Ear Falls, Ontario Canada

Discover Ear Falls, Ontario: A Rich Blend of History and Tourism

Nestled in Northwestern Ontario, Canada, Ear Falls is a charming township that sits on the banks of the English River, Lac Seul, Pakwash Lake, and Wenesaga Lake. This community is located along Highway 105, about halfway between Highway 17 and Red Lake, or approximately 480 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay. Surrounded by the Unorganized Kenora District, Ear Falls is closest to the Wabauskang First Nation and the unincorporated community of Perrault Falls.

The Origin of Ear Falls, Ontario

The name "Ear Falls" has a fascinating history, with several versions of its origin story found in the local museum archives. One version suggests that the area was once known as Otahwaka Powitek to the Ojibwa band, believed to be haunted by the spirit of a giant beaver. The beaver's ears were said to be visible as it swam between the upper and lower falls.

Another story, shared by artifact collector Gerald Bannatyne, tells of aboriginal people from Goose Island who were frightened by a large tree root stuck in the rocks at the rapids now known as Ear Falls. The spot became known as 'Big Ear', which later evolved into 'Ear Falls'.

The third version attributes the name to the water's erosion of the rock ledge at the lip of the falls, which took the shape of a human ear. French fur traders referred to the falls as Portage D'Oreille, or "carrying place of the ear".

The Historical Journey of Ear Falls, Ontario

The Fur Trade Era (1680–1880)

The 17th century marked the arrival of French explorers to Northwestern Ontario and the beginning of the fur trade. The Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company were rivals for most of this era. In 1821, both companies united, setting up posts in the Ear Falls area on Lac Seul and Red Lake. The arrival of the railway in the 1880s signaled the decline of the fur trade, with the Hudson's Bay Company shifting its focus to meet the needs of miners, lumbermen, and settlers in the area.

The Railway Era (1880–1916)

The construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway between 1870 and 1885 opened the area to the development of timber, fish, and mineral resources. The development of Ear Falls did not occur immediately with the arrival of the railways, but rather when the fur trade was altered as a result of the railway. Warehouses were erected for shipping and receiving at Hudson (near Sioux Lookout), and a steamer was placed on Lac Seul to enhance freight operations.

Red Lake and Central Patricia Gold Developments (1925–present)

The discovery of gold at Red Lake in 1925 initiated a rise in development throughout areas north of the railways. The success of the gold mines shaped the region's transportation, land use, and settlement patterns. A generating station was constructed by Ontario Hydro to supply power to the mines at Red Lake, leading to the creation of the Hydro colony at Ear Falls. By the 1930s, Ear Falls had replaced Goldpines as the main settlement in the area.

Hydro Power Development

The construction of the dam at Ear Falls began in the spring of 1928. The dam had a dramatic impact on the lake due to a rise in water levels. Ontario Hydro played an instrumental role in the development of Ear Falls, providing quality housing, schools, recreation halls, stores, hospitals, and other buildings. In 2009, Ontario Power Generation constructed the Obishikokaang Waasiganikewigamig/Lac Seul Generating Station, forming a historic partnership with the Lac Seul First Nation.

Mining and Forestry Revival (1945–present)

With the end of the Second World War and the opening of Highway 105 in 1947, the mining industry in the region was renewed. Ear Falls was now linked by road to the Trans-Canada Highway and to Red Lake. The Chukuni Lumber Company was operating at Snake Falls, and by 1954, plans were made to move the mill operations to Ear Falls. In the early 1950s, ore deposits were discovered on Bruce Lake north of Ear Falls. In 1966, Stelco, an iron pelletizing plant, was developed in the area.

Tourism (1945–present)

The construction of Highway 105 introduced tourism to the area, with hunting and fishing camps constructed on lakeshore sites along the highway. Ear Falls is a natural funnel for supplies and services, due to its location between Vermillion Bay and Red Lake and its waterway access points. Hunting and fishing have been a popular draw to the area for years, and more recently, eco-tourism has added an additional element to the tourism experience of Ear Falls.

Demographics of Ear Falls, Ontario

In the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Ear Falls had a population of 924 living in 402 of its 506 total private dwellings, a change of -7.1% from its 2016 population of 995. With a land area of 336.69 km2, it had a population density of 2.7/km2 in 2021.

Climate, Services, and Activities in Ear Falls, Ontario

Ear Falls offers essential services and shopping for residents and tourists. The municipal water and sewage treatment plants are able to support a population of five times the current population. Other facilities include a Community Health Centre and a Municipal Government Building.

Ear Falls tourism is centered on outdoor recreation. It has numerous fishing and hunting camps located throughout the area, catering to both novice and seasoned fishermen alike. Each year during the hunting season, the town draws hundreds of hunters from all over the world. In the summer months, mountain biking, ATVs, hiking, and geocaching are some of the ways to see the wildlife and experience the outdoors. In the winter months, activities include snowmobiling, snow-shoeing, ice fishing, and cross-country skiing. Every year, the community hosts the annual Trout Forest Music Festival.