Etobicoke Creek History

The Etobicoke Creek plays an integral role in shaping Brampton’s identity. Its name is derived from the Ojibwe word “Wah-do-be-kaung” meaning “the place where the black alders grow”. Before the first European settlers arrived, the Creek was a source of fresh water and fish for Indigenous peoples.

Settlers often built their hamlets and villages along inland water sources like the Etobicoke Creek, which provided sustenance, transportation, and a power source for local industry. The Etobicoke Creek, unlike the nearby Credit River, was slow and meandering. Its distinctive “S” shaped curve once cut through downtown Brampton. The irregular flow and low speed of the Etobicoke Creek prevented the development of large milling operations, but was still advantageous for smaller industries. As a result, a village grew along its fertile banks.

Brampton’s proximity to the Creek came with several challenges. As human settlement in the area increased, forests were cleared, wetlands were drained, and land contours altered, all of which increased water runoff to the creek and raised the risk of flooding. The Creek’s shape also contributed to frequent flooding, especially in the spring as ice and snow melted.

The first recorded flood dates back to 1854. Flooding of the Etobicoke Creek’s banks in downtown Brampton became a tradition. Numerous severe floods occurred between 1911 and 1946, claiming three lives in the first half of the century. The worst recorded flood occurred in March 1948, which caused severe damage to Brampton’s historic downtown.

Approximately six feet (1.8 meters) covered Main Street and Queen Street, causing nearly half a million dollars in damages, but no fatalities. The event triggered an ambitious civil engineering project to channelize and divert the Creek away from the downtown, the construction of which began in 1950.  The project cost $1 million, three quarters of which was provided by the Province of Ontario and the remainder paid for by the Town of Brampton. It was officially completed 1952, just in time for Hurricane Hazel that hit Ontario in 1954. ​

The Etobicoke Creek diversion and channel continues to provide important flood protection to Downtown Brampton.

Click here to read more information on the historic Etobicoke Creek floods, and the construction of the Etobicoke Creek diversion.