North West River, Newfoundland and Labrador Canada

The Historical Significance of North West River, Newfoundland Labrador

North West River, a small town nestled in central Labrador, is a place of historical significance. Established in 1743 by French Fur Trader Louis Fornel, it later became a hub for the Hudson's Bay Company and home to a hospital and school serving the needs of coastal Labrador. North West River is the oldest modern settlement in Labrador.

The Evolution of Names in North West River, Newfoundland Labrador

Fornel's trading post was initially known as Fort Esquimaux Baie, translating to "Eskimo Bay Fort" in French. In 1757, it was succeeded by Fort Montagnais Point. The Hudson's Bay Company later established Fort Smith, whose surrounding settlement became known as Lake Melville Post and then North West River Post.

The Prehistory of North West River, Newfoundland Labrador

Central Labrador, including North West River, has been inhabited by Indigenous societies, such as the Innu and the Maritime Archaic people, for over 7,000 years due to its bountiful wildlife.

The Trapping Era in North West River, Newfoundland Labrador

In 1743, French fur trader Louis Fornel established a year-long settlement at the present site of North West River. The site was primarily used to trade furs with the local indigenous peoples for European goods. French settlers from Quebec moved to the area surrounding North West River to work as voyageurs and coureurs des bois (i.e., trappers). Many took on Inuit wives, creating a population of Métis trappers and traders. Traders also did business trading goods with the nomadic Naskapi Innu.

The Hudson's Bay Company in North West River, Newfoundland Labrador

With the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1763), Labrador was passed from the French to the British. The Hudson's Bay Company arrived in 1836 and enjoyed a trade monopoly over central Labrador's furs for more than 100 years. The newest of the Hudson's Bay trading posts was constructed in 1923 and still remains as a museum run and maintained by the Labrador Heritage Society.

The Grenfell Mission in North West River, Newfoundland Labrador

In 1892, British doctor Wilfred Grenfell began travelling the Labrador coast, providing medical services to fishermen and the Aboriginals living in Labrador, establishing the Grenfell Mission. In 1914, the International Grenfell Association was formed. The mission took doctors and nurses from the United Kingdom, and a handful of Commonwealth countries, to serve the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. One of these doctors was Dr. Harry L. Paddon, who in 1915 established a hospital in North West River which would eventually serve the entire coast of Labrador.

Expeditions from North West River, Newfoundland Labrador

North West River has been the starting point for several significant expeditions. On July 15, 1903, Leonidas Hubbard and his two companions departed North West River for his tragic canoe expedition, described in Dillon Wallace's book, Lure of the Labrador Wild. On June 27, 1905, Mina Benson Hubbard departed North West River to complete her husband's failed mission of 1903, providing the first detailed map of northern Labrador's interior region.

The Cable Car of North West River, Newfoundland Labrador

Until 1961, access to North West River was restricted to small boats. The North West River Cable Car was completed in 1960 and first used in 1961 as a way to connect the people of North West River to neighboring Sheshatshiu and to the road leading to Happy Valley-Goose Bay. The Cable Car remained in operation until a permanent bridge was constructed in 1981.

Present Day North West River, Newfoundland Labrador

Although North West River has remained small in size over the last 250 years, it remains a lively place full of history. The town offers scenic walking trails along the waterfront, through the forest or to the top of "Sunday Hill" where hikers can see a panoramic view of Lake Melville, the Mealy Mountains, Grand Lake and Little Lake.

Indigenous Peoples of North West River, Newfoundland Labrador

The interests of the Inuit in North West River are represented in Nunatsiavut by the Sivunivut Inuit Community Corporation. The Innu population of North West River is overseen by the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation which controls the Sheshatshiu reserve adjacent to North West River.

Demographics of North West River, Newfoundland Labrador

In the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, North West River had a population of 560 living in 247 of its 284 total private dwellings, a change of 2.4% from its 2016 population of 547.

Arts and Culture in North West River, Newfoundland Labrador

Held on the North West River Beach the last weekend of July, the North West River Beach Festival is in its 36th year. The two-day event is Labrador's largest music festival. Locals, travellers and ex-pats gather at the festival to socialize and watch local performers play traditional Labrador music.

Attractions in North West River, Newfoundland Labrador

The Labrador Heritage Foundation operates a museum in the restored Hudson's Bay trading post. The Labrador Interpretation Centre, located on Sunday Hill Road, is designed to provide a comprehensive view into the history and culture of Labrador.

Geography of North West River, Newfoundland Labrador

North West River experiences generally mild summers with cold winters. The town is located on a hill dividing Little Lake from the larger Lake Melville. A small band of water (North West River) connects the two. The area of North West River is located on a sandy plain surrounded by mountains.