Northwest Ontario - Sep./Oct.2007

Photos © Ruud Leeuw

Affter having spent a week driving through the Prairie Province, we entered the 'Canadian Shield' and we were in for a change of scenery.
Here are some photographs that would illustrate that, as well as some random impressions on and off the Trans Canada Highway.

Rennie General Store
I have to admit that this General Store is actually in Rennie, which is still in Manitoba. But Rennie is on the Road 44 and the scenery definitely marked changes such as much more forestry and the rocky outcrops so very much associated with the 'Canadian Shield'.
Road 44 is definitely a scenic road and worth the detour.

Route 44 took us across the border, into Ontario. The road needed to be 'negotiated' in places as it wasn't without potholes, but who is in a hurry when one is surrounded by such splendid scenery?!
On sunny days we would congratulate ourselves more than once, having planned this trip in the Autumn.
The Road Goes On..
warm autumn colours

We even came across some wildlife...
Dear deer..
Always come in pairs


Kenora's railway station

This Canadian Pacific Railway Station in Kenora was designated a 'Heritage Railway Station' in 1991.
A few milestones of this town:
  • 1688 - Jacques De Noyon sights Lake of the Woods, the first European to do so
  • 1850 - Gold first discovered in the area
  • 1861 - Hudson's Bay Company post opened on the mainland on the present site of Kenora
  • 1872 - First steamboat on Lake of the Woods
  • 1878 - Rat Portage lots surveyed by the Hudson¹s Bay Company
  • 1879 - First hotel in Rat Portage, the Rideout House, was built
  • 1882 - Western line of the CPR between Rat Portage and Winnipeg completed. First railway station built in Rat Portage
  • 1886 - First ocean to ocean train came through Rat Portage
  • 1900 - New CPR Station and roundhouse
  • 1905 - Name of Rat Portage changed to Kenora *
  • 1918 - Hudson's Bay Company store closed
  • 1920 - The first seaplane to fly over central Canada stopped in Kenora
  • [Source:]

    *) Dissatisfaction with the name of Rat Portage had been expressed by the residents of the town over the years, but apparently it took a final push from industry to initiate the change. The Maple Leaf Flour Company, established in 1905, had reportedly refused to build there because they didn’t want the word "rat" on their flour bags. So the new name was formed by combining the first two letters of KEewatin, a sister town; NOrman, an adjacent village; and RAt Portage, to become Kenora..

    In May of 2004, "The Rat Portage", a place described and sketched in 1823 by Dr. J.J. Bigsby of the Canada -US Boundary Commission, was rediscovered. This historic portage had been part of the extensive transportation and trade network of the continent's first people. It subsequently became a key link in the main fur trade route that shaped what we now know as Canada. Despite its location within the city limits of Kenora, Ontario, the precise location of this portage had been obscured and lost to memory for over one hundred and twenty years. [Source:
    En route I had bought the book "Exploring the Fur Trade Routes of North America", but read it when I had returned home. To my regret I learned too late about the existence of the Lake of the Woods Museum, which I will like to visit on some future occasion.

    A few images from Kenora [more about this town on Wikipedia].
    Downtown Kenora
    Behind the facade
    Winderful mural in Kenora
    I spent some time on the waterfront, with the floatplanes.

    From Kenora we continued east on Highway 17, but soon turned north (at Vermilion Bay) on Route 105, heading for Red Lake.
    Red Lake
    Red Lake consists of 6 small towns (Balmertown, Cochenour, Madsen, McKenzie Island, Red Lake and Staratt-Olsen) and has a local population of approximately 8,500 people.
    Red Lake is an end of the road community that acts as a cargo, passenger and tourism hub for North-western Ontario. With Pickle Lake, Red Lake services over 20 northern fly-in communities.

    'for the Way We Live

    Unfortunately our luck with the weather did not hold and we had a continuous drizzle here. I had planned a break at Red Lake from our constant travelling but on Sunday, late in the season, this town is dead as a dodo.
    We spent most of the day on administrative duties, sending emails, reading and watching the sitcoms on 'TvTropolis'.

    I spent some time at the Seaplane Base here too: Bushplanes at Red Lake,Ontario

    It was time to head back south again, on Route 105. Less than half way is Ear Falls, a good place to get a cup of coffee before continuing the long, slow drive to Highway 17 again.
    Convenience store

    This is Dryden: not a pretty picture eh? The good news was the sun was coming back again...

    We turned north again, on Route 72, heading for Sioux Lookout.
    I noticed this sign at the airport and found it one of few expressions which indicated another culture present in this area.
    We spent only part of an afternoon here at Sioux Lookout, stayed in a motel for the night, had an excellent dinner at "Desperate Dick's and Durty Nellie's Bar & Grill" and continued our way the next morning, having found cloudy and chilly weather had followed us up here.
    The town is no beauty, its attractiveness may lie in its ruggedness. There were hardly any people in the streets, except some native people who wandered around with seemingly no particular purpose.
    For an impression on the Seaplane Base go to Bushplanes at Sioux Lookout, Ontario
    Sioux Lookout has a population of 5,336 and an elevation: 1280 ft / 390 m. Known locally as the "Gateway to the North", it is serviced by the Sioux Lookout Airport, Highway 72, and a Via Rail station. Tourism, lumber, and health care are the primary sources of employment in the town. There are a number of fishing camps in the area that allow access to an extensive lake system fed by the English River. Several beaches are nearby including the historical site of Umpreville Park, a historical site that predates the town itself. During the summer months, Sioux Lookout's population rises as American tourists arrive to take advantage of the seemingly infinite amount of lakes and rivers in the area.
    The name of Sioux Lookout comes from a nearby mountain and a First Nations story. This mountain was used in the late 1700s by Ojibway Indians to watch for Sioux warriors coming to ambush their camp. A careful eye could see the sun shining off the birch of enemy canoes crossing nearby rapids... Women and children could be led away safely while the warriors could intercept the Sioux in the water.
    Present day Sioux Lookout was incorporated in 1912 and was then a terminal point on the National Transcontinental Railway. For many years, Sioux Lookout was simply a railway town. When gold was discovered in Red Lake, Sioux Lookout became one of the leading aviation centers in Canada during the twenties and thirties. During the Cold War Sioux Lookout operated a radar base to monitor any activity from Russia. Now, the Canadian National Railway is a significant employer, but it is no longer the base of the municipality’s economy. The forest industry is an important part of the economy.
    Source: Wikipedia

    Rest from the road We stayed in the Sunset Suites: the rooms are spacious and not a thing at fault except that the hotel itself is quite devoid of absolutely any ambiance at all.

    From Sioux Lookout we backtracked via Savant Lake on Route 599 to Highway 17.
    We stayed the night in Ignace, where we enjoyed the worst motel on this trip... The North Woods Motor Lodge promised a lot of things, but was in fact a dump. Don't go there !
    In town sits this Twin Beech bushplane. The camera timer caught me searching for a dry spot to sit on ..


    Route 622
    One of the most scenic routes we drove around here: Route 622 from Highway 11 to Highway 17.
    But the fact the sun had returned in all its splendour may have had a lot to do with it.

    The autumn colours really shone in all its splendour. At times I expected an artist around the corner putting paint to canvas, instead I recorded it with my camera.

    breathtaking colours and clarity
    Stunning autumn colours
    Rocks and flowers


    Beauty and destruction
    Clear trails by the loggers
    The beauty is at times marred by the scarring evidence of the loggers. While I accept that logging is unavoidable and people earn a living with it, I also hope these companies do their duty in restoring the forest for future generations.


    We visited Atikokan, at the crossroads of Route 622 and Highway 11, in search of some bushplanes. We came to the conclusion Atikokan had the worst roads imaginable... and considering we had travelled on this trip though Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba too, that is saying a lot!
    So a little rest in this diner was what we needed and we enjoyed a relaxing lunchbreak.
    Atikokan's claim to fame: The Canoe Capital of the World!

    The pleasure of a new camera is experimenting with its parameters and settings,
    such as shooting black & white ! The Canon EOS 40D was a pleasure to use.
    On the car radio, our first experience with XSM Satellite Radio, we tuned in on "X-Country", Americana music at its best and an excellent support for the many miles on the road!

    The Great Bear for gas The Great Bear gas station and Convenience Store.

    The shop advertises, besides the largest selection of Rapala fishing lures and bait, tackle, T-shirts, gifts, fireworks, lake maps also Cuban cigars: Hola!
    It is located on Highway 11, before the bridge over Rainy Lake, driving west and shortly before arriving in Fort Frances.

    We stopped for the night but found nothing attractive about this Canadian/US bordertown and so we continued (after spending a night in an excellent Super 8 Motel) on the Hwy 11, driving north on Route 71 via Nestor Falls and stopping for our last night in Northwest Ontario: in Kenora.

    Work of art! Driving into Kenora on Highway 17 we came across this Manifestation of Art! Not for anybody's garden I would say, but I salute any art which expresses a kind of humor.

    Not the first time I came across a Volkswagen Beetle subjected to a 'make over' either: Nevada 1983.


    The route we drove(8 days)


    Earlier that week we had stayed in Kenora's Super 8 Motel. On our last night before flying out of Winnipeg, we stayed in Kenora's Lakeside Best Western. It is quite expensive for my modest means but a last treat was in order. We had dinner at the same place, next to the Super 8 on the other side of town: Casey's.

    The view across the Lake of the Woods is simply superb !
    Room with a view

    Part of the attraction of this Lakeside Motel are bushplanes zooming past in their final stages of landing on the great lake.
    Lake of the Woods (French: Lac des Bois) is a lake occupying parts of the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba and the U.S. state of Minnesota. It separates a small land area of Minnesota from the rest of the United States.
    Lake of the Woods is fed by the Rainy River, Shoal Lake, Kakagi Lake, and other smaller rivers. The lake drains into the Winnipeg River and then into Lake Winnipeg. It is over 70 miles long and wide, and contains over 14,552 islands and 65,000 miles (105,000 km) of shoreline, which would amount to the longest coastline of any Canadian lake, except that the lake is not entirely within Canada.
    [Source: Wikipedia]
    Busy on the water

    If not by road or air, another true Canadian way of transport is of course the kayak or canoo.

    The burning bush

    The sun rays do magic things with the autumn colours, really amazing.

    Houseboats lie in the setting sun.




    Other pages dedicated to this vacation:
    Roadtrip through Canada's Prairie provinces



    Created: 30-Jan-2008
    Updated: 03-Feb-2008