Waterfalls for All

If you are reading this page, you probably already get it. Sadly, those that don't read this page will probably never get it.

When people ignore the rules or act like jerks, it ends up ruining things for the rest of us. Waterfalls are no different: many have been closed to public access due to bad behaviour.

Fortunately all it really takes is for us to be good people.

Hells Gate is in Kapkigiwan Falls Provincial Park.
The Buckslides is accessible because a road allowance meets crown land along a river.

'Responsible exploration' is critical to keeping our waterfalls open. Respecting the rules and respecting other people are easy ways to keep our hobby legitimate and enjoyable.

You've probably already read about keeping yourself safe. Getting into trouble puts others at risk when they need to rescue someone. It also gives authorities a reason to limit access to others.

You've probably also read about staying out of private and prohibited areas. Aside from being illegal, it's just a crappy thing to do to someone else. It also results in more closures elsewhere.

A few other reminders:

  1. Stay on the Trail: A single trail to a waterfall, even a busy one, limits the impact on the surrounding landscape. When people create their own route, it degrades the area, making it less appealing as a natural spot.

    A few remote waterfalls in Ontario have no trail. Backwoods navigation can usually be justified because the traffic is very, very low.
  2. Pack out Your Waste: Nobody likes to see litter. It ruins the experience of being in the outdoors. If you have a coffee or water bottle, challenge yourself to just bring it back with you. This is easy!
We can no longer explore the gorge at Smokey Hollow. Photo © Colleen Mabalay.
A red dot means 'No Trespassing'.

  1. Share the Trail... and the Falls. I've seen people bring lawn chairs and set up in the creek, right in front of the falls. This is self-centered, as it prevents others from enjoying the view.
  2. Some landowners don't mind, but many others do. Any one of them can change their mind at any time. So it's impossible to keep track of who allows what, and when.

    If there was a rare bird, tree or car on your property, would you want directions being published on social media? This could bring you unwanted damages, mess and nuisance.

Why Should I Care?

Landowners get frustrated when inconsiderate people leave mess or vandalsim on their property. They may also be concerned about security and liability.

The reason this matters is because there ARE some waterfalls on private property that we can visit. eg. Some waterfalls along the Bruce Trail. If landowners hear about problems that are others have experienced, they may want to close their own lands.

Sherman Falls is actually on private property; the landowner allows access.

First Nations Lands

Some waterfalls are located on lands that are administered by First Nations. This is private property; these waterfalls are off-limits and not knowingly listed here.

Remember, the relationship between the Crown and First Nations is complex and dynamic. Each First Nation has its own rules and attitude towards visitors. Please do your part to improve this relationship... Call ahead and ask!

It is generally accepted practice to drive through a reserve on a public road. But this is not universal.

Exceptions and Technicalities

The Waterfalls of Ontario project does include a few waterfalls on private lands where it is known that the landowner allows it. Examples include some waterfalls found along the Bruce Trail. Lands along this trail can still be privately owned. Rule-breaking results in breaks in the Bruce Trail.

A few other locations on private prperty have signs that explicitly indicate that visitors are welcome. Note, however, that OFSC snowmobile trail signs allow snowmobiling by permit-holding members. This does not always include hiking.

A very small number of waterfalls on vacant private land are included here. This is only where I have heard from more than one person that access is generally known to be tolerated. This situation is identified right in the waterfall description. I may have chosen to include a waterfall like this if it is a well-known site and I couldn't find evidence of a landowner trying to keep people out. There is no guarantee that we are allowed to visit.

Waterfalls on private property can also be included if they can be seen from the road. We can still view and photograph these places, although only from the road allowance. I'm no lawyer, but I couldn't find a law against viewing or photographing private property from a public place. This doesn't include a place where someone has a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a house or back garden.

In northern Ontario, recreational use is tolerated on some lands that are owned by mining or forestry firms, but only where these lands have not yet been developed. A couple of sites listed like this are included. There is no guarantee that we are allowed to visit.

Unfortunately, even this access on such resource roads is being lost. Eg. An official sign on a road to a waterfall near Harmony Beach once said “Enjoy the forest.” But due to mis-use, this access was revoked in 2023 by the landowner (a forestry company).

This website does not give you permission to access any site mentioned here. You are responsible for your actions.

Step 2: Stay Lawful

Waterfalls of Ontario Project

This project has been online since 1999, in print since 2003, and on social since 2011. (See archives: 2003, 2012, 2018). It was the first to inventory and map Ontario's waterfalls for recreational purposes. With your continued help, it grows. Learn more...
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This page last updated on April 20, 2024. Earlier versions can be examined on Archive.org, dating back to 2003.