Decew Falls – Historic Hiking in Niagara!

Decew Falls is named after John DeCou, who purchased the land in about 1788, buying 100 acres with an axe and an indian blanket. In 1812 he purchased the land along the top of the escarpment from his newly built stone house to Decew Falls.  During the war of 1812, DeCou served in the Lincoln Militia and his home served as headquarters by the British where Laura Secord brought news to in June of 1813, of a potential attack by the Americans. Decew Falls has a large amount of history and today I am going to do my best to pass some of that history on to you!

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When peace returned to the area, DeCou reworked his land and prospered.  He built a stone grist mill with an overshot waterwheel at Decew Falls and the area became known as Decew Town, complete with a blacksmith, school and church.  Upon the construction of the first Welland Canal, however, the water supply was inadequate for the mills, so DeCou sold his property in 1834 and moved to the township of North Cayuga.


Between 1837 and 1860 the history of the property is unknown, but in 1860 Benjamin Lossing, a historian, among many other things, referenced the area as the remains of an old mill at the top of the falls.

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Using some of the old walls from John DeCou’s previous mill, Robert Chappel constructed a new grist mill in 1872 called Mountain Mills. This mill was powered by a turbine instead of the waterwheel. The turbine was located beside the bottom of the falls in a 40 foot pit. Then a stone damn was built across Beaverdamns Creek which formed the Mill Pond.  Directing a steady flow of water from Mill Pond through an iron pipe, the turbine set the machinery inside the mill into motion.

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In 1875 The St. Catharines Waterworks Commission purchased the mill to prevent damage claims that might occur due to water loss as they were making more additions to the welland canal project.  In order to do work on their new waterworks, Beaverdams Creek was dammed just above Decew Falls.  The completion of the third welland canal then raised the water levels back up so the mill could once again work and several people leased the property.  In 1883, Wilson Morningstar purchased the property renaming it Morningstar Mill, the name that is still used today.

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In 1883 Wilson and Emma Morningstar purchased the property at Decew Falls for $3500.00. Around 1895 Wilson replaced the previous house with a  2 story clapboard house that stands here today. In 1997 the home was designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.


After all this lovely history, with so many past events going through my mind, wondering what it was like being here so long ago, I began my hike on the Bruce Trail at Decew Falls.

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It was a chilly day, wind gusts of 50km’s mixed with that lovely pelty snow that is the opposite of christmas snow, but I had a post to write, so off I went!

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Once you go through the small gate the trail begins with the familiar white blazes of the Bruce Trail.

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I had been seeing quite a lot of owl photos on social media and I was determined to find one, so I stopped every few minutes to look up and around and hope I would see something looking back at me.


Pictured above is the very steep repel down to the falls. I have done it many times, but never in the winter and today wasn’t going to be the day I tried that.  I was actually amazed at myself for doing it in the past. Right now, it looked incredibly daunting so I snapped a picture and hiked onwards!

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The Bruce Trail App is something I purchased for my phone last summer.  I absolutely loved it and so far it has always worked and helped me to figure out which way to go. As I’ve grown up hiking at Decew, repelling down the gorge to go swimming in the falls and then continue to hike on the lower trail, I had my own way of hiking the trails here, but today, I would do them according to the app and only hike the Bruce Trail portion of the trails here and see what that was like. So far, so good.

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I was noticing that there were a lot of really cool features on this trail. Lots of unique looking trees, some hollowed out and rotting but very artistic looking and quite a bit of color left for this time of the year.

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This tree had a huge hole right through it which made me sad, but also looked kinda neat.


Then… I stopped dead in my tracks, looking at what appeared to be a beautiful owl sitting inside the hole of a tree!!! I got closer for a better look and a picture!


Then I laughed!!!  It was amazing how much it looked like an owl, but it was only a tree imitating an owl!!

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I continued on happy that so far the forest was blocking most of the wind.

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And then I came to an opening and my eyes started to water from the wind and the cold that was being pushed into my face!!!  Time to take cover under my protective garments! lol

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I arrived at what a sign told me was the Decew Escarpment Table Lands Restoration Project and took a moment to check out the information, then climbed the hill into a very wide open space, leaving me unprotected from the wind, but viewing some lovely scenery!

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The sky looked very cool and I also saw quite a few animal tracks here.  I thoght these were made by a dog but there were no people tracks to be seen, so I’m assuming they were made by a wolf or coyote perhaps?

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I took some photos of Lake Moodie and the landscape, even though it was somewhat bleak, it was also kind of pretty to me.

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Then I walked along the open cold windy path towards the road and where I would jump the trail to get back to my car.

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I took a short video but the wind was so strong you couldn’t hear me talking on it.  Good thing I was bundled up!

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I continued along the trail and then saw on my Bruce Trail App that it continued on away from the parking lot and where my car was. I made a small side trail and came out on the road and walked it back to where my vehicle was parked, finding lots of rabbit tracks in the snow along the way, but sadly, no rabbits.

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I got in my car and drove a short ways down the road to the Bert Lowe Side trail on the Bruce Trail.  This was another place I enjoyed walking when I came to Decew and as I still had quite a bit of time before my appointment and wasn’t frozen solid yet, I decided to keep exploring. I was quite surprised to see swans on the lake and took a bit of time to watch them and the noisy geese they were hanging out with.


I continued on the trail after viewing an area that I love visiting and planned on heading towards it when I was able to turn off to it.  After doing much research I can’t seem to find any information to explain this area so I will take my best guess at it.


Decew Falls has a water treatment plant in the area and quite a few features that accompany it.  One of the places I have always visited when coming here is in the videos below.  The water according to the map drains from Lake Gibson into another lake whose name I can not seem to locate and it rushes through the culdasac (guess?) and down this chute into the second area. I assume it harnesses electricity somehow or uses the rushing water for some purpose, but again, i can’t seem to locate any inforamtion on it. If you are aware of this and can comment to share it with myself and others, I would definately appreciate the assistance.  For now, I will just show you cool  videos of it!


Afer my photo session, I continued on the trail. The picture above shows where the water goes into the pipe from Lake Gibson.  It was also very cold and windy on this trail and my eyes were watering again!

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I decided to go on a bit further, watching the geese flying to and from Lake Gibson making crazy honking sounds along the way.  More wildlife! HAHA!

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There were also lots of bunny tracks along and beside the trail.  I wish I would see just one! It would definately make my day!  I had to settle for a goose overhead instead, happy he didn’t poop on me! lol

After the video I decided I needed to get out of there and seek some shelter if I was to stay on my exploration of the Decew area.  I headed back to where I parked and went across the street to the Decew house to get some photos and check it out.

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I saw on my Bruce Trail app that the trail also went behind Decew House so I decided to check it out as I still had a bit of time left and I was so happy I did. The trail was very cool here and not cool cold, as it was closed in and not windy here at all, just really neat and very forested. The trail was part of the Laura Secord Legacy Trail here which is also associated with the Trans Canada Trail!  I thought about Laura Secord who walked this very path some 200 years ago and the courage it must have taken her to do so.  I am so grateful to all the people who have contributed to this awesome trail, and was so glad I’d found it tucked behind the Decew House. One of the reasons I truly love to explore!

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I caught sight of some bright red berries, which gave some color to the trail.  Even though it looked somewhat dreary, the trees were very cool here and I felt like I was transformed into the wilderness in a matter of minutes.

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I went down a small sidetrail and came out beside the lake and it was partially frozen and quite pretty!

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Then I realized, I was walking on the lake, not actual ground. LOL.  I didn’t realize it as it was snow covered but then I slippd a bit on one of my steps and saw why.

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It was getting late and time for me to head out, so I turned around and walked back out of the magical place I had just stepped in to.  I happily returned to my car, ready to warm up my face and self, and check out the pictures I’d taken on my visit. It was a great time spent thinking of history and all the people who have also visited this area and I felt very nostalgic on my way back home.  I was happy I took the time to see this area while the snow and ice were still present.  It’s definitely a whole different place in the warmer months and I plan on coming back to do another post at that time and share it with you, so you can see it for yourself!

I hope you enjoyed hiking with me today at Decew Falls, Morningstar Mill, the Bruce Trail and the Laura Secord Legacy Trail.  If you have any questions, suggestions or just want to say “HI” please leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as I am able to!

Happy Hiking!

This post is dedicated to my friend Cathy, who is a great lover of old Mills and who I think will really enjoy this post! Thanks for sharing your passion Cathy! I hope you like the post!




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  1. Cathy LeBlanc (@cathylleblanc) March 29, 2016 at 1:24 am - Reply

    Aww thanks for dedicating this post to me 🙂 I really enjoyed reading it 🙂 I didn’t know the history of the area. The only thing I knew was that there was a working mill, the homestead and The Bruce Trail. Wow, Laura Secord ran through those woods…..Very Interesting. I learned something new again today…..Thanks for this informative post. Frank and I definitely have to venture down your way and do some exploring. Excellent post Christina.

    • camperchristina March 29, 2016 at 8:43 am - Reply

      My pleasure Cathy! I’m soooo glad you liked the post. I wanted to do a good job because I knew this area is of great interest to you and wanted to make sure I got as much info in there as I could for you! Anytime you want to come down let me know. I’d be happy to host you! 🙂

  2. Heather March 29, 2016 at 8:12 pm - Reply

    Awesome! Just did this hike last weekend but in the opposite direction. I also got my wedding pictures done at the Mill and the Decew House. Great area.

    • camperchristina March 29, 2016 at 8:31 pm - Reply

      Thanks heather. I appreciate you checking out my post and taking the time to comment! It was the first time I’ve been there in the winter and it was pretty awesome ! Sent you a Twitter dm. Hope to see you again ! Cheers 😊

  3. OutdoorsJen March 29, 2016 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    You always find adventure – near to home or far away. It’s great we have so many trails to explore without long drives. It looks like a really neat place to visit and I love that you include some of the history in your post. Wonderful to appreciate the present beauty and the past stories…….Great post!!

    • camperchristina March 29, 2016 at 8:54 pm - Reply

      Awe thanks Jen! You leave the best comments and I love reading everyone of them! they make me so happy! Thank you for your endless kindness. I can’t wait to adventure with you!! 😊

  4. Paul Mitton March 31, 2016 at 8:19 pm - Reply

    We learn something every day and today I learned something about Decew Falls. Great post, and watch out for those wooden owls 🙂
    I saw an overturned tree root once in a swamp and thought it was a moose (in was dusk!!) so you are in good company.

    • camperchristina April 1, 2016 at 1:54 pm - Reply

      Haha! Thanks Paul! Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for sharing your moose/tree root story! I see stuff like this all the time! Glad I am in such good company! Thanks for visiting! Hope to see you again soon! 🙂 Happy Adventuring! 🙂

  5. M.Barrett April 12, 2016 at 5:02 am - Reply

    Great post – lot’s of interesting information in there!

    • camperchristina April 12, 2016 at 7:02 am - Reply

      Thank you so much for stopping by and checking out the post! I’m glad you enjoyed it! 🙂 cheers!

  6. […] of upcoming posts, just a few things on the way, “Winter Hiking at Decew Falls” “Snowshoeing at Tiffin Centre Conservation Area” “Snowshoeing on the TCT […]

  7. Terry Mccormick December 11, 2017 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    You give a very good history of the Morningstar mill, but are you aware that it is fully restored and that we run the mill about 6 times a season from May to October making flour on our grinding stones powered by the water ? If you watch our website( and/or our facebook page come spring, our running dates will be posted as well as any updates on facebook.

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