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© Toronto and Region Conservation Authority Cultural Heritage

The human history of Rouge Park goes back over 10,000 years. Palaeolithic nomadic hunters, Iroquoian women farmers, early European explorers, and the multicultural suburban population that you see around the Park today are all part of this history.


Historical Places

Arts & Culture


Since humans began living in the area of the present Great Lakes-St Lawrence Lowlands in Ontario, many groups of people made the lands and waters now protected in Rouge Park their home.

The river and its valleys, uplands, forests and wetlands, along with the animal and plant species that lived here, sustained small nomadic groups, and later on larger, permanent settlements long before the rapid urbanization of the 20th century altered the landscape dramatically.

Palaeo Indian: 10,000 to 7000 BCE
The beginning of the Palaeo Indian period was marked by the retreat of glaciers from Southern Ontario 12,000 years ago. Archaeologists have learned that the people of this period lived as small nomadic tribes, following caribou herds, which they hunted in order to survive. The now extinct Mastodon also appeared to be a primary food source.

Lithic, or stone, artifacts from this time period, such as large scrapers and tools were used to process animals for food. Large spear points called "fluted points", referring to the channel removed from the face of the point to allow a shaft to be attached, have also been found.

© Toronto and Region Conservation Authority

Archaic: 7000 to 1000 BCE
The beginning of the Archaic period was marked by both environmental and technological change.

A warmer climate encouraged people to shift their hunting and food gathering habits to take advantage of lakeshore environments for fish, waterfowl and wild rice. Groundstone woodworking tools such as axes, adzes and gouges began to appear. Archaeologists have learned that the people of this time would have used these tools to manufacture dug out canoes.

There are 31 identified Archaic sites in Rouge Park, all of which are now located inland. During the Archaic period, the current shores of Lake Ontario would have been submerged by at least 20 meters from ancestral Lake Iroquois.

© Toronto and Region Conservation Authority

Initial Woodland: 1000 BC to 700 CE
Early on, the Initial Woodland period continued trends from the Archaic. Woodland people still remained in bands and were relatively nomadic in nature. However, a shift occured with the introduction of clay storage vessels and bow and arrow technology. Populations began to grow, causing the need for more permanent housing, which was used for longer periods during the year. Also during this time, ritualistic practices became more elaborate, one example would be the introduction of burial mounds. There are 8 identified Initial Woodland sites in Rouge Park.

© Toronto and Region Conservation Authority

European Contact: 1650 to 1800
Although the great explorer Samuel de Champlain came to this area as early as 1615, the first permanent European residence in the Toronto area was not recorded until 1669. A mission was established by Sulpician priests at the foot of the Rouge River arm of the famous "Toronto Carrying Place" trail.

Other notable explorers in the Great Lakes area were Father Jacques Marquette (1637-1675) and Louis Joliet (1645-1700). Marquette, a Jesuit priest often referred to simply as "Peré", French for father, was born in France and came to North America as a missionary. He became well known by the local First Nations peoples for his strong interest in their cultures, and learned many of their languages.

Born in New France, in what is now the province of Québec, Joliet left Montréal in his early 20s in search of furs, a trade route and adventures in the wilderness. He drew early maps of this area and is believed to have drawn the c.1680 map where the name "Toronto" first appeared.

Peré and Joliet together explored much of the Great Lakes area and as far South as the mouth of the Mississippi River.

National Historic Resources

Rouge Park is home to one National Historic Site and one National Historic Event, both of First Nations significance. We cooperate with the National Historic Sites Alliance of Ontario in the management of these resources.

Toronto Carrying Place
There are two National Historic resources in the Park. The Rouge River branch of the "Toronto Carrying Place" trail, is designated as a Canadian National Historic Event. This was an original portage route along the Rouge River to the Holland River, linking Lake Ontario in the south to Lake Simcoe to the north.

This route was created by First Nations peoples, and later used by early European fur traders, explorers and settlers. The Rouge River route is not currently marked for the general public, but the western branch of the route, following the Humber River, has an official federal plaque. The Toronto Carrying Place trail was designated by the Historical Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in 1969.

Bead Hill
An archaeological site with the remains of a 17th century Seneca Village are part of "Bead Hill", a National Historic Site. Designated by the Historical Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in 1991. The site is a sensitive archaeological area and is not open to the public at this time.

Historical Places

Many of the areas you travel through on our official trails show evidence of past human habitation. You may see more on your visit than we can list!

IMPORTANT: Please do not remove, damage or alter any parts of old buildings or other human-made features, they are part of the Park's history and it is illegal to remove anything from a public park. If you have concerns about violations please contact us.

Glen Eagles Vista
One of the most spectacular vista points in Rouge Park, it is also the site of the former Glen Eagles Hotel. Interpretive signs there tell of past human habitation of the property and the Park area.

Non-native species of plants, or straight rows of trees often mark where old farms and orchards once were.

Many open fields and meadows were once farm lands, aggregate extraction pits, or cattle grazing areas.

Concrete pieces in streams are mostly remnants of old dams.

Large piles of stones, low stone walls or posts are usually all that's left of old houses, mills or other buildings.

Many bridges in the Park were built before World War 2.

An old-fashioned outdoor skating rink built in the 1920s. Open to the public for leisure ice skating, weather permitting.

  • Address: 7373 Reesor Road, Markham.
  • Concession stand on site.
  • Music often played during skating.
  • No skate rentals.
  • Admission fees apply. Free parking. No public transit access.
  • Call (905) 294-0038 in winter for info.

Arts & Culture

Markham Museum
The Markham Museum is near Rouge Park in Old Markham Village. The Museum is a fascinating journey into the past, but Markham Museum isn't all about history. The Museum hosts exhibits about international history, science and the arts. Special events, such as "Applefest", celebrate the area's agricultural heritage. The historic church and outdoor pavilion are ideal for weddings and family or company picnics. Indoor rental space is also available.

Varley Gallery
The Varley Art Gallery is also near Rouge Park, on the banks of the Rouge River. Named after Frederick Horsman Varley, one of Canada's famed "Group of Seven" painters, Markham Varley Art Gallery is conveniently located in the historic village of Unionville, and is a focal point of the heritage district.

The Varley Gallery has changing exhibitions from the permanent collection and contemporary exhibitions from local, national and international sources. New ways of seeing and appreciating art are enhanced through dynamic, hands on art related activities, including group tours, school programs, courses, workshops and lectures appealing to audiences of all ages.

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