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Albion Falls: The Glorious Waterfall of Hamilton – The Waterfall Capital of the World

Albion Falls

Albion Falls is a beautiful and famous classical/cascade waterfall that flows down the Niagara Escarpment in Red Hill Valley, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The water from the Albion Falls falls from a height of 19 metres (62 feet). It’s definitely one of the most beautiful things to see in Ontario.The Albion Falls are among the most famous waterfalls of the city of Hamilton, the “Waterfall Capital of the World”. Hamilton proves that there’s far more to see in Ontario than just the city of Toronto. A cascade waterfall is a type of waterfall when the pouring water is staggered by a series of steps. This causes the water to “cascade”. 

Albion Falls: Location and Lore

Where are the Albion Falls located?

Albion Falls are in the city of Hamilton, Ontario, the “waterfall capital of the world”. The top portion of the Albion Falls is on Mountain Brow Boulevard. The bottom end of the Albion Falls is situated at King’s Forest Park’s south-end in Lower Hamilton. 

How to reach Albion Falls?

You can reach the bottom of the Albion falls by going south on the Red Hill Creek towards the Niagara Escarpment. Aside from the hiker’s trail discussed above, the bottom end of the Albion Falls is also accessible by car to a certain extent. In order to do that, you will need to exit on Dartnell Road from the Lincoln M. Alexander Parkway. From there, you need to head south on Dartnell and take a left turn on to the Stone Church Road East. from there, take a left turn on to the Pritchard Road, and another left onto Mud Street. Mud Street has two parking lots on either side of the street that connects to the Mountain Brow Boulevard. Another way to reach the Albion Falls is by taking the Mohawk Road till the Niagara Escarpment. Once there, take the road around the brow and find the parking lot on the left side. Another alternative route is via the Limeridge Road East. stay on the road till you get to the brow. After that, take a left turn and quick right to arrive at the parking lot. 

Albion Falls are the crown jewel of Hamilton’s East End. The majesty and beauty of the Albion Falls can be enjoyed by two viewing platforms that were constructed by the Hamilton City Council between the years 2005 and 2006. The entire project cost a total of $350,000. The entire project was managed by Steve Barnhart, the Landscape Architect for the Public Works Department. Mr. Barnhart also has a seat on the Hamilton Waterfall Group that meets several times throughout the year. 

The Royal Botanical Gardens’ Rock Garden was built using the rocks collected from the Albion Falls area. The Albion Falls were made more accessible In July 2009 as a result of a rainstorm. The heavy rainstorm, altered the gorge at the Albion Falls. Entire sections of earth were carved out and the shifting of rocks resulted in the creation of a third ‘shelf’. This enhanced the accessibility of the waterfall by a great margin. 

Albion Falls: History

The Albion Falls carry a rich history and heritage with them. It’s not only a beautiful sight to see, but it was also considered to be one of the possible water sources to quench the thirst of the city of Hamilton. The piece of land where the Albion Falls are located today, was once known as Albion Mills/Village of Mount Albion. 

William Davis was the original owner of the property. Davis was a plantation head who sided with the British during the American Revolution. After the Americans successfully managed to defeat the British and earn their independence, Davis had to flee his North Carolina home and take refuge in Canada. He was granted the waterfall and 500 acres of land around it. Davis went on to establish Albion Mills on his property. As the Nineteenth Century progressed, that tiny settlement soon ballooned into a sizeable and important community. The community featured a church, blacksmith shops, taverns, general stores and grist mills. Albion Mills was renamed Mount Albion in 1880. Ico-incidentally, the main road of the village has retained its Mud Street moniker from that era. In 1880, a tolled stone road was built to the city of Hamilton. The toll for the road was 15 cents for one hose wagons and 20 cents for two horse wagons.

The mill continued to operate until 1907 when Robert Grassie, the owner, fell into the wheel pit and died a brutal death. The mill has never run since then. Mount Albion also had a sulphur spring which bubbled up through a small and shallow drill-hole.  According to historian J.E. Turner’s 1946 address to the local historical society: “The water does not freeze easily. It is too strong for domestic use, yet is valuable for farm stock.”

This is what Joe Hollick said about the Albion Falls during his childhood: “In the 1950’s Albion Falls was the destination of hundreds of youngsters (including myself) on Good Friday either walking or biking to Albion Falls or hiking up the Red Hill Creek. During that decade, there was a small general store across the road from Albion Falls and all of us would go in to buy pop and treats after the long trip to Albion Falls. The store was demolished about 1960 and it was a sad day for us youngsters to see the store gone. On these hikes if the volume of water was not too large, we would walk across the ledge half way down the waterfall.”

Albion Falls: Lores and Legends

The Lover’s Leap

The Albion Falls’ ravine carries the Lover’s Leap legend. As per the legend, an early 19th century woman named Jane Riley committed suicide by flinging herself from the top of a steep cliff near the Albion Falls. Riley’s drastic step was a result of being spurned by Joseph Rousseau. The event was commemorated by a poet named slater in the following verse:

Alas, poor Jane Riley

for Joseph she did die

By jumping off that dizzy brink

full sixty cubits high

The steep 100 feet drop has been dubbed the Lover’s Leap and more legends of alleged lovers’ suicides keep getting added every year. 

An 1883 story: My Country Excursion – A Jaunt To The Albion Falls

On Sunday, June 3, 1883, two young men decided to spend the Sabbath out in the countryside surrounding Albion Falls. One of them, writing about his experience for the June 4 edition of the Spectator, admitted, “I guess my friend Tommy and I broke the sanctity of the Sabbath all up yesterday if we are to be judged by the good Calvinistic standard, but I don’t believe the recording angel has made a black mark across his book opposite our names…. Tommy said he felt real good and religious when he stood under the shadow of a big oak tree and listened to the songs of the birds that flitted around us from twig to twig, and heard the plaintive chirp of the ‘Bob White’, gazing the while with a sort of awe at the broad sheet of water as it dashed over the edge of the rock 200 feet above us and fell with a noise like ceaseless thunder upon the table rock at our feet, throwing up a million films of spray, glistening like strings of diamonds in the

sun….”

The two young men met at City Hall at ten o’clock that morning and set out for Albion Mills on foot. They trudged along Main Street East at “a good swinging pace” and veered to the right, toward the mountain, upon reaching the Bartonville tollgate. “Tommy had an idea that the stream we were looking for wound through a ravine just the other side of this projecting rock,” the narrator explained, “and so we trudged along the hard road, uphill, gaining new strength and better spirits all along the way.”

Presently they came to a five-foot tall barred gate that stretched across the road. Whooping with anticipation, they scaled it and approached a nearby farmhouse to ask for a drink of milk. The good-natured farmer obliged. Learning of their destination, he gave them permission to cross his property and thereby take a shortcut to the stream. Careful not to tread on the growing wheat stalks, the boys headed downhill, into a ravine.

“I wanted to see that Albion Mills Creek principally because Tommy had aroused my curiosity by telling me that the water was of such a peculiar nature (that) he could light it with a match and it would burn,” the narrator recalled. “I could hardly believe this, but he had borrowed a few matches from the keeper of the hotel at the Delta, and as we went hopping along from stone to stone, sometimes clinging to an overhead branch to make our chances of getting over the slippery stones more sure… he would stop at for a moment at a place where the stream rushed by over a shallow, and little side currents wandered off through the interstices of the rock, and form little pools eddying around some larger rock which, he obligingly informed me, had been placed there during the glacial period, whatever that was.”

Tommy kept gazing intently into the water as if looking for something. Suddenly he stopped and declared, “Now I’ll show you!” Stooping down, he lit a match and applied it to a small pool whose surface bubbled slightly. “There’s your water on fire!” he shouted gleefully. “Sure enough,” his comrade wrote, “a little jet of flame did leap up from that stream two or three times and then die away in a second. The explanation of the phenomenon was simple enough. Tommy told me that all along the bed of that stream there are little gas wells, and that when we got to the falls I should see more gas coming out of the solid rock than I ever saw burning in a Hamilton gas lamp on a dark, rainy night.”

Although tired by this point, the boys kept going. “We were a long time getting to the falls,” the narrator admitted, “but when I saw the glorious beauty of the spot I felt amply repaid for my long walk. Imagine if you can an immense amphitheater, the slopes of which are covered with verdure and trees just leafing out in all the glory of springtime. One segment of the circle shall be of solid rock towering up 200 feet, and broken once or twice into tables of stone on which the water, rushing over the top, falls, dashes into spray, and gathering new force again, pours down into the bottom of the creek-bed, amid immense boulders that are worn as smooth as ivory by the action of the water. Then the stream goes flashing along through the one opening in the amphitheater’s slopes, through sylvan glades to refresh the weary cattle in the fields below.”

Enthralled by the majestic sight, the young men continued until they came to what the writer described as “a most prosaic flour-mill built right on the edge of the ravine, and a part of the water which should go over the falls is diverted from its course… and made to do plebian duty in turning a turbine wheel to grind flour.”

“Now,” said Tommy, climbing up the steep rock beside the waterfall, “come up here and I’ll show you the place where a jet of gas has been burning for twenty years.” They presently came to a great fissure in the rock, from which a gas pipe ran into the mill. “Oh!” said Tommy somewhat ruefully, “things have changed since I was here last. But come, I’ll show you the gas yet.”

They entered the mill, and found four large gas jets burning brightly, the gas being fed through the pipe in the rock below. While they were gazing at this natural power source in wonder, a roughly dressed man passed them without speaking. They watched him go outside and head down the cliff. “He looked like a plowboy,” the narrator observed, “and after he had gone, and I wondered whether he could have anything to do with the mill, I thought no more about him.”

They left the building after a few more minutes, “went a short distance around the fall and on the road”, and cautiously approached the gorge. They stared down into the roaring, crashing water until they felt themselves become dizzy. Remembering all the local legends about people who fell to their deaths from that vantage point (voluntarily or not), they withdrew and headed back toward the city, flushed from the sun and excitement. Both agreed that the raging beauty of Albion Falls, as well as the infiltration of the mill and the spectacle of the flaming water, had made their Sunday excursion well worth the effort.

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