier Pond is home to multiple species of bird and marsh wildlife.

Wendigo Creek, Wendigo Pond and Wendigo Way are likely named after the wendigo, mythical cannibalistic creatures of Algonquian mythology. Algonquins did not have a settlement in the park, but are believed to have used it for hunting and fishing and cultivating corn on the sandy uplands of the park.


Landscaped gardens in High Park
On the hill to the east of Grenadier Pond, extending up to Colborne Lodge Road, is a landscaped ornamental garden area. There is a 'rock garden' extending from the top of the hill near Grenadier Cafe, extending south-west nearly to the Pond shore. Along Colborne Lodge Road, is a hanging garden and ornamental garden with fountains, the 'sunken gardens.' At the bottom of the hill, nearly at the shore line is a large maple leaf-shaped flower bed, visible from the top of the hill. A grove of Cherry trees exists along a roadway from near Grenadier cafe to the Pond, with spectacular blooms in late April to early May. The area was a tobogganing area in the early 1900s. Toboggan runs were constructed from the top of the hill extending down to the Pond ice surface. Wedding photography is no longer permitted in the hillside gardens area.

North of Colborne Lodge is the High Park Children's Garden. It offers programs for schools in the fall & spring and day camps during the summer for children to learn about growing plants and Toronto Parks. The Children's Garden and Colborne Lodge hold an annual 'Harvest Festival' in the fall. It includes craft activities, pumpkin-decorating, gardening displays, traditional games, and rides on horse-drawn wagons.

North-east of the Grenadier Cafe is a large area for allotment gardens. To the east is the Park's greenhouse. Surrounding the High Park Forest Schoolmarker are several examples of outdoor sculpture. The sculptures were commissioned and placed around 1970. Many of the sculptures are placed within the forested area.


  • Monument to John G. and Jemima Howard, benefactors of the park
  • Lesya Ukrainka monument
  • Portuguese padrão, 25th Anniversary of the Portuguese Community in Canada 1953 to 1978


The park includes several attractions, including a set of baseball diamonds, tennis courts, several playgrounds, hillside gardens, a zoo (not a petting zoo) and Colborne Lodgemarker historical museum. The park is also home to the High Park Nature Centre, a non-profit organization run by High Park Initiatives (the park's charitable organization). The Nature Centre offers nature appreciation and park stewardship programs to local schools, community groups and families throughout the year. There are 18 designated group picnic sites that can be reserved through the City of Toronto.

Children's playgrounds

Jamie Bell Adventure Playground
There are two main children's playgrounds in High Park. There is a playground in the northwest quadrant with a wading pool, picnic areas and snack bar. In the south-east corner of the park, an 'adventure playground' for children was assembled by volunteers in 1999. The playground is named after Jamie Bell, a volunteer who initially pioneered the idea. In the ravine just north of Grenadier Pond is a small play area.

Dog walking areas

Dog walking on-leash is allowed in all areas of the park except for the children's playgrounds. An "off-leash" area is located to the east of Colborne Lodge Road, north-east of Grenadier Cafe.

Grenadier Cafe

Grenadier Cafe
A large restaurant and outdoor patio area is located in the centre of the park at the intersection of West Road and Colborne Lodge Road. Due to the condition in the Howards' conveyance forbidding the consumption of alcohol in the park, High Park is the last "dry" area of the City of Toronto, and the Cafe restaurant and banquet hall is not licensed to serve alcohol. An outdoor organic produce market operates during the weekends. Twice a year, plant sales are held at the Cafe of plants native to the park to raise money for conservation activities. The plants are native to High Park and Ontario and cultivation of the plants is encouraged to preserve the species. The Cafe is also used for community meetings.

High Park Pool

A municipal swimming bath complex is open during the summertime, with a water slide, a splash pad and a shallow wading area. As of 2008, there is no admittance fee for its use. The pool is supervised by lifeguards.

High Park Zoo

White Deer Buck rests at High Park Zoo
The practice of keeping animals in the park originated in 1893, with the keeping of deer. Today, the zoo - in a ravine along Deer Pen Road - keeps bison, llamas, peacocks, deer, highland cattle, yaks, and sheep. The zoo is open year-round from 7:00 a.m. to dusk.

Shakespeare in the park

During the summer, the Canadian Stage company puts on a selected Shakespearean play in the park's amphitheatre. This annual event, called "Dream in High Park", is popular with Torontonians. The amphitheatre is on the hill side directly to the east of the Grenadier Cafe.

Sports fields

In the central area of the park, there are two soccer fields and three baseball diamonds available for organized play. One of the baseball diamonds is home to the High Park Braves baseball organization, providing "Little League" organized baseball programs for children in several diamonds.

There are several tennis courts in two separate locations. There are concrete courts along Colborne Lodge Road, to the north of the Pool, operated by the High Park Tennis Club. Along Parkside Drive, between Howard Park Avenue and Bloor Street, is a set of tennis courts and a club house, operated by the Howard Park Tennis Club.


There are unpaved dirt trails throughout High Park that are for hikers and walkers only - cycling is permitted (by law) only on PAVEd trails and roads in the park to prevent erosion and disturbance. Several of the former roadways within the park have been closed to automotive traffic, but are still accessible to pedestrians and cyclists.

Winter activities

In the winter, an artificial ice rink is operated to the north of the Pool for skating and ice hockey. In the past, skating on Grenadier Pond was an annual tradition. Today, the Pond rarely freezes enough to be safe for skating. Tobogganing, a formerly popular pastime is only done now at the hill at Howard Park Avenue and Parkside Drive. Several toboggan runs existed in the past in the hillside gardens area, and the "bowl" at the bottom of an old toboggan run still exists just east of Grenadier Pond, to the north-west of Grenadier Cafe, for a run that started at West Road, and ended at the bowl next to the Pond. The run is no longer used and trees block the run. The hiking paths are maintained for cross-country skiing.

High Park Curling Club

Originally formed for play on the Grenadier Pond ice, the Club has its own facility on Indian Road, just east of the Park, opened in 1911. It is Toronto's oldest curling club.


Public Transit

High Park is accessible by TTC:


Automobile access is allowed to most of the park, although several roads are closed to vehicular traffic. Parking lots exist at the Adventure Playground and Zoo, at Colborne Lodge, at Grenadier Cafe, High Park Pool and the north-western children's playground, as well as along some roads. On Sundays in summer, the roads are closed to traffic.


People can walk or bicycle to the park along roads and streets and enter from the neighbourhood. They can take the Martin-Goodman Trail along Lake Ontario to points south of the park.

From spring to fall a "trackless train" — a tractor that tows several wagons decorated to look like a red and white train — is operated making a tour of the Park every 30 minutes, stopping near Bloor Street, the north-western playground, west of the Grenadier Cafe, at Grenadier Pond, south of Colborne Lodge and at the Adventure Playground.

Surrounding neighbourhoods

Old gates at Howard Park & Keele (now Parkside), 1935.
Since demolished
High Park also lends its name to two official neighbourhoods of the City of Toronto, "High Park-Swansea" and "High Park North" adjoining the Park. High Park-Swansea encompasses the area west of Roncesvalles Avenue, to Bloor Street on the north, and the Humber River on the west, which includes High Park itself. High Park North encompasses the area to the east of Runnymede Road, north of Bloor Street, north to Annette Street and Humberside Avenue, and east to the CNR/CPR rail way lines east of Dundas Street.

Residents to the north and east of the Park normally self-identify as living in High Park, while residents to the west self-identify as living in Swanseamarker, which was once a village. High Park North is within the boundaries of the former town of West Toronto Junctionmarker.

See also

Image:High Park Loop.jpg|CLRV #4135 rests at High Park Loop, the western end of the 506 Carlton line.Image:Bison at High Park Zoo.jpg|One of the Bison at High Park's Zoo.


External links

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