Tourists flock to see corduroy road in uptown Waterloo

Despite LRT construction and road closures, people are visiting uptown Waterloo to check out the corduroy road that was discovered under King Street.

Logs to be removed in near future as archaeologist completes documenting historic road

Mike O’Driscoll, a former Waterloo resident currently living in Edmonton, takes a picture of the corduroy road discovered under King Street in uptown Waterloo during LRT construction. (Kate Bueckert/CBC News)

The corduroy road that was discovered under King Street in uptown Waterloo has become a bit of a tourist destination.

"My partner and I were just interested in taking a look at it, we thought it sounded like a really interesting artifact of Waterloo history," Mike O'Driscoll of Edmonton said as he stood looking at the log road Wednesday afternoon.

The former Waterloo resident said he saw photos of the corduroy road on social media, so when he returned to the city on a trip, he wanted to see it with his own eyes.

"It's really interesting, actually. I was talking to people and they were like, 'It's just a bunch of logs in the road,' and in fact, it seems to be a lot more than that. It's pretty interesting to get a sense of what was here at one point in time," he said.

It's something Patti Brooks has heard several times as she stops to talk to people checking out the corduroy road, which was discovered by LRT construction crews on March 11.

Brooks is the executive director Uptown Waterloo Business Improvement Area, and she said the corduroy road is bringing people to the site and after they stop to look at it, they often do some shopping or go for a bite to eat.

"We do pop into businesses and say do you notice a difference? Some say yes, some say, 'Not really but it's incredible to see this much activity given that we are in a full-blown construction zone,'" she said.

The corduroy road spans about two blocks and Brooks said people walk from one end to the other.

"As a result, they're seeing businesses they didn't even know existed, which in our world is amazing. If you're driving in a car, you often will pass those, so the lack of vehicular access to King Street has actually, in this particular case – the last three weeks – turned out to be a bonus," she said.

Logs to be removed

Archeologist Charlton Carscallen said earlier this month the corduroy road was likely built between the late 1790s and 1816

"King Street has been a commercial thoroughfare for 200 years," Carscallen said.

The historic roadway was made up of logs placed side by side. Carscallen said parts of the road will likely go on display at local museums.

LRT construction crews stopped working on King Street in uptown Waterloo on March 11 after wood was discovered under the road. An archaeologist with the province has confirmed crews uncovered a corduroy road. (Kate Bueckert/CBC News)

"But we are talking about logs that have been sitting wet for 200 years, so most of them will be removed and disposed of," he said.

For those who haven't seen the corduroy road, time is ticking and won't be there much longer.

Avril Fisken of Grandlinq, the construction consortium building the LRT infrastructure, said the archaeology team finished their documenting the corduroy road on Tuesday and will be filing a report to the Ministry of Tourism, Sport and Culture.

The logs will be removed in the near future so LRT construction can continue.

"Understanding the concerns a prolonged delay will have on ION LRT construction and businesses in uptown Waterloo, the lead archaeologist has worked closely with the Ministry throughout the investigation allowing us to begin to remove the corduroy road on completion of the documentation process and with authorization from the ministry," Fisken said in an email.

Final Friday dedicated to discovery

The City of Waterloo has been encouraging people to visit uptown Waterloo with a Final Fridays event. The last Friday of each month is dedicated to promoting art, culture and cuisine.

On April 29, the city and local businesses are hosting a corduroy road-inspired night.

The Guelph-based band Corduroy Road will be playing a concert in Waterloo Public Square starting at 6:45 p.m.

Band member Reg Arthurs said they've received lots of great feedback from fans about the upcoming show.

"Out of the 10 years we've been together, this is the first time we've been invited to play at a corduroy road," Arthurs said. "I thought it was a kind of interesting melding of two worlds."

The Final Friday event will also feature a chance for residents to take part in the We Are Waterloo portrait project, a demonstration at All My Nails, a tasting at LillyPad Health Wellness Connection and a free yoga class at KW Pilates.

For thirsty folks, anyone who mentions Final Fridays at Abe Erb will get to take advantage of some drink specials, while King Street Trio has developed a corduroy road cocktail, which will be available starting at 5 p.m.

'Exciting to see it exposed'

Cathy Russell of Kitchener was in uptown Waterloo on Wednesday specifically to see the corduroy road.

"It's neat. I had read about them in history. I thought I'd take a look and see before they decided what they were going to do with it," she said, adding with a laugh, "I'm very glad I didn't have to ride on it."

Clare Ball of Heidelberg also wanted to see the road before it's gone.

"I was very, very curious to come down and have a look to see at a piece of history I have read about, and I have known about and have taught my former students about, but had actually never seen [one]," she said.

Ball's background in Mennonite, although not Pennsylvania Dutch as is typical in Waterloo region. Still, she said, the corduroy road is important to her personally.

"My forefathers would have used roads very similar to this," she said. "It's exciting to see it exposed and I hope that a lot of people get a chance to see this."


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.