Decew Falls Tunnel Exploration
August 30, 2009
This weekend, I was supposed to be hiking the Bruce Trail in Collingwood, Ontario but the weather report stated lots of rain so I decided to call it off.
I searched the internet for any details of this area which has fascinated me for many years but I dared not enter because I wasn’t cave certified previously. The best information I could find about the Decew Falls mine was that it was an old mine from the 1800’s and ran about 1,200 metres long and came to an abrupt end. Speaking with my step father-in-law he stated that the tunnel was used by the Decew Power company to discharge water from the turbines back in the 1800’s and may lead into the current sewage treatment plant nearby. Either way it sounded like a great adventure!
A Weekend Warrior friend of mine arrived around noon and we headed out to Decew Falls, in the Southern End of St. Catharines. We parked in the parking lot and I packed away my helmet and Petzl torch and we made the journey to a section of the park which has some ropes attached to it for easy access to the gorge floor where a small stream runs alongside a hiking path to the base of the falls.
Taking my Siberian Husky Luka to the bottom of the gorge was easier than expected. We made our way down to the hiking trail which had quite a few people on it as it was a nice weekend, although a good chance of rain.
We arrived at the entrance to the tunnel to find an unexpected visitor was sunning himself on the rocks near the falls – a good sized Eastern Fox Snake. My friend kept Luka away from the snake and I grabbed a few photos.
Approaching the entrance to the old tunnel we were enveloped in the mist of the waterfall which gave an exotic feel to this location. I put on my helmet and Petzl LED torch, my friend decided to forgo any head protection.
The water was surprisingly warm and very clear as I walked barefoot through the entrance to the old shaft which was closed off by a steel door which had long been forced open. There was a set of cart tracks which seemed to run the length of the tunnel. I was a little concerned about broken glass laying in the silt of the tunnel, and kept to walking on the steel cart tracks and moved along slowly.
Being enveloped by darkness, sounds of the Decew Falls quickly faded away leaving us to hear only our footsteps through the water and Luka running around in the tunnel.
The tunnel walls felt cool to the touch and slimy, and we could smell a musty mildew-like smell which is common in areas like this.
Heading deeper into the old tunnel we could see something reflecting in our torches up ahead. The tunnel got wider at one point, then narrowed again. The walls in some areas were covered in rust coloured slime with water slowly dripping off them to form stalactites on the ceiling. I turned to my friend and said “Lick it… LICK IT! You know you want to!” to which we both laughed.
The water and railroad tracks came to an end, buried under some hard mud and we made our way past some old scrap metal left in the tunnel to the end of the tunnel.
The end of the tunnel was blocked by a large black powder-coated pipe which protruded into the tunnel surrounded by large wooden timbers on all sides. Blocking our path was a convex steel plate, keeping whatever was behind it secured. The bottom of the steel pipe had an old valve, long rotted out and rusted from disuse. The tunnel was at most 500 metres long, nowhere near the 1,200 metres I had read about on the internet.
Luka enjoyed her huskysploration of the tunnel, and my friend and I took some photos and then slowly made our way through the slimy water, and musty smelling air back to daylight at the end of the tunnel.
There was a bit of rubbish in the tunnel from aluminium pop cans, and plastic water bottles but thankfully all the glass we saw was intact and posed no danger to Luka and my bare feet.
Arriving back at the entrance to the cave, we were met by a young gentleman and several children who were quite fascinated by the cave, but had no torches or equipment to explore it as we had.
Making the trip back up the gorge walls to the paths above, we stopped in at the Decew Falls museum and spoke with the volunteers there. They had little knowledge or information about the tunnel we just explored. They did, however comment on how well behaved Luka was and said they loved her blue eyes.