About Crooks’ Hollow Conservation Area
Fees: Parking is $15.50 per day; free with HCA Membership Pass.
Crooks’ is located in the Christie Stream Valley natural area. This area includes Christie Lake Conservation Area and Crooks’ Hollow Conservation Area. The area supports several rich wetland communities, including an Alder thicket swamp with ground cover of skunk cabbage, horsetail species, jewelweed and occasionally rough-leaved goldenrod. Sedges and ferns dominate a hilly seepage area, known as “hummock and hollow” topography.
Features of the area include a walkway across the Spencer Creek to connect trails on both sides, access to a viewing area at the former dam site, riffles and pools within the creek to enhance fish habitat, a small waterfall fed by groundwater migration through the Escarpment face, and wetland creation.
Nestled in a small valley, through which the Spencer Creek flows on its journey to the Niagara Escarpment north of Dundas and Hamilton, lies the pioneer community known as Crooks’ Hollow. Founded by James Crooks, a Scottish immigrant who came to the area in 1805, the Hollow had its industrial beginnings in 1801, when Jonathan Morden built a sawmill on Spencer Creek. James Crooks built the area’s first gristmill, completed in 1813, and named it after his hero, Lord Darnley.
By 1829, this area contained the Darnley gristmill, a woollen mill, tannery, a distillery, linseed oil mill, cooperage, a general store, clothing factory, foundry, paper mill, agricultural implement factory, log cabins for workers and an inn. This area contains the picturesque Darnley Cascade, which, at 225 metres above sea level, is at the highest elevation of any waterfall in the Hamilton area, but, at 1.5 metres, it has the smallest drop. The cascade was named after the Darnley Mill, which was gutted by fire in 1934, leaving only the ruins. The area features a historical trail past the ruins and remaining historical buildings.
Over the years, several dam condition assessments had identified concerns relating to the integrity and stability of the dam. In 2012, HCA decommissioned the old dam.
Removal of the dam provided several benefits to the Crooks’ Hollow ecosystem and the larger Spencer Creek watershed.
- Improved water quality in Crooks’ Hollow, as well as downstream in Spencer Creek, Cootes Paradise, and Hamilton Harbour. The ponded water increased water temperatures in the creek and promoted algae blooms.
- It re-establishes natural sediment transport to downstream reaches of Spencer Creek to help natural channel formation and prevent channel and bank erosion.
- Fish habitat also benefited, as the historical cool water river fishery was restored from the warm water lake ecosystem.
- Improved fish habitat will discourage the proliferation of non-native, invasive fish species such as carp and goldfish in Crooks’ Hollow and downstream in Cootes Paradise.
- Finally, the removal of the dam allowed for the re-establishment of natural, riparian habitats in Crooks’ Hollow, improved species and habitat diversity within the re-established river corridor, and aided in the conservation and recovery of rare and at-risk flora and fauna that have been historically documented in this ecosystem.