Princess Louise Falls

Visiting Princess Louise Falls
by David Villeneuve
During the spring runoff is the best time to visit Princess Louise Falls, more correctly called Taylor Falls, along the escarpment north of Princess Louise Drive. The best place to visit the falls is from the water management area between Brookridge and Falling Brook Place. A nature trail takes you to the top of the falls where the deep gorge is visible. To reach the bottom of the falls, head west about 200 meters along the escarpment to “Dave’s Drop”. You can stand right at the bottom of the falls and get wet. The concrete chute is the remains of where old Montreal Road used to go, on its way to Montreal 50 years ago, when Highway 17 was still a railroad track.

Princess Louise Falls
by David Villeneuve, February 2001

Princess Louise Falls is the name given to the natural waterfall north of Princess Louise Drive and just east of Brookridge.  It is part of Taylor Creek that ran from the north end of what is now Fallingbrook to the Ottawa River; Taylor Creek was named after the Taylor family that owned the land between Fallingbrook and the Ottawa River starting in the mid-1800’s.

There is some controversy about the name “Princess Louise Falls”.  The story is that Princess Louise, a daughter of Queen Victoria and wife of the Governor General the Marquis of Lorne (around 1880) came here by buggy to sketch watercolours.  Mrs Marjorie Ward who lived in the house just east of the falls until her death in 1989, claimed that there was a plaque near the falls to that effect.  Until about 1970, “Montreal Road” ran south of the present Queen Street / St Joseph Blvd, on its way to Montreal; the present Hwy 174 (Hwy 17)  was a train track.  The old bridge and pavement can still be seen at the bottom of the falls.

I visited the National Archives, the National Gallery of Canada, and wrote to the Governor General’s staff to determine if they had any painting by Princess Louise.  While I saw many  paintings by her, none appeared to be of waterfalls that resembled ours.  Therefore there does not appear to be any hard evidence that this story is true.  But let us believe it is so.

Energy, Mines and Resources Canada
Secretariat, Geographic Names

July 19, 1990

Mrs. Paula Vachon
Archivist – Librarian
Rideau Hall, Government House
1 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario

Dear Mrs. Vachon:

Re: Princess Louise Falls

I still have not been able to trace the origin of the name Princess Louise Falls for you, but I am still on the trail. For your interest, I have enclosed copies of several “bits and pieces” about the name.

The first time I encountered Princess Louise Falls was in a newspaper article of February 1986. We had no record of the name in our files, so I sent it to the Ontario Geographic Names Board for investigation. At that time, I did not realize that I had confused the “Falls” with the falls to the west which are visible from Tenth Line Road and St. Joseph Boulevard. Unless you know where to look, Princess Louise Falls are not visible from the road at this time of year.

In March of 1989, in the course of writing a series of articles on township names for the Communiqué (a municipal paper), I requested help from township residents. Much to my surprise, several people did respond – one of them was Marjorie Ward. According to her, the falls were named after Princess Louise who used to come out to the falls by buggy and sketch. A plaque in commemoration of the princess’ visits used to stand near the falls. St. Joseph Boulevard ran much closer to the falls before the road was straightened and the bridge closed in 1951. The Ward house is below and east of these falls. Before the Wards bought their land in 1950, it was owned by a Mr. Fraser. As I understand it, Princess Louise Falls are on the Ward property.

The Queenswood Heights Community Association has published a map of the nature trails in the area. The Fallingbrook section identifies the Princess Louise Falls as Taylor Falls. Mrs. Ward was not aware of them being called Taylor Falls. (The falls are on Taylors Creek, which may be the source of this other name.)

Albert Scharfe, a life-long resident of Cumberland Township, (he also responded to my request for information) says that Princess Louise Falls used to be called Taylor Falls after the Taylor family who farmed below the hill.

Cumberland Township’s Museum Director, Elmer Pilon, says that he noticed a reference in Royal Rebels (a biography of the Marquis of Lorne and his wife) about the Princess driving out to Cumberland to sketch the falls. I was unable to find this reference after several readings.

Earlier this year, Ann Gonneau, editor of the Communiqué, and I (president of the local historical society), had arranged to interview Mrs. Ward about Princess Louise Falls. Unfortunately, she took ill and the interview was cancelled.

Michael Smart, Executive Secretary of Ontario Geographic Names Board (OGNB), was recently in contact with Mrs. Ward’s son. A copy of his reply is attached. [It says that he has no knowledge of this and cannot find any files on this subject – David Villeneuve] The OGNB is carrying out a survey, by mail, on the name Princess Louise Falls.

In the meantime, I will be trying to track down the origin of Princess Louise Drive for which Mrs. Ward provided background to the developer, Aselford Martin.

I will let you know the results of both searches as soon as I have any information.

Kathleen O’Brien

c.c. Michael Smart, OGNB