Hidden Rivers Tours

I was born in Toronto and have lived in the GTA for most of my life. Growing up in the suburbs, coming to Toronto was always exciting—stadiums and skyscrapers, family and festivals—but living here turned out to be pretty dispiriting. Toronto felt like a place without a history.

But as I began to explore by bike & by foot, I realized what makes this city special. It’s much more than it first appears. It’s a city of ravines, waterways, and urban ecology. This is a city of buried waterways, ancient cliffs, and the world's largest ravine system. The colonial history is just a blip—Toronto's history stretches back to the last ice age and the arrival of humans over 10,000 years ago. No one told me!

I wanted to share my newfound enthusiasm about Toronto with everyone I know. So: I stared a walking tour company. This was not a typical tourist-y tour. It’s geared towards people who grew up in the Toronto area, moved to Toronto later in life, or just want to deepen their relationship with the city.

A typical tour group

The goal of the tour is to demonstrate how geography shapes this city: nature provides a “first draft” of the city, and all of our activities have to accommodate the natural world. Toronto in particular has been defined by its extraordinary ravine system.

My other goal is to emphasize that cities are a designed object whose designers stretch across the centuries. Every bridge, sewage pipe, subway station, and train line represents an intuition-defying amount of human coordination and multiple lifetime’s worth of innovation in science and engineering.

In May of 2023 I began posting videos on TikTok and Instagram of me excitedly marching around the city and sharing everything I knew. Much to my surprise, the videos went viral, and I very soon became a Toronto influencer of sorts.

I have been astounded by the response. Thousands of people in Toronto turned out to feel the same way I did: they wanted to love Toronto but didn’t know how. It’s been a privilege to be so many people's guide to this city and to share my enthusiasm for nature & infrastructure.

My main takeaway from the summer of tour guiding was this: life becomes more meaningful when you understand the unique history of the place you live. It’s an amazing thing to be rooted in geology & ecology. I felt alienated in my city, but millennia-old ravines & rivers gave me a sense of place.

Here’s my TikTok video that first went viral: