Spencer Gorge Conservation Area Visitor Guide
From the escarpment brow, noted for its panoramas, to the forested depths of the gorge below, the Spencer Gorge Conservation Area exhibits the physical features which have made the Niagara Escarpment one of Ontario's most spectacular geological formations.
Learn more about this beautiful natural area through the information below, including trail information, the natural wonders of the area and the waterfalls information.
Parking for Spencer Gorge Conservation Area is only at Christie Lake Conservation Area on weekends and holidays from May to October. Christie Lake is located at 1000 Highway 5 West. Once shuttle leaves Greensville Optimist Park it will return to Christie Lake Conservation Area and all riders must disembark.
Walking times from shuttle stops (distances are one way, not round trip)
From Tew Falls - Shuttle stop #1 - 150 metre walk to view Tew Falls
From Tew Falls Shuttle stop #1 - 1.5 kilometre hike to Dundas Peak
From Greensville Optimist Park - Shuttle Stop #2 - 600 metre walk to view Webster Falls
If you would like to walk back to Christie Lake on the Spencer Adventure Trail (25 min walk), head west on the trail. When you reach the dam at Christie Lake, do not cross the dam. Follow the 'Round the Lake Trail to the McCoy Pavilion, and then follow the road back to the Waterfall Shuttle parking lot. Spencer Adventure map and brochure
Trails in the Spencer Gorge
- Trails are recreational trails, consisting of packed earth in most areas.
- Visitors must stay on trail at all times for their own safety and the ecological health of the conservation area.
- Good walking or hiking shoes should be worn to explore the trails.
- Keep an eye out for tree roots, loose rocks and other walking hazards
- The trails are on rugged terrain; most are not suitable for wheelchairs or strollers. There is a staircase on the trail from Tew Falls to Dundas Peak.
- A wheelchair accessible lookout and paved trail area are available at Webster Falls.
- Pets are not permitted on the waterfalls shuttle. If you would like to bring your dog to Spencer Gorge Conservation Area during shuttle operation times, you can park at Christie Lake Conservation Area and walk into Spencer Gorge along the Spencer Adventure Trail. It is about a 25 minute walk from Christie Lake to Webster Falls.
- Respect and share the trail with other users.
- Respect neighbouring landowners by staying off private property,
maintaining privacy for landowners, and avoiding excessive noise.
There are areas in the Spencer Gorge Conservation Area that are fenced off and closed to the public for safety reasons. Never climb or otherwise bypass this safety fencing. The slopes and edges of the escarpment can be unstable and pose a fall hazard. If a user falls in an escarpment area, the only way to assist them out of the area is through a rope rescue by the Hamilton Fire Department, who are trained to carry out these rescues safely. There have been serious injuries to visitors that have attempted to access the gorge area.
- The most important safety rule in the Spencer Gorge Conservation Area is to stay on the trails at all times.
- Keep well back from the edge of the gorge and escarpment areas, at least a body length. Adults should keep children and pets well away from these areas.
- Please note that there is NO access available to the bottom of the falls.
There are porta potties only at Spencer Gorge Conservation Area. There are full washroom facilities at Christie Lake Conservation Area
Due to the busy nature of Webster and Tew Falls, conditions are not ideal for picnicking. Christie Lake Conservation Area is the perfect spot to enjoy your picnic after your visit to Spencer Gorge Conservation Area.
Access to the water at Spencer Gorge Conservation Area is not permitted, the creek can have sudden flow changes due to the dam upstream, as well as dangerous currents, slippery rocks and of course, the waterfalls. Christie Lake Conservation Area offers a 360-metre sandy beach for swimming.
There is a store located by the beach area at Christie Lake Conservation Area to purchase snacks and drinks. There are no stores at Spencer Gorge.
Height: 41 metres/125 feet
Width: 9 metres/27.4 feet
Source: Logie’s Creek
Logie's Creek tumbles 41 metres over the escarpment to form Tew Falls, just a few metres less in height than Niagara Falls. Though the flow of Logie's is substantially less that the main branch of Spencer Creek, the sheer height of the falls is what makes it such a stunning sight. There are two platforms just off the Bruce Trail that allow visitors to get a spectacular view of the falls and gorge below.
Tew Falls got its name from the Tew family. Johnson Tew came to Canada in the year 1874. He purchased Lot 12, Concession 2 in Flamborough Township included his land, the falls and ravine. He was elected a Municipal Councilor in 1905 and was Reeve of the Township of Flamborough for seven years between 1913 and 1926. He was elected Warden of Wentworth County of Wentworth for the year 1924. Johnson died on March 12th, 1948. The Spencer Creek Conservation Authority - forerunner of the HCA - bought the land from the family in the 1960’s.
Webster Falls (Alternative names: Spencer Falls, Hatt’s Falls, Flamborough Falls)
Height: 22 metres/72 feet
Width: 30 metres/98 feet
One of the most stunning and easily accessed waterfalls in the Hamilton area, Webster Falls is formed by the main branch of Spencer Creek. One of two waterfalls within the Spencer Gorge, it is a beautiful, classical waterfall. With a crest of 30 metres it is also the largest in the region. The main falls has two overhanging drops with a short break in between.
The Webster family purchased the waterfalls and surrounding land in 1819. Their manor still stands on Webster's Falls Road, accessible only by foot from this area. Family gravestones have been preserved in a small area just off the parking lot. The cobblestone bridge crossing Spencer Creek just before the waterfall was built in 1936. The bridge became in serious need of costly repairs and was slated for demolition. The Greensville Optimists raised the necessary funds and reopened the bridge to the public July 1st, 2000.
There are several stories about Webster’s Falls in local folklore. One tells of the sad fate of an Indian princess and her lover before Europeans arrived in the area. The princess daughter of an Attiwendaron chieftan lived with her father near present-day Westover. She was promised in marriage to a young chief of the Erie Nation. She, however, had fallen in love with a high-ranking Indian from the Seneca Nation. The girl's father threatened to imprison her unless she agreed to marry the chosen man, so the legend has it that the young lovers, seeing the hopelessness of their situation, decided that life without each other was impossible. Locked in each other's arms, they jumped over the precipice to meet their death in the rock pool below. When the water level is high and the air is filled with a silvery mist from the full moon, legend has it that the princess and her lover can be seen to rise to the edge of the precipice, where they again pledge their endless love.
The Spencer Gorge Natural Area is made up of a southern-facing section of the Niagara Escarpment which overlooks the former town of Dundas. Spencer Creek and Logie’s Creek (also known as East Spencer Creek) flow through this area. Spencer Gorge is the central feature of this area. It is a y-shaped gorge that clearly illustrates the process of waterfall recession, with at least 10 stacked bowl-shaped basins that mark earlier positions of waterfalls along the gorge. The bowls decrease in size as you head upstream, marking reduced water flows. The oldest bowls measure between 190 to over 350 metres and about 60 metres deep, making them comparable to the Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls.
On the steep cliffs of the gorge, eastern white cedars grow from crevices in the rock strata. Some of these twisted trees grow slowly because of limited nutrients and water. However, they can attain a great age. Two of them are over 500 years old. They grow almost side-by-side on the cliff beside Webster’s Falls.
The gorge is a distinctive landform and shows a near-complete section of the bedrock formations of the southern Niagara Escarpment. The vegetation in the area provides habitat for many rare and uncommon species. Over 500 different plants have been found by botanists, including several significant species: Canada Milk-vetch, Downy Fox Glove, Bearded Shorthusk, Kalm’s Brome, Tall Brome Grass, Canada Brome, Low Bindweed, American Chestnut, Hackberry, Slender Cliff-brake, Spotted Spurge, Naked-flowered Tick-trefoil, Goldie’s Wood Fern, Canada Wild-rye, River Bank Wild-rye, Black Huckleberry, Wandlike Bush-clover, Tulip Tree, Red Mulberry, Slender Satin Grass, Broadleaf Panic Grass, Switch Grass, Smooth Cliff-brake, Whorled Milkwort, Jack Aspen, Hairy Buttercup, Willow-leaved Dock, Little Bluestem, Sharp-leaved Goldenrod, Indian Grass, Tall Cord Grass, Rue-anemone and Perfoliate Bellwort.
Monarch butterflies have been recorded here as well as Eastern Milk Snakes, the Louisiana Waterthrush and the Yellow-rumped Warbler.
Spencer Gorge/Webster’s Falls is a popular spot for viewing fall colour due to the wide array of plant and tree species in the area.
- All dogs must be on a leash at all times. Pets are not permitted on the waterfalls shuttle. If you would like to bring your dog to Spencer Gorge Conservation Area, you can park at Christie Lake Conservation Area and walk into Spencer Gorge along the Spencer Adventure Trail. It is about a 25 minute walk from Christie Lake to Webster Falls.
- Barbeques are not permitted
- Bicycles are not permitted on the Bruce Trail
- Alcohol is not permitted at any time.
- No littering. Pack out what you pack in. Please leave our natural areas clean.
- No sound equipment is permitted.
If you lose track of time and miss the last shuttle, you will need to call a local taxi service. They are: Hamilton Cab – 905-777-7777, Blue Line – 905-525-0000.