As expected, again, we drove past more rocks, trees, and water. The area surrounding Fort Frances is dotted with little islands and inlets and the Rainy Lake extends for miles. The lake covers 360 square miles and straddles the border between the USA and Canada. There are numerous bridges that connect islands to make the highway. This was the longest one.
Not quite half-way to Thunder Bay we stopped in the Visitor’s Center parking lot for the town of Atikokan which was an iron ore mining town until the two mines closed in 1979 and 1980. There was a geocache there so we found it before heading into the town to look around.
Atikokan now bills itself as The Canoe Capital of Canada and we saw a couple of different canoe company shops on our way into town.
There was a geocache hidden in the canoe too.
We parked by the musuem and library and walked across the footbridge over the creek to the Legion Point Historical Park that had information boards about the ire ore mines.
Iron ore was confirmed to be at the bottom of Steep Rock Lake in 1938. It wasn’t until near the end of WW II when there was a tremendous need for iron for the US and Canadian war effort that a plan was made to access it.
First opened in 1943, the mines would supply raw materials for everything from World War Two Hawker Hurricanes (made in Thunder Bay) to toasters and nails in the late 1970s.
David K. Joyce was a 14-year old enthusiastic mineral collector in 1969. He went on a trip to Atikokan and wrote a blog about his experience. He noted these statistics:
- billions in wages and taxes resulted from the operation
- double the amount of earth and rock was excavated to build Steep Rock compared to the Panama Canal
- 215 million cubic metres of overburden and lake bottom were removed.
- 570 billion litres of water were pumped.
- the amount of ore taken from the mines was enough to supply ALL of the cars and parts ever used in Canada up until 1978.
- enabled 48,000 person-years of employment during its time.”
This is a stamp mill from a gold mine. In the late 19th century there was a short-lived gold rush in the area. Several mines operated and used stamp mills like this to process the ore. This one belonged to the Golden Winner mine which operated from December 1899 to October 1900 during which time 15 tons of ore were milled for a total value of $70. That is correct. $70! Most of the other mines were as shortlived and unproductive.
There was also early logging operations in the area. On display was an old railway engine that had been used to haul the logs to water where they could be floated to mills or transportation sites. It was discovered in 1962 and restored by members of the community.
We found a store that sold ice cream and enjoyed a cone before heading back to the highway and east toward Thunder Bay. About 60 or so kilometers from Thunder Bay we crosssed the Laurentian Divide, also called the Northern Divide. From this point all water either flows to the Arctic Ocean or to the Atlantic Ocean.
The base of the Atlantic side of the sign had a lot of rocks with purple in them.
Amethyst – our daughter’s birthstone and favourite jewel.
For the last couple of days we have enjoyed the large patches of lupins blooming on the roadside.
We spend the night in Thunder Bay and tomorrow we are going to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park on the Sibley peninsula just east of Thunder Bay. There are a lot of really long hiking trails there so we are not sure how much of the ‘sights’ we will be able to see, but it is worth exploring. Hopefully the day will be as beautiful as today was.