Websters Falls (or Webster’s Falls) could very well be the city of Hamilton’s most famous and most visited waterfall. And as you can see from the photo at the top of this page, it was totally understandable why that would be the case. Given its block-type shape, it reminded Julie and I of a smaller version of the Huangguoshu Waterfall in China except we couldn’t go behind it in this case. Webster’s Falls was said to be 22m high and about 24m wide at its crest.
Our experience with this waterfall was a mixed bag. On the one hand, we got to see most of the falls from what was left of the official lookouts that remained accessible to the public (especially the Dobson-McKee Lookout yielding the view at the top of this page). However, given all the literature and photos circulating about on the Hamilton Conservation Authority’s own publishings as well as on the web, we were misled into thinking that we could’ve experienced much more about the falls than what the reality ended up being. The culprit was the the numerous closures and infrastructure put in place to ensure that the best ways to experience the falls would not be possible (barring further risk to life and limb).
Among the waterfalling experiences that this waterfall no longer offered during our October 2013 visit were:
- an across-the-gorge view of both Websters Falls and the bridge above it (similar to the Dobson-McKee Lookout but much more open and satisfying)
- the famous stairway trail leading to the base of the Websters Falls (which yielded most of the photos in the literature)
While I can appreciate the conservation efforts pertaining to the waterfalls in and around Hamilton, we’ve learned from our experiences at other waterfalls around the world that authorities need to balance a satisfactory experience with conservation. It felt to us like with this waterfall (as well as most of Hamilton’s other waterfalls) the authorities took the more conservative approach by making just about all the best viewing spots off limits with the alternatives being far less than what drew us here in the first place. If more money would need to be collected to ensure that this balance would be struck, then so be it. But paying $10 for a very limited and subpar viewing experience left a little bit of a sour taste.
So what we were able to experience were basically from the aforementioned Dobson-McKee Lookout as well as the brink of the falls at the entrance to the now-closed stairway trail. From the car park, we basically followed a well-established paved path flanking a large lawn area to the left of the bridge over Spencer Creek above the falls. This lawn area seemed to be an ideal place for a picnic or family outing under warmer and sunnier weather than what we experienced. Beyond the end of the pavement, it looked like the trail kept going further down the rim of the gorge, and this was where we saw where the best cross-gorge view of the falls would have been except there was a tall metal fence erected to ensure access to that outcrop would not be possible.
Going towards the bridge over Spencer Creek, we then crossed over it into the Websters Falls Park where further upstream were more bridges and trails as well as remnants of the industrial past of this area throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Spencer Creek Bridge held some historical significance in that it was built back in the 1930s, then it became unusable and had to be closed to the public until a local community group (the Optimist Club of Greenville) undertook the restoration efforts of the bridge eventually re-opening it to the public on Canada Day in 2000.
We were able to experience the falls up close from its brink on the lookout on the other side of the bridge, where we could also look downstream across the gorge towards the people checking out the falls from the Dobson-McKee Lookout. This general viewing area was also where the access to the closed-off Stairway Trail started. So with this option denied to us, that was pretty much it for our visit to the falls.
Finally, there was one bit of good news where we were able to save a little on the $10 parking fee because we had visited Tews Falls earlier in the day. Thus, we didn’t have to pay another $10 to park by Webster’s Falls since they were all part of the Spencer Gorge Conservation Area.
The first way would be to take the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) along the shores of Lake Ontario towards its junction with Hwy 403 west. This would bypass the City of Hamilton on its east side. Once on the Hwy 403 East, continue for about 7km then take the Hwy 6 north exit.
The other way would be to take the Hwy 6 north from western downtown Hamilton from one of its many onramps. Then, continue towards the Hwy 6 north exit, leaving the highway’s transition into becoming Hwy 403 east.
The Hwy 6 north exit leaves the freeway, which continues north for just under 3km towards its intersection with Hwy 5. Turn left onto Hwy 5 and continue for about 7km towards Brock Rd. then, turn left onto Brock Rd and continue for about 1.5km turning left onto Harvest Rd. After about 400m on Harvest Rd, turn right onto Short Rd, then follow Short Rd for about 1km (becoming Fallsview Rd when the road bends) arriving at the Websters Falls car park on the right.
We were also could have come to the car park from Tews Falls, which was merely another 400m east of the intersection of Harvest Rd and Short Rd.
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