WHY visit waterfalls?
Welcome to our waterfalling community! Waterfalls are great places for hiking, photography, family time, or to reconnect with nature.
Since 1999, this web site has helped thousands of people to enjoy waterfalls in Ontario, Canada
. In return, their collective experiences are reflected in the information on this site.
WHO can visit Waterfalls?
You can! Most waterfalls in Ontario are located on public lands and are free to access. A few have restrictions or an admission fee. This site does not include waterfalls on private property.
If you are careful, waterfall visits can be entirely safe. But make no mistake... People have died
at Ontario's waterfalls.
Please read the safety warnings
It's pure joy when you find a beauty like this while hiking.
WARNING!! You are responsible for yourself!
Waterfalls can be dangerous and may unknowingly be on private property. Mark Harris does not give permission for any person to rely upon the information on this site for their safety, and does not give permission to anyone to trespass. Mark Harris takes no responsibilty for your safety or actions. 'If in doubt, stay out!' You must read the safety page!
WHERE are the waterfalls?
Waterfalls are found all across Ontario, though you may have to drive up to an hour to find them. This web site includes a custom map
and google directions to help you find the falls.
Some waterfalls are on private property and others have restricted areas. In 2020-2021, we lost access to a number of waterfalls becaues people believed that the rules didn't apply to them. Please do your part to be a responsible waterfaller.
*Would you want someone walking through your property?
The latest generation of the waterfall map.
Do you have the book?
WHAT can you expect to find?
Waterfalls come in all shapes and sizes. Some are spectacular while others are "meh"... That's why this site has a rating system. Many people will be disappointed by one- and two-star waterfalls. Yet many experienced waterfallers often seek out the small ones for peace and quiet.
Here are a few things to remember about waterfalling:
- Some waterfalls are bigger than others
- Some waterfalls are better than others
- Big isn't always better
- Waterfalls differ dramatically through the seasons
- Some can dry up completely in summer
- Almost all of them can be safely visited
- Almost all of them can be dangerous if you aren't careful!
- Some have signs, parking lots, fences, shelters… others have nothing!
- Some waterfalls are easily accessed by car...
- …others are only reached by helicopter!
Sometimes the little falls can be just as fun to find and photograph as the big ones
WHEN should you explore?
Most people will visit waterfalls during the summer, usually during a bright sunny weekend. But many experienced waterfallers rank summer as the worst season
for waterfalling. What could go wrong with summer?
- Popular sites can be very busy
- Many rivers and streams experience their lowest flow; some dry out completely!
- Bright sun and heavy shading from foliage can make for difficult photography
- The bugs!
Despite the above, summer visits can still be nice. We've heard from many people that bought our book 'Waterfalls of Ontario' and used it to plan a week-long waterfall-heavy vacation. So why do many of us prefer to visit during Spring, Fall, or Winter
- Fewer people at waterfalls, especially during the week
- Stream flow is almost guaranteed to be impressive in spring
- Stream flow is usually higher in fall than during a hot summer
- Lighting is usually better for photography. Shadows aren't a problem before the leaves come out
- Fall colours are magical for photography
- Snow and ice makes waterfalls a real winter wonderland
- No bugs!
A common problem during summer... bright sun lights up the waterfall causing overexposure. At the same time, thick vegetation shades much of the scene, making it hard to get a proper photo without special techniques like HDR. I would get better results on a cloudy day, or, during spring/fall when there is much less shade. See the photography page
for tips on taking great photos.
HOW does this site work
Whether you browse through the regional inventories or the custom-built google waterfall map, there are hundreds of waterfalls to discover. Click the directions button and away you go, right? Well, not quite...
Some waterfalls are well signed, but others are very remote. If you are going off the beaten track, don't rely solely on GPS instructions. You must be sure that you understand where you are going.
Special Note about google maps
: Remember that the maps show the location of the falls, not the trailhead or the parking lot. This means that Google Maps is trying to get you to the falls, not the parking lot. (see the photo below). This web site is slowly being enhanced to include parking locations.
The Rating System
Google Maps is trying to take you to the waterfall, when it should be taking you to the parking area at the Price Conservation Area. No big deal for Price Rapids, but it could be a big deal for more remote waterfalls. Always double-check where you are going.
Each waterfall is rated between one and five stars. This is subjective! Sites with 4 or 5 stars
are sure to impress anyone. They are usually larger, have reliable flow, make good pictures and offer lots of hiking opportunities.
Sites with 1 star
are likely to disappoint many visitors. They are generally very small, can run out of water in summer, and may have limited hiking, visiting or viewing opportunities.
Remember that very small waterfalls can still be very enjoyable. Waterfalls that are only a metre high can be turned into great photographs, and can provide a nice secluded spot to sit and relax.
The Colour System
Waterfalls with green stars are generally easy to visit. Most have been developed as tourist destinations, with wide well-kept paths and dedicated parking areas. Others may be undeveloped, but are still easy for most people to visit.
Waterfalls with yellow stars are usually lacking any specific parking areas or well-established trails. They may require you to scramble down a steep hill, or, follow a trail for an hour or more. If you are an active adult, you should be able to reach these falls, but you must accept the increased level of risk. In a few rare cases, I have used yellow stars to warn that a site MAY be on private property.
Waterfalls with red stars can only be reached by water, either by canoe or powerboat. This can range from a 10-minute paddle to an hours-long powerboat trip, to a multi-day, portaging canoe trip. Warning
if you aren't experienced in the back country, seek additional guidance before attempting to visit waterfalls with red stars.
Mobility and Accessibility
It's unfortunate, but most of our waterfalls are not accessible to people with mobility challenges. For this reason, in 2021 the members of our Facebook community started to identify waterfalls that can be visited by people with limited mobility.
Falls marked with a wheelchair symbol are 'very likely' (but not guaranteed) to be visible by someone that uses a wheelchair to get around. ie. there are no stairs or rough trails that would present an obstacle to viewing the waterfall. Special Note
... This guidance is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate. Please plan ahead. If you are a member of the Facebook group, please pose a question about the site that you want to see. With 30,000 visitors, someone is bound to be familiar with the location!
In some of these cases, the view may be from a distance. A specific list will be created, hopefully by end of Septemeber, 2021.
You can learn more about the waterfalling hobby by following these links. Please consider joining the Facebook group 'Waterfalls of Ontario'. It is very well moderated and has a tonne of knowledgeable, helpful members.
How to take better waterfall photographs
Waterfall safety, privacy and your responsibiities
About this project
A brief history of waterfalling in Ontario