Atikokan, Ontario

Atikokan (Ojibway for "Caribou Bones"), was founded over 100 years ago. A small town in Northern Ontario whose main sources of employment are an Ontario Power Generation thermal power plant about 20 km outside of town and two forest product mills, Fibratech and Atikokan Forest Products (Located 30 km east at Sapawe).

Atikokan, Ontario was originally established primarily as a rail stop for the Canadian National Railway. Before the 2nd World War, however, mineral exploration in the area determined the presence of a large, high grade, iron ore deposit at the bottom of Steep Rock Lake. After the war a large water diversion project on the Seine River system was undertaken to enable the draining and dredging of Steep Rock lake in order to develop open pit mining operations.

Two large mines (Steep Rock Iron Mines and Caland Ore Co.) commenced operations in the late-1950s and continued for more than 30 years. When the mines closed in the early-1980s the town of Atikokan suffered economically but continued to survive on other, natural resource based industries as well as tourism.

One interesting local project was the development of a 10MW hydroelectric generating station (Valerie Falls Power) on the same Seine River diversion that facilitated the opening of the mines 40 years earlier.

Atikokan is served by one high school and two elementary schools. The local weekly paper is the Atikokan Progress.

Atikokan is now known primarily for its beautiful canoe routes and proximity to hunting and fishing locations. It is locally known as The Canoeing Capital of Canada.

Atikokan is one of the main points of entry into wilderness canoeing destination Quetico Provincial Park.

The original settlers to the Atikokan area were the “Oschekamega Wenenewak”, which mean “The people of the cross ridges”. They lived by themselves until 1688, when the first white man, Jacques de Noyon. He got there by following the chain of Kaministiquia, Dog, Lac des Mille Lacs, Baril, Windigoostiqwan, French and Pickerel lakes, after which he arrived in Rainy Lake. This turned out to be a critical journey for the expansion and exploration in the Atikokan area. However, for the Native Americans already inhabiting the area, it would turn out to be a bad thing. Within the short span of just 200 years, the population of the Natives was almost cut in half, the two main causes being diseases brought from the white man, and their mortal enemy, the Sioux. Another major blow to the Natives also happened around this time, the Caribou, one of their main food sources this happened because of lackadaisical care by the white man’s fire, and when the fires came, they burnt all the moss, which was the Caribou’s main food source.

Palliser Gladman-Hind suggested the first real road in this area, and it was supposed to go from Arrow Lake (west of Thunder Bay) to as far as it could go, then take a waterway to Fort Frances. Simon Dawson, on the other hand, thought the road could go from Dog Lake, to Thunder Bay, then using a series of dams, would allow even the larger boats to along the route of Dog River, Savanne River, Lac des Mille Lacs, via Pickerel and Sturgeon Lake.

The government seemed to ignore both of their plans and decided to go west of Lac de Milles Lac, then down the Seine River and finally down into Rainy Lake. In 1859, the government hired Simon Dawson to start making the route, but they were held up a few months due to bad economic conditions in the East. Then in 1867, after Confederation, there became an increased need for communication to the West, so the progress was hurried up. Construction of Dawson Trail started from Prince Arthur’s Landing in 1868. Then, in 1869, with the formation of the Riel Rebellion, and the construction was sped up again as the need to transport troops was required.

The potential for Steep Rock as being a iron mine was revealed in 1897 by a non-resident geologist named William McInnis. Nothing was done to it until the winter of 1929-1930, when Julian Cross started interviewing iron and steel companies to try to unlock Steep Rock’s potential. He finally convinced a company from Duluth led by Robert Whiteside to take the job. They say one of the main reasons Cross was able to convince them to do it was because he had two of the biggest names in the mining industry at the time, Joseph Errington and Donald M. Hogarth.

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia