Now that most conservation areas have been re-opened since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, many people are looking to get out and enjoy trips closer to home. A short 2-hour drive from Toronto is one of Ontario’s lesser-known hidden gems. Located on 23 hectares of Niagara Escarpment just north of Flesherton, on Grey Road 13 in the little hamlet of Eugenia is Eugenia Falls.
A Brief History
*The information that I have supplied is from my visits and to the best of my knowledge is correct. I have researched the history of Eugenia Falls online and may not necessarily be accurate*
The Eugenia Falls water source is the Beaver River; It is the 2nd highest waterfall in Ontario, Niagara Falls being the first. Eugenia’s town was settled in 1850 and was named after Napoléon III’s wife, Princess Eugenia. 1852 the village of Eugenia had some short-lived excitement; when a local farmer was walking in the bush near his farm, he heard water rush. Walking toward the sound, he came across something he was not expecting to see, a 90-foot waterfall. That night he told his tale to his neighbour, and the men decided that they would go back the next day. While the men were at the waterfall base, they noticed that gold lines were running through parts of the cliff, and the men thought it was gold. Thus began Eugenia Gold Rush. Many men and women came to Eugenia to stake their claim, but just as quickly as the Gold Rush started, it ended, for what the men had discovered was fool’s gold. Every year in memory of the false gold rush of 1852, Eugenia hosts “Gold Rush Days,” a weekend festival featuring food vendors, artisans, car shows, a silent auction and community meals.
For more information about the Eugenia Falls Conservation Area click here
The Conservation Area
Eugenia Falls Conservation Area is open from 10AM to 6PM daily. Visitors are encouraged to park in the conservation area parking lot.
In the parking area just at the start of the main trail leading to the falls is a plaque with a brief history of the falls and a trail map. The site offers picnic areas, several hiking trails and incredible views. You will notice 3 foot tall stone barriers in some places along the many different hiking trails to prevent visitors from falling while maintaining the surroundings’ natural beauty. Following the main walkway, from the parking lot you hear, the Falls’ sound and soon the main observation area. This is where the path forks into the separate trails. The trail to the right takes you into a small clearing where an old stone structure stands with more hiking trail options. The one-story building appears to be an old home or forest rangers office approx—20×20 feet have thick stone walls, stone floors, 1 door and very few windows. It now stands abandoned and crumbling. It is popular with the youth who sneak into the conservation area at night and hold parties, spray paint graffiti on the walls and more.
Following the trail towards the left and carefully cross over the Beaver River, you will soon come across an old stone arch that looks like an entrance. This arch is, in fact, the last remaining part of the old stone tunnels. The tunnels, which were 264-metre long, 2.5-metre wide turbine tunnels, were constructed through solid rock, built by the Georgian Bay Power Company between 1906 and 1907. The plan was to divert the river through the tunnel to maximize the drop and increase the power generation capacity of Eugenia Falls. Many have tried to find the remaining arches built by the Company; however, they long since collapsed, and the stones have been repurposed by locals long ago. With no bridge across the Beaver River at the falls, crossing the river so close to the falls’ edge is discouraged by law enforcement. *
Visitors that travel out of bounds or enter the property beyond the hours of operation will be prosecuted. Access to the base of the falls, standing on the top of the falls and travelling beyond fence barriers, is STRICTLY prohibited at all times.
Crossing back over the Beaver River and back to the main trail to the first lookout, you can see some of the incredible views from the top of the Falls. Following the path downriver can be tricky as the trail is rocky and can be slippery. When the hiking trails were being developed, the rocks were left in place to slow the cliffs’ erosion, and only the fallen and dead trees were removed. The views along this hiking trail are excellent and breathtaking. Even on a cloudy day, you can see for miles. After a short walk, there is another lookout of the falls, offering visitors a full direct view of Eugenia Falls. It is a popular spot for pictures; be sure to have your camera ready.
The Falls may not as big as they use to be due to the water flow being controlled by a dam further upstream. However, the dam is opened up each spring for a few weeks to prevent flooding, while during the summer months, the flow of water is decreased to help avoid draught. Making the main tourist attractions in the area the ski hills of Blue Mountain and Beaver Valley, and Eugenia Lake for anglers and cottagers in the summer. Fast or slow, Eugenia Falls can be beautiful and inspiring. With a little picnic spot at the car park, a pavilion, outdoor washrooms, and the local cenotaph make a visit to Eugenia Falls fun for the whole family.