Collingwood Stream Health

Scenic view of Lower Black Ash Creek

Collingwood is a town blessed by stunning natural amenities. There are four major watercourses that flows through the town – Silver Creek, Black Ash Creek, Pretty River, and Batteaux River.  These rivers originate from the Niagara Escarpment and flows through Clearview Township before flowing into the Town of Collingwood. In addition to the major rivers, Collingwood also has several minor river systems which discharge directly into the bay such as Townline Creek, Cranberry Creek, Oak Street Canal, Walnut Street canal, Bower’s Beach Creek, and many other unnamed creeks.

These beautiful and valuable natural resources provide recreation for local residents and provides habitat for wildlife. Healthy rivers keep our harbour clean, helps build local economies and helps boost tourism in Collingwood.

Our rivers are also essential green infrastrucutre for containing rain and snowmelt, diluting sewage effluent, and they also offer flood protection to the urban areas of our town.

Pretty River and Black Ash Creek flow through the developed areas of town and are considered our urban streams.

Every five years, the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) produces a Watershed Health Check that provides an overview of the state of the forests, wetlands, streams and groundwater health for the town.

Map of major streams in Collingwood and their health status.

The results from the 2018 Watershed Health Checks of Collingwood's urban rivers are as follows:

Pretty River

Stream health in the Pretty River, through the Niagara Escarpment is close to its natural unimpaired condition, but shows signs of disturbance due to human impacts as it flows through Clearview Township. The river is impaired as it enters Collingwood. Impaired stream health continues through the constructed flood control channel in urban Collingwood to Georgian Bay.   

Black Ask Creek

Black Ash Creek also begins in the Niagara Escarpment but the combination of a large man-made pond, a fish hatchery, and receives less clean, cold groundwater from the Escarpment, resulting in only short stretches of truly unimpaired water quality. Below the Escarpment, the creek is also impacted by human activities before it enters Collingwood as an impaired system. This condition continues as it flows through the town and into the Collingwood harbour.

In 2021, the man-made pond was removed and Black Ash Creek was restored to its original condition. As a result, NVCA expects to see improvements in water quality.

See the full 2018 Blue Mountains Subwatershed Health Check at this link: 2018 Blue Mountains Subwatershed Health Check

Currently, we know that elevated levels of oils, salts and sediments from the intensive commercial developments in Collingwood are having a negative impact on the downstream sections of Black Ash Creek. However, the information and data in the Watershed Health Checks can only provide preliminary information about the rivers and streams in the Collingwood.

The town has tasked NVCA to further investigate why Pretty River and Black Ash Creek are impaired, and what can be done to improve their situations.  

Support for these initiatives comes through the Town’s Community Based Strategic Plan (2020-2023), under “Goal: enhance community well-being and sustainability”. Included under this goal, is the objective to “preserve the town’s environment and take action on climate change”, which identifies that the Town should work to “baseline and improve Town’s environmental performance measures” within one (1) to three (3) years. Ongoing stream health monitoring has already begun with the objective of identifying ways which the Town can begin to improve our natural environment.

From 2022 – 2026, NVCA will be on the ground  sampling water chemistry, aquatic insects, and fish to refine our knowledge about the health and what’s impacting Pretty River and Black Ash Creek.

Project Timeline
YearType of SamplingStatus
2021Chemistry sampling collection and analysis. Results will be paired with long-term data collected by the NVCAComplete
2022BMI sampling and analysis in Black Ash CreekComplete
2023BMI sampling and analysis in Pretty River 
2024-2026Fish Sampling in Black Ash Creek and Pretty River 
Dec. 2026Final report outlining all data findings and summary 

For more detailed information, please see links to supplimental reports below.