CAMP OF THE CROOKED CREEK 1936-1968
NEW UPDATED PHOTOS OF THE RECONSTRUCTION OF THE CREEK AND A NEW LAKE IN 2011 POSTED ON THE 'PHOTOS TODAY' PAGE
Camp of the Crooked Creek was a Scout camp which existed in the western end of what is now Morningside Park in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada. The former Township of Scarborough is now the eastern suburb of the City of Toronto.
The property was purchased by the Toronto District of the Boy Scouts Association in 1936
It was only 15 miles (24.4 kilometres) from the centre of Toronto
Easily reached by car, streetcar or bus, it was an excellent site for day-hikes, short term hikes, Camporees and training courses
It had features of hills, valleys, woods and wildlife, plus a winding creek and a level playing field.
The camp closed down in June 1968 when it was taken over by the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and was merged with neighbouring Highland Creek Park to become today's Morningside Park.
Below is a city map showing the location of the Camp of the Crooked Creek from the 1960's
Click on photos to enlarge
Camp of the Crooked Creek Book
Click on the picture below to download the 68-page book 'Camp of the Crooked Creek 1936-1968 A photographic record' which contains all of the photographs featured on this web site. It is in pdf format. Please be patient with the download as it takes a few minutes due to the file being very large (24 mb).
To order a printed bound copy, please contact me at the e-mail address above in the Disclaimer section.
History of the Campground
This site is dedicated to the late Harry Bruce, a long-time Scouter who contributed much of the material on this site. He began camping at the Camp of the Crooked Creek as a cub in 1939 and camped there for the rest of the lifetime of the campground right through until 1968. He was also one of the leading people who brought about the commemorative plaque dedicated to the former campground in 2006. Much is owed to him and he will be greatly missed.
Scouts camped in this valley, with permission of the owners, in the 1920's and early 1930's. In 1936, approximately 100 acres were purchased by the Toronto District of The Boy Scouts Association from the Lennox family who were farmers in the area. Only 15 miles (24 kilometres) from Toronto and featuring hills, valleys, woods, a creek and abundant wildlife, it was an ideal spot for day hikes, short-term camps, camporees, training courses, group meetings, corn and wiener roasts and cuborees. Milk was delivered to the campground every morning for the staff and campers.
The name "Camp of the Crooked Creek" was selected through a competition open to Toronto Scouting youth. In the early years, there was no road into the valley and consequently everything, tents, equipment, food and packs had to be carried down the hill and at the end of the camp, carried back up again. The road down into the valley from the Plover Road entrance was created in the early 1950's. The allowance for this still exists today. Kenneth John Clarke Thompson, who owned the farm to the west of the campground, had a right-of-way along the north end of his farm which was used by the Scouts to get to the camp from Orton Park Road. He delivered Scout group equipment up and down the hill to and from the camp in his 1951 8N tractor. This took place on weekends and during Jamborees in the summer. As this farm was replaced by houses in the late 1950's, the Scouts had to use Botany Hill Road and Plover Road to access the camp.
As houses were built to the west of the camp surrounding the entrance after 1957, problems arose with new neighbours complaining about the smoke from the open-fire cooking and the many campfires. Neighbours dumping garbage over the fence into the camp property became troublesome also. In 1954, Hurricane Hazel flooded the campground, but luckily nobody was there as it was Boy Scout Apple Day and Scouts and Cubs were not camping that weekend. This flooding led to the eventual demise of the campground as the Conservation Authority was concerned about people living in a flood-prone area, such as staff who lived in cabins. In keeping with the wishes of the Conservation Authority, in 1961, the Camp of the Crooked Creek was designated as a Conservation School, which was displayed on the new gates at the entrance to the camp.
In 1963, approximately 46 acres of the north end which had been a field of wheat, bordering on what is now Ellesmere Road, was sold for the construction of Scarborough Centenary Hospital. Scouting continued to use the remainder of the property at the south end for another five years until 1968 when it was taken over by The Metropolitan Toronto Conservation Authority. The Scouts had not really used the north end of the property which had been rented by a farmer for the wheat crop. The activities of the camp were concentrated in the remaining 54 acres at the south end of the property, so it could continue to function uninterrupted with the reduced facilities for a few more years.
Over the thirty-two years that Camp of the Crooked Creek operated, it is estimated that camper days (one camper for one day) totalled about 750,000. Thousands of Cubs and Scouts lit their first camp fire, cooked their first camp meal, spent their first night under the stars and learned their first woodcraft skills.
The camp was used year-round and many will remember their first experience of winter camping.
Tally-Ho Hill and The Orchard
Climbing to the top of Tally-Ho Hill on the east side of the creek gave campers a wonderful view of the whole valley, a view which can still be enjoyed today. In the southwest corner of the camp on the west side of the creek was the orchard, which Scouts camped in. It was originally an apple orchard.
Half-hidden in the woods on the north side of a large, level, grassy area near the south end of the property was Gilwell Lodge, a 20' by 40' frame structure building with a stone fireplace and a kitchen area with a wood-burning cook stove. This area was used for leadership training. Hundreds of adults attended training courses in this area where they learned Scouting programming and outdoor skills to pass on to their young members. In later years, cubs slept in the Lodge.
During World War II, this area was used for "Camp Victory": This was a camp for Scouts whose leaders were serving in the armed forces and thus could not take part in their own troop camp.
Built in the trees near the bottom of the hill, just south of what is now Campfire Pit 8 by the playing field, was a 50' x 50' wooden platform with built-in benches around the perimeter and a large stone pillar fireplace with a steel smoke canopy in the centre. Many happy campfires were held there with singing, skits and marshmallow-toasting.
Just below the top of the hill on the west side near the Plover Road entrance, was a rustic outdoor chapel with a log altar and log seats. Each Sunday, "Scouts Own" was held, which was non-denominational worship service, planned and conducted by Scouts. Occasionally, a camping troop would arrange for their own chaplain to come and conduct a service. The chapel was also used on occasion for investitures of new Cubs, Scouts, Rovers and/or leaders.
Each year, the creek was dammed to create a swimming hole. As anyone with knowledge of this valley will know, the creek bed is very unstable. The result was that often during a heavy rain storm, the dam washed out and it took several days to repair. However, thousands of Scouts recall happily splashing in the swimming hole.
Big Bear Swamp
At the east side of the campground in the woods where the road from Morningside Park now exists, used to be a swampy area called 'Big Bear Swamp' that Scouts would have to avoid on hikes. This was filled in to construct the road after the camp was taken over by the Conservation Authority.
'The Haunted House'
At the northwest corner of the campground by the creek was an abandoned farmhouse which had stood for many years empty. It was in bad condition and it was rumoured to have been 'haunted'. This gave boys who were camping an extra scare with stories told around the campfire. The house was later demolished as being unsafe due to its deteriorated condition.
Demise of the Camp
In June 1968, the Camp of the Crooked Creek closed down and was taken over by the Metropolitan Toronto Conservation Authority. This was due to a bylaw enacted by the Conservation Authority after the disastrous Hurricane Hazel in 1954 disallowing anyone to live in flood-prone areas as this creek area was. This meant that action by this bylaw in the late 1960's meant that there was no future for the Camp of the Crooked Creek, except as a public park.
The Scouts moved their camping to grounds north of the city. The area of the Camp of the Crooked Creek was merged by the Conservation Authority with the City-owned Highland Creek Park to the east to become the larger Morningside Park, the name it has today. After the takeover of the camp, all of the structures including the cabins, lodge, pavilion and gates were all torn down. The creek was straightened to reduce flooding and an access road from the east was built along with a parking lot. Picnic areas now exist on the former playing field. However, all of the hiking trails remain in existence. Scouts still visit their former campground and still use it for day events. In 2006, a special plaque commemorating the former campground was dedicated on site.
On this web site, you will enjoy a compilation of photographs of the life of the Camp of the Crooked Creek from the 1930's to the 1960's, and as a bonus, some photos of the site as it is today. I apologize for the poor quality of some of the photographs, particularly on the Photos 1930's and 1940's page, however this is due to the age and deterioration of those photographs.
The owner of this web site is not a Scouter, but has taken an interest in the history of this campground. If you have any information or additional photographs to contribute, please contact the owner of this site, James Alcock, at this e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
A special thank you to the late Bob Ross, the late Harry Bruce, the Toronto Archives, Syme Jago (daughter of Camp of the Crooked Creek Warden
Ernie Jago and a cast member of the 1960's Canadian TV series 'The Forest Rangers'), Rick Schofield and the Scarborough Archives and Stan Thompson for supplying the historical photographs and information of the Camp of the Crooked Creek for this web site.