Discover Rainy River, Ontario: A Town Steeped in History and Natural Beauty
Rainy River, a quaint town nestled in north-western Ontario, Canada, is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Located southeast of Lake of the Woods, Rainy River is perched on the banks of the eponymous Rainy River, a significant part of the Ontario–Minnesota segment of the Canada–US border. The town of Baudette, Minnesota, lies just across the river, connected by the Baudette – Rainy River International Bridge. Rainy River is also the northwestern terminus of Highway 11, a fact that has led to some interesting historical misconceptions.
The Longest Street in the World: Rainy River, Ontario and Yonge Street
Rainy River was often mistakenly believed to be the northwestern terminus of Yonge Street, or Highway 11, which runs north from Toronto. This incorrect association led to Yonge Street being dubbed the "longest street in the world," a title that secured its place in the Guinness World Records for many years. In Rainy River, Highway 11 is marked as Atwood Avenue, and both the town and the City of Toronto maintain commemorative markers at each end.
The Historical Journey of Rainy River, Ontario
Rainy River's history is as rich as its natural beauty. The town's name originates from Rainy Lake, or Lac la Pluie in French, which was referred to as Rain Lake in an 1813 Gazetteer. The town of Rainy River was incorporated in 1904, but its roots trace back to 1895 when a group of lumbermen established a mill along the northeast shore of the Rainy River, about 2 km from the current town center.
In 1898, the Beaver Mills Lumber Company purchased the mill, and the small village took on the name Beaver Mills until its incorporation as a town. The Ontario and Rainy River Railway completed a bridge connecting Minnesota, United States to Ontario in 1901, but the Beaver Mills town site obstructed the eastern end. Consequently, a new town was developed further upriver, between the two large lumber mills.
The town's name, Rainy River, came about quite by accident. As the only mode of transport at the time was by steamship, parts of the bridge were shipped and arrived addressed to "Rainy River". The town eventually accepted this as their name.
The lumber industry and the railway spurred the town's growth until 1910 when a forest fire, known as the Great Fire of 1910, originating in northern Minnesota, swept north and destroyed the mills. The town's population quickly declined from more than 2000 people to less than 800. However, the town of Rainy River pivoted its industry to railway and hunting/fishing tourism, which has helped the town to survive.
Rainy River, Ontario: A Snapshot of Demographics
According to the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Rainy River had a population of 752 living in 366 of its 398 total private dwellings. This represented a change of -6.8% from its 2016 population of 807. With a land area of 3.12 km2 (1.20 sq mi), it had a population density of 241.0/km2 (624.3/sq mi) in 2021.
Rainy River, Ontario, with its rich history and natural beauty, is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of small-town Canada. Whether you're a history buff, an outdoor enthusiast, or just looking for a peaceful retreat, Rainy River has something to offer everyone.