Points of Interest > Sandy Point Swimming Hole

Located at the base of what was once Sugar Loaf Hill, immediately north of the Bloor Street Viaduct, Sandy Point swimming hole was a popular spot for Toronto boys to cool off in the summer months in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Known for its swift currents and “treacherous sands,” this area of the river was the scene of repeated drownings through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. According to conservationist and writer Charles Sauriol, boys reached the swimming hole from Yorkville via ‘stumpy field,’ “on the south side of South Drive, east of Sherbourne Street. The field was noted for its beech nuts and wild strawberries.”

Don River near Bloor Viaduct, c.1912. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 7339.

Sauriol goes on to note that until sewage pollution made the waters of the Don unbearable, the Lower Don contained a number of popular swimming holes: “one within site of the viaduct in the vicinity of the brickworks; another at Taylor’s dam, immediately above Pottery Road; still another by the dam where the Leaside bridge now spans the valley” (The Cardinal, Summer 1953). 

In the Upper Valley, the most famous of a number of popular swimming sites was the Clay Banks swimming hole on the east branch of the Don. Two hundred feet long and eight feet deep in the centre, the swimming hole was formed by a large bend in the river “and further deepened by a dam of stones erected by eager-beaver boys.” As Sauriol recalls, “campers, loafers, philosophers, sun-worshippers, wood carvers, an occasional fortune teller, and in some instances shady characters as well, lined its banks. The grey-green waters of the Don, their quick response to the warming sun; the sheltered beach; the sanctuary of the encompassing valley made ‘Clay Banks’ a haven like no other.” In the summer of 1951 the Harris Estate deeded the swimming hole and thirty acres of surrounding land to the Woodgreen Community Centre for use as a day camp for boys.

Text: Jennifer Bonnell


Sauriol, Charles. “Swimming Holes in the Don,” The Cardinal (Summer 1953). City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 4, Series 104, File 14.

---. Remembering the Don: A Rare Record of Earlier Times within the Don River Valley. Toronto: Consolidated Amethyst Communications, 1981.




© Jennifer Bonnell & Marcel Fortin, 2009. A member project of NiCHE in partnership
with the University of Toronto Libraries - Map & Data Library Contact Us