For decades, Hamilton was known primarily by the gritty, aggressive nickname of ‘Steeltown’, which was spawned by the city’s thriving steel and heavy manufacturing industries. In 1999, however, Jerry Lawton made Hamiltonians aware that they were also living in the ‘City of Waterfalls’, a name that embodied a peaceful alliance between urbanization and nature.
Lawton, who in 2000 co-authored Waterfalls, The Niagara Escarpment with his son, photographer Mikal Lawton, made a waterfalls slide presentation to the Hamilton Naturalist’s Club, organized by Brian McHattie. It was during this meeting that he urged the promotion of Hamilton as the ‘City of Waterfalls’. Stephen Head, who (with Bob Nixon) had created an extensive survey called ‘Waterfalls on the Niagara Escarpment’, was given the task of putting together a waterfalls list with accompanying information and a map, as Head’s compilation was the most complete and accurate to date. This list would have its own section on the HNC’s website. Liasing with Brian McHattie, Head produced an inventory of thirty waterfalls within the old city limits.
On January 1, 2001, the City of Hamilton amalgamated with Stoney Creek, Glanbrook, Ancaster, Dundas and Flamborough to form the larger City of Hamilton. When this occurred, Joe Hollick realized that this new City of Hamilton had a lot of waterfalls and no one knew how many. He therefore began his quest to try to find all of them and in 2002 when he had found 26, he produced his first poster titled “WATERFALLS OF HAMILTON SEASONS” which featured 20 waterfalls, in the four different seasons.
In 2003 when he had found 35 waterfalls he produced his second poster titled “WATERFALLS OF HAMILTON AUTUMN” which again featured 20 waterfalls but this time all in Autumn. Later in 2003 when he had found 40 waterfalls, he made an application to Guinness World Records with the claim that Hamilton had the most number of waterfalls for an urban municipality. Guinness replied that they did not have a category for the most number of waterfalls and was not interested in creating a new category unless there was world wide interest to do so.
In 2004 when Joe had found 44 waterfalls, he approached the Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) and in particular Joan Bell with photos and information on all 44. After the meeting Joan Bell was able to hire a contract person for one year by the name of Nadeem Paracha and his sole job was to work on Hamilton’s waterfalls. Joan Bell and Nadeem put together a waterfalls group (which still exists today). Joan has chaired this group from 2004 until early 2008 when Joe Hollick has taken over as chair. The group includes the Hamilton Conservation Authority, the City of Hamilton, Tourism Hamilton, Bruce Trail Conservancy (head office), Bruce Trail Iroquoia Section, Hamilton Naturalist Club, and several waterfall enthusiasts and photographers (including Stephen Head, Robert Nixon, Joe Hollick, and Bill Crawford, with some contributions from Scott Ensminger of North Tonawanda, NY). This group was able to locate 21 more waterfalls and in 2005 all 65 were documented in the first Waterfalls Research and Inventory Report for the HCA.
As this waterfall group continued to exist and find more waterfalls beyond 2005, Joan was able to hire or utilize other contract people over the next three years such as Montfield Christian, Elizabeth Berestecki, Jody Tait and Rebecca Roe. All of these people helped to produce Hamilton Waterfalls and Cascades Research & Inventory Report Second Edition dated Nov. 1, 2007. This book detailed 96 waterfalls in Hamilton and 4 in neighbouring Burlington.
In May 2008 David Wootton officially joined the Hamilton Waterfall Group as a waterfall enthusiast and photographer, as he was instrumental in discovering several waterfalls in 2007 and 2008 and bringing them to the group’s attention. As of today this Hamilton Waterfall Group has located 100 waterfalls in Hamilton as per the list on this website.
During this time the Hamilton Naturalist Club continued to update their site with the new waterfall information and the webmasters over the four years were: Betty Blashill, Kelly Pike and Dagmar Rudzewitsch.
Before the days of the Waterfalls Project Group, Scott Ensminger contacted the Hamilton Region Conservation Authority in 1986 inquiring about local waterfalls. He received a list of 21 known falls from B.W. Vanderburg, the general manager. This list and Ensminger’s subsequent work were invaluable when the Waterfalls Project Group got started, as some locations (Stevens Falls in particular) would never have been found otherwise.
In 2008 Joe Hollick joined Chris Ecklund in putting together the information and photos for the City of Waterfalls website.
Chris Ecklund gratefully acknowledges the early contributions of Joe Hollick, Jerry Lawton, Stephen Head, Scott Ensminger, Nadeem Paracha, and their colleagues. Without the foundation that they built, the Waterfall Capital of the World might never have been launched. This section is dedicated to them.