Joe Hollick has been chasing waterfalls since he was 10 years old. And he hasn't been disappointed yet.
On a humid day, this former east-ender is perched by the edge of a ravine, cooled by the mist from Sherman Falls in Ancaster. The 66-year-old retired engineer from the Burlington smiles through rounded spectacles at the thrill of being the first to discover a new waterfall or cascade.
"You sort of think, there should be a waterfall and sometimes there's not. And you look for it and, 'oh I hear something.' And then you follow the creek or you walk along the Bruce Trail or some other trail … sometimes you just go into the bush and you think there should be something by there and you see a bit of a creek or something like that. It's quite something. "
Hollick's passion for uncovering Hamilton's natural treasures was the driving force behind the birth of the Waterfalls Project Advisory Team in 2004, whose members - from the City of Hamilton, Tourism Hamilton, the Hamilton Conservation Authority, Hamilton Naturalists' Club, Bruce Trail Association, plus a few local waterfalls enthusiasts including Hollick - have been tasked with finding, measuring and cataloguing all the city waterfalls.
When the third edition of their Waterfalls Report is published later this year, it will count 150 scattered along the escarpment and in the lower city, up from 96 in 2006.
Tourism is up, too, says Bruce Mackenzie, Manager of Customer Services and Operations at the Hamilton Conservation Authority.
"[Waterfall tourism has] increased significantly over the last five years," he says. Over 50%.
Mackenzie credits the increase to several factors, including the efforts of private citizens like Hollick and Chris Ecklund, the latter who has organized walking tours and has created an elaborate website dedicated to Hamilton's waterfalls.
Chris Hamilton, Information Officer at the HCA, agrees with his colleague's assessment.
"More people outside of the Hamilton area know about our waterfalls today than, say, five years ago," he says. "In fact, through my conversations with people who call in here to order our waterfalls brochure and find out about waterfalls, we actually do have people who have said, 'I'd like to go to Niagara Falls but I hear Hamilton has waterfalls and maybe they're not as crowded.'"