DeCew Falls

hiking to decew falls st catharines ontario
Nestled amidst the stunning beauty of the Niagara Escarpment, DeCew Falls is a hidden gem that offers a refreshing break from the commercialism of Niagara. With its picturesque waterfall and historic mill, this enchanting destination is a must-visit for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the captivating allure of DeCew Falls, uncovering its rich history, breathtaking trails, and the best ways to experience its natural wonders.

How to get to DeCew Falls in Ontario

Location and Access

DeCew Falls is conveniently located near St. Catharines, Ontario, on DeCew Road, close to the intersection with Merritville Highway (No.50). The falls can be easily accessed from the DeCew Falls parking lot or the Morningstar Mill lot, both of which offer free parking. Whether you’re arriving by car or planning to explore the area on foot, DeCew Falls is a perfect starting point for hikes along the renowned Bruce Trail.


Free parking for DeCew Falls is available at Morningstar Mill, an old mill that is being restored at the top of the falls.

From the Mill, take the Bruce Trail. If you stay along the Bruce Trail, it’s a pretty easy hike you can do in flip flops, but if you want to get to the gorge and close to the falls, all the trails are a rather steep and slippery hike, so please be careful.

You’re going to have to get into the gorge-there are two popular ways to get closer to the falls. We recommend taking a long way down and back to Morningstar Mills, as there have been a lot of short-haul accidents in recent years.

Address: St. Catharines, ON L2R 6P7, Canada

How to get to the bottom of Decew Falls

THE SHORT WAY (Not safe, not recommended)

The shortcut includes going down the rope. At the beginning of the Bruce Trail, look for a steep but well-traveled path to the left. It’s not easy to spot, but you’re going to find a rope tied to a tree you’re going to climb down. After climbing the rope, you take another very steep path to the left until you reach the base of the upper falls.


Via muddy + rocky paths and through both the Lower and Upper Drop, the long way around will lead you to a swimming hole. Follow the Bruce Trails for the long route before you reach a road fork and stay to the left. This is not a well-maintained trail and it is very steep and rough. The swimming hole with a rope is the first point you can reach. We have been advised that the swimming hole is on private property, so we kindly ask you not to infringe on it.

You will first reach the lower cascading DeCew Falls and, if you proceed, you will reach the upper DeCew falls with a view of the mill. Proceed left towards the Mill.

We suggest you take the long way back to get back to the Mill, as it is the safest path. You can opt to take a shortcut as well. If you do, you’re going to want to stick to the right-it ‘s going to be a pretty long, rocky climb up to the rope. Climbing up the rope takes you close to the beginning of the Bruce Trail!

Morningstar Mill: A Window into the Past

At the top of DeCew Falls, you’ll find the historical Morningstar Mill, a captivating testament to the region’s rich heritage. Built in 1872 on the site of a former blacksmith and carpentry shop, the mill harnessed the power of Beaverdams Creek to grind flour and operate a sawmill. Although destroyed by fire in 1895, the mill was rebuilt and operated until 1933. After falling into disrepair, it has recently been lovingly restored and transformed into a museum.

Today, visitors to Morningstar Mill can immerse themselves in the bygone era of milling operations. Explore the mill complex, marvel at the intricate machinery, and witness the fascinating process of flour production. The mill is operational on select days, and you might be lucky enough to witness the grinding of flour firsthand. As you wander through the mill, you’ll be transported back in time, gaining a deeper appreciation for the region’s agricultural heritage.

a view to morning star mill

The Splendor of DeCew Falls

upper decew falls
One of the highlights of a visit to DeCew Falls is the mesmerizing cascade of water plunging 22 meters (72 feet) into a natural amphitheatre. To truly appreciate the falls, venture a few hundred meters along the Bruce Trail in an easterly direction. Look for a well-trodden path that descends into the gorge, offering spectacular views of the falls. The roar of the rushing water and the cool mist on your face create a sensory experience that will leave a lasting impression.

For the more adventurous souls, there are two popular ways to access the gorge. The longer route involves following the Bruce Trail until it forks, with the trail continuing straight into the gorge. Although not maintained, this trail is manageable with a bit of caution. Keep in mind that the return hike can be challenging and time-consuming. However, this route rewards you with the opportunity to witness Lower DeCew Falls along the way.

If you prefer a shorter but more thrilling descent, keep an eye out for a yellow rope tied to a tree a couple of hundred feet from the mill. This rope marks the entrance to a steep path that leads directly into the gorge. While this option provides a quicker descent, exercise extreme caution as the slope is both steep and deep. Many have marveled at the breathtaking views of both falls from the gorge, but it’s important to prioritize your safety and respect the force of nature.

 Lower DeCew Falls
decew falls picture during fall, with beautiful colors
show and Decew Falls in winter season

Exploring the Surrounding Trails

Beyond the enchantment of DeCew Falls itself, the surrounding trails offer a gateway to further exploration and adventure. The Bruce Trail, which runs along the escarpment, provides awe-inspiring vistas of the countryside and urban areas. Embark on a hike westward from Morningstar Mill, and you’ll gradually descend the Niagara Escarpment, venturing into the captivating terrain of Short Hills Provincial Park.

As you traverse the Bruce Trail, keep an eye out for the abundance of wildlife that calls this area home. White-tailed deer are a common sight, adding an element of natural beauty to your journey. The undulating landscape of Short Hills Provincial Park showcases the unique geological formations of the escarpment, with hills and valleys breaking the linear pattern. Take your time to appreciate the serenity of the surroundings, allowing nature to rejuvenate your spirit.

Historical Significance: DeCew House and the War of 1812

Just a short distance east of DeCew Falls, you’ll find the remains of DeCew House, an important historical site with ties to the War of 1812. During this tumultuous period, DeCew House served as the headquarters for Lieutenant Fitzgibbon of the 49th Regiment. It was here that the legendary Laura Secord delivered her crucial warning of an impending American attack.

Captain John DeCew, after whom the house is named, played a vital role in defending the region as part of the Second Regiment of Lincoln in the District of Niagara. Despite being captured, DeCew continued to support the British cause, allowing his home to serve as a military post. The house was destroyed by fire in 1950 but has since been recognized as a site of historical significance by Ontario Hydro.

Nearby Attractions

If you have additional time to explore the area around DeCew Falls, there are several other captivating attractions worth visiting. Just a 20-minute drive to the east will take you to the world-famous Niagara Falls, where you can witness the sheer power and grandeur of nature. To the west, you’ll discover the captivating beauty of Balls Falls, a stunning cascade nestled within a picturesque conservation area. Beamer Falls, known for its birdwatching opportunities, is also within a short distance, offering a unique and tranquil experience.

Plan Your Visit to DeCew Falls

As you plan your visit to DeCew Falls, keep in mind that the falls are accessible year-round, allowing you to witness their beauty in different seasons. However, exercise caution during winter months when the trails may be icy and slippery. Pack appropriate outdoor gear, including sturdy footwear, and be prepared for changing weather conditions.

Remember to respect the natural environment and follow any posted signage or safety guidelines. Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints, and leave this natural wonder as you found it, ensuring its preservation for generations to come.


What are DeCew Falls?

DeCew Falls consists of two waterfalls: the Upper and the Lower DeCew Falls. The Upper DeCew Falls is a 22-meter plunge waterfall, while the Lower DeCew Falls is a smaller, terraced waterfall.

How do I get to DeCew Falls?

DeCew Falls is accessible via DeCew Road, off Merrittville Highway in Thorold, Ontario. There's a parking area for Morningstar Mill, a heritage site adjacent to the falls, which provides a starting point for the trail leading to the waterfalls.

Can I swim at DeCew Falls?

Swimming is generally not recommended due to strong currents and slippery rocks. Safety should be your top priority when visiting natural attractions like DeCew Falls.

What else can I do at DeCew Falls?

Besides the falls, you can visit the Morningstar Mill, a restored water mill from the 19th century. The area also offers scenic hiking trails, and it's a great spot for photography.

Is there an entrance fee to visit DeCew Falls?

There's no entrance fee to visit DeCew Falls. However, it's always a good idea to check the latest information before planning your visit.

Is DeCew Falls open year-round?

The falls can be viewed year-round, but the accessibility of the trails leading to the falls can depend on weather conditions. During winter, the trails can be icy and dangerous.

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