Discovering Blind River, Ontario: A Historical and Cultural Journey
Blind River, Ontario, is a charming town nestled on the North Channel of Lake Huron in the Algoma District, Canada. Named after the nearby Blind River, this town celebrated its centennial in 2006 and boasts a rich history and vibrant culture.
The Historical Roots of Blind River, Ontario
French explorers first discovered the North Channel, turning it into a renowned voyageur route. Fur traders, loggers, and miners soon followed, seeking the area's abundant natural resources. The North West Company established a fur trading post at the mouth of the Mississagi River in 1789. When the fur trade slowed around 1820, the Hudson's Bay Company purchased the North West Company.
The town's name, Blind River, originates from the voyageurs who named the river so because its mouth was not easily visible along the canoe route. The settlement that grew at the river's mouth adopted the name, and Blind River's post office was established in 1877.
The logging industry developed due to the accessibility of timber along the Blind River and Mississagi watersheds. The industry was spurred by a copper discovery in the mid-19th century in Bruce Mines. The first sawmill was built beside the mouth of the Blind River at the current site of the Old Mill Motel. The sawmill provided timber and planks for the copper mine. The Canadian Pacific Railway arrived in Blind River in 1888 when its Algoma Branch was extended westward from Algoma Mills to Sault Ste. Marie.
The Industrial Evolution of Blind River, Ontario
By 1906, when Blind River had been incorporated as a town, a second larger sawmill had been erected on the west arm of the Blind River. Today, this location is the Blind River Marine Park. In 1929, the Carpenter Hixon Company built a state-of-the-art pine sawmill, which survived for over forty years as the largest white pine sawmill east of the Rocky Mountains.
In 1955, uranium was discovered near Blind River. The first uranium mine began operation as the Pronto Mine in Algoma Mills. Although its life was short-lived, its significance was that it led to the discovery of the entire Blind River-Elliot Lake uranium mining camp. In 1983, a uranium refinery was built just west of Blind River. This uranium refinery is owned and operated by the Cameco Corporation, which processes uranium concentrates from all over the world into uranium trioxide.
The People of Blind River, Ontario
According to the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Blind River had a population of 3,422 living in 1,600 of its 2,207 total private dwellings, a change of -1.4% from its 2016 population of 3,472. With a land area of 513.98 km2 (198.45 sq mi), it had a population density of 6.7/km2 (17.2/sq mi) in 2021.
Sports and Culture in Blind River, Ontario
The town is home to the Blind River Beavers of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. The Voyageur Hiking Trail passes near the town, and the "Rocking on the River" music festival has been held annually since 2010.
Blind River, Ontario in Pop Culture
Canadian singer Neil Young makes reference to Blind River in his song "Long May You Run", a story about the demise of his 1948 Buick Roadmaster hearse. Wade Hemsworth's "The Black Fly Song", about a survey crew in northern Ontario in 1949, has a verse about a cook named "Blind River Joe". In the 1959 film, Anatomy of a Murder, the character Mary Pilant, played by Kathryn Grant, was born in Blind River, Ontario. The Blind River Beavers are mentioned in the 1986 film Youngblood, starring Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze.