Don River

The current river configuration is typical of many urban waterways today.

Casey Trees

The design will restore ecological function and create recreational opportunities.

Restoring Natural Beauty to an Urban River

The Lower Don River in Toronto suffers from the neglect and urban decay typical of many older cities. While various ideas had been advanced to address the problems of the Lower Don, no solutions could be found that met all the requirements of a river mouth in the middle of an active city. Finding a solution for the Lower Don mouth required combining the City’s needs for floodwater conveyance and residential, commercial, and industrial uses in the Don Lands area, paired with the community’s desire to restore ecological function and recreation along the river.

To find a solution, WATERFRONToronto, a local development authority, sponsored an international design competition, with teams representing landscape architects, urban planners, and river hydrologists and geomorphologists from around the world. As part of the winning team, LimnoTech worked with the landscape architecture firm of Michael VanValkenburgh and Associates and Applied Ecological Services to develop a plan to create a new river channel with natural meanders, wetlands margins, and abundant recreational opportunities. LimnoTech was able to bring their extensive knowledge of how rivers flow and move sediments to a collaborative working relationship with the ecologists and architects working on the project. The team of scientists, engineers, and architects have developed a plan to develop the Don Lands that is well integrated with a revitalized riverine ecology, flood management, management of sediment and debris, and recreational opportunities. 

LimnoTech and the rest of the team are continuing to refine the design and develop the basic engineering and science required to implement construction. Ongoing activities include detailed hydrodynamic and sediment transport modeling of the system, support for planning of project phasing and management of contaminated soil and sediment, and technical planning for project sustainability, including minimization of the development’s impact on the water environment through water footprinting analysis.


"It’s the most exciting proposal in terms of how it resolves the competing pressures of development, naturalization and transportation. I’m thrilled with the result! "

Chris Glaisek, Vice President of Development, Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation

urban river

The winning design includes a winding river mouth with natural meanders, wetland margins, wildlife habitat, and abundant recreational opportunities.

LimnoTech home page    Back to hot topics page