Humber River

The Humber River is the only Canadian Heritage River in the GTA, and one of only 41 such designated rivers across Canada.

Humber River Watershed Plan

Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) is in the process of developing a new watershed plan for the Humber River that will use the latest science and data to inform municipal land use and infrastructure planning.


The Humber: A Canadian Heritage River

The Humber River was officially designated in 1999, under the Canadian Heritage Rivers System (CHRS) for its significant cultural and recreational values, thanks to the collaborative efforts of Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), the Humber Heritage Community, and dedicated community members.

Humber River Heritage designation ceremony in 1999
The Humber River was designated to the Canadian Heritage Rivers System in 1999.

The Humber River has rich human history as a home for Indigenous peoples along its banks, as an ancient transportation route known as the Carrying Place Trail, and as a site for many of Toronto’s post-European settlement homes and industries.

The Carrying Place Trail is one of the oldest established transportation routes in Canada and is the highlight of the Humber’s CHRS designation.

Select the image below to view The Humber River – A Canadian Heritage River Story Map:

The Humber River - A Canadian Heritage River Story Map


Humber River Watershed Features

The Humber River watershed encompasses 90,258 ha and is home to nearly one million people. It is the largest watershed in TRCA’s jurisdiction.


Its waters, originating on the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges Moraine, flow down the Humber River into Lake Ontario through a variety of landscapes, including kettle lakes, rich farm lands, and the ancient shoreline of now-vanished Lake Iroquois.

The main branch of the river flows 126 kilometres from its source on the Niagara Escarpment to Lake Ontario.

The East Humber is 63 kilometres and originates in the kettle lakes region of Richmond Hill and King Township.

The West Humber begins in Caledon, in the rolling hills of the South Slope, and flows 45 kilometres over the Peel Plain in Brampton before joining the Main Humber in Toronto.

Issues & Challenges

The Humber River Watershed is being protected and restored as a vibrant ecosystem with the help of many forward-thinking individuals, groups, and agencies who share a common vision of a healthy Humber.

However, many challenges remain. These include:


Effective stormwater management mimics the natural water cycle by using all opportunities to absorb water and retain whatever can’t be stored.

Several municipalities in the Humber have completed stormwater retrofit studies. As of now, 38% of urban areas in the Humber have effective stormwater management.

It is important to continue implementing stormwater management as development proceeds.

stormwater pond


Forests and wetlands help to provide clean water and air, habitat for plant and animal life, climate regulation, and other ecosystem services.

Due to rapid urban growth, forested areas within the cities of Toronto, Brampton, and the southern portions of both Vaughan and Caledon are now all disconnected from one another.

In addition, many hectares of natural vegetation in the Lower Humber watershed may be lost to new developments.

aerial photograph showing developed residential areas as well as tree canopy coverage within the Humber River watershed


There are many potential in-stream barriers, including elevated culverts, dams, weirs, and watercourse crossings.

This is a concern because a key factor in healthy, self-sustaining populations of fish is their ability to migrate freely within the river system.

a salmon attempts to leap over a barrier in the Humber River on the way to its spawning ground


Humber River Watershed Plan (2008)

Report Cards

Management Plans

Supporting Documents