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Visiting the East Don River at the Charles Sauriol Conservation Area, Toronto, Ontario: the renewed presence of salmon

Updated on December 17, 2012
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Interpretive panel, East Don River, Charles Sauriol Conservation Area, Toronto
Interpretive panel, East Don River, Charles Sauriol Conservation Area, Toronto | Source
East Don River, Charles Sauriol Conservation Area, Toronto
East Don River, Charles Sauriol Conservation Area, Toronto | Source
East Don River, Charles Sauriol Conservation Area, Toronto
East Don River, Charles Sauriol Conservation Area, Toronto | Source
Map location of Toronto, Ontario
Map location of Toronto, Ontario | Source

A remarkable life cycle

Formerly, the Don River was the natural habitat for salmon, of the Atlantic variety. Because of a number of factors, including overfishing and the effects of pollution, however, these Atlantic salmon died out many years ago.

In recent decades, salmon have returned to the Don River. This is through the re-introduction of the species (but see below) by conservationists, under the auspices of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Stocks of these salmon are put in the Don annually.

What is interesting is that among the different kinds of salmon, there are varying levels of tolerance for pollution. The Atlantic salmon, for example, tends to react strongly against polluted waters. The Chinook salmon, however, which finds a natural habitat in British Columbia, is naturally more resistant to pollution. Being in an urban setting, the average temperature of the Don River is somewhat higher than would be the case in comparable rivers outside urban areas, but, here, too, the Chinook salmon has another advantage over its Atlantic 'cousin': the Chinook is able to withstand higher temperatures.

The life cycle of the Chinook salmon which has been introduced to the Don is very interesting. The young of the species will spend a few weeks in the Don; then they will migrate to Lake Ontario, where they will grow to sometimes impressive lengths. Eventually — indeed, a few years later, in many cases — the Chinook salmon will by way of its natural homing instinct find its way back up the Don River in an attempt to spawn.

At this level of the Chinook salmon's life cycle,difficulties remain: despite sustained attempts to introduce the species to the Don, its spawning is rendered unsuccessful for reasons which are similar to the original extinction of its Atlantic 'cousin'.

But amazingly, some of these Chinook salmon can grow up to a metre in length. Remarkable, when one remembers that this is in the course of the life cycle of a reintroduced species, which may be absent from the river for some years, and then return of its own accord.

At the Charles Sauriol Conservation Area (1), at 1, Old Lawrence Avenue East, Toronto, there are some good, look-out points in proximity to the East Don, from where fish movements may be monitored; one of these points has an intepretive panel sponsored by the City of Toronto, from which some facts related in this article have been derived.

Other fish species still present in the Don River include dace, white suckers and creek chub.

December 17, 2012


(1) The person honoured in the name of the Conservation Area, Charles Sauriol (1904-1995) was a local naturalist who over many decades was much involved in efforts to conserve Ontario's natural and historical heritage. This Area by the East Don is actually only one of a number of areas throughout the Province which have been named in honour of Charles Sauriol: such was the breadth of his interests and activities. A Member of the Order of Canada since 1989, he also received dozens of other awards for his conservation efforts. He was variously a Don Valley landowner and fulfilled rôles in administration or membership of various conservation bodies: Canadians will often remember him as being prominent in the purchase of the hugely successful Black Creek Pioneer Village by the former Metro Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, now known simply as the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority / Office de protection de la nature de Toronto et de la région .

Also worth seeing

Also at the Charles Sauriol Conservation Area , along the East Don Trail, there are various paths and interpretive panels about the local flora and fauna; Milne House is the subject of a conservation project; in Toronto 's East End, other noted attractions include: Ashbridge Estate; Rouge Valley Park; Neilson House; Cornell House; and many others


How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. (Distance from Toronto Pearson Airport to 1, Old Lawrence Avenue East, Toronto : 28.6 kilometres). TTC Bus route: 54, A. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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