The Don River watershed is one of the great natural resources in the Metropolitan Toronto area. The Valleylands create a stretch of green space in the most urbanized area of Canada. The Don is one of more than sixty rivers and streams flowing south from the Oak Ridges Moraine. The river is 38-km long and ends at Keating Channel, where it flows into Toronto Bay and Lake Ontario.

The entire watershed, or drainage basin, of the Don River is 360 square kilometres. Approximately 800,000 people live in the watershed making the Don Canada's most urban river.

Mouth of the Don River
The Don empties unceremoniously into the Keating Channel in Toronto's Portlands, just south of Lake Shore Boulevard and the Don Roadway. This virtually unused shipping channel must be dredged regularly and at great expense to keep it open and to minimize the risk of flooding.

The Task Force to bring Back the Don has advocated for many years to restore a naturalized river mouth and wetland system on vacant lands under the "sweep" of the ramps connecting the Gardiner Expressway with the Don Valley Parkway. This vision has been incorporated into city's Waterfront revitalization plans.

Swimming in the Don
It is not advisable to swim in the Don. The quality of the water varies considerably, especially after rainstorms; the water in the lower Don is polluted with e-coli from combined sewer overflows that can make you very sick. If you should inadvertently fall into the Don, it would be wise to wash thoroughly with anti-bacterial soap as soon as possible.

Fish species that live in the Don
The most common native fish in the Don are minnow-sized species, including creek chub, blacknose dace and long nose dace, and white suckers. These fish are pollution-tolerant and also tolerant of the unnaturally high water temperatures in the Don. Large fish that are noted in the Don are usually suckers or carp, although northern pike have been observed in Toronto Bay near the Mouth of the Don.
In the Fall since the mid-1990s, salmon have been observed migrating up the river, looking for a place to spawn. These fish are native to the Pacific Ocean, but they have been stocked in Lake Ontario for sport fishing. In recent years the Toronto & Region Conservation Authority has constructed fish passages at several small weirs (dams) in the Don to help salmon and other migratory species find their way upstream. However, a great deal of restoration work remains to be done before these fish will have much chance of spawning successfully.

Eating fish from the Don River
It may surprise you to know that the fish in the Don can be safely eaten in limited quantities. The Ontario Natural Resources and Environment ministries have tested fish flesh samples from rock bass, brown bullhead and carp from the G. Ross Lord Reservoir, near Dufferin and Finch. Their conclusion, published in the "2001 - 2002 Guide To Eating Ontario Sport Fish", is that these fish are safe to eat for up to four meals per month by women of childbearing age and children up to 15 years old.

Others may safely eat these fish for up to eight meals per month. This publication reaches the same conclusion for white suckers of 35-45 cm. from Pottery Road. Larger white suckers should not be eaten at all by women of childbearing age and children. Others should restrict their intake of these larger fish to four meals per month.

There is no official law prohibiting it (no permits are issued), but it is not recommended. There are several places that portaging is necessary and can be dangerous if you are not familiar with the river. There is an event each year, but the event is heavily supervised. For more information, please visit the website.