about the trail

The Toronto Carrying Place was an Indigenous trail that led from the mouth of the Humber River on Lake Ontario to the Holland River near Lake Simcoe. For much of its 45 km (26 miles) length, the trail followed the valley of the Humber, keeping to the high ground to the east of the river.

The Carrying Place was part of the centuries-old network of trade routes that led from the St. Lawrence Valley into the Upper Great Lakes and the Canadian Northwest. It was an alternative to the more traditional route up the Ottawa River and was particularly useful to the peoples living north and south of Lake Ontario. Though technically a portage, the Toronto Carrying Place was too long to easily carry a canoe. Travellers were more likely to abandon their canoes at one end, and make or obtain new canoes at the other end.

Campsites near the Carrying Place have been dated to the end of the last ice age, some 12,000 years ago. At the time of contact with Europeans, the Toronto Carrying Place was used by the Wendat (Huron), Onondawahgah (Seneca) and later by the Mississauga First Nations. Étienne Brûlé may have been the first European on the Carrying Place, and the trail was extensively used by European explorers, traders, priests and officials from 1615 until the early 1800s.

The best-documented journey along the trail was that of Lt-Governor John Graves Simcoe in 1793.Though quickly supplanted by Yonge Street, the Carrying Place had an enormous influence on the growth of Toronto and Southern Ontario. The Colonial settlement of York – later renamed Toronto – was founded largely because of the Carrying Place’s easy access into the Northwest. Some streets in Toronto were built directly on top of the trail, and the portage’s route was borrowed by railways and hydro corridors as well as highways. The Carrying Place has not been used for two hundred years, but its route and impact can still be seen.

In The Toronto Carrying Place: rediscovering Toronto’s most ancient trail, author Glenn Turner narrates his three-day walk over the course of the portage. The journey is an occasion to explore Southern Ontario’s early history and celebrate its Indigenous and Colonial heritage. It is also an opportunity to highlight what is best about the Greater Toronto Area today: the TRCA’s vast inventory of waterways, the Oak Ridges Moraine, Toronto’s unique neighbourhoods and much more.