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Chapter 11: Northern Settlements


Leaving aside First Nations settlements, Manitoba’s northern settlements can be grouped together as resource towns. Several are new and are clearly planned with crescents and bays, in contrast to the uniform grid of most southern settlements. However, the older settlements—the Pas, Flin Flon and Churchill—do not fit this pattern. Although all three contain planned elements, local geographical factors determine their location and form.

11.1: Thompson

The city of Thompson is located on the Precambrian Shield in the Northern Coniferous Forest vegetation zone.[i] Dark-toned coniferous forest surrounds the built-up area 1. The city is named after Dr. John F. Thompson, Chairman of the Board of the International Nickel Company (INCO) which operated the mines here,[ii] not as might be expected after the famous explorer David Thompson. “High-grade nickel ore was initially discovered in the area in 1956 by the International Nickel Company of Canada Ltd. (INCO) in the vicinity of what is now the city of Thompson. Shaft sinking and the construction of surface facilities began in 1957, and initial production commenced in 1960…. Electrolytically-refined nickel, containing 99.9 percent nickel, is the main product at Inco’s Thompson complex.”[iii]

Despite its dependence on mining, Thompson has maintained a relatively stable population—1986: 14,201, 1991: 14,977, 1999: 14,385, 2001: 13,256, and 2006: 13,446 making it the third city in Manitoba behind Winnipeg and Brandon. However, the city is hoping to diversify in order to attract tourists, 20,000 of whom bypass Thompson on their way to Churchill each year. To this end the city has erected the largest mural in Manitoba based on a Robert Bateman painting as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations in 2006. The mural, 86 feet (26 metres) high, is located on the side of a ten-storey apartment block. The city is also constructing a “Spirit Walkway” with 18 points of interest with historical, cultural, geological, industrial, artistic, and scenic perspectives.

The photograph shows the highly planned city located on the south bank of the eastward flowing Burntwood River 2. The river joins the Nelson and now carries a much greater volume of water than was the case before the diversion of a large percentage of the flow of the Churchill into the Nelson to increase production of electricity on the latter. However, the mines at Thompson and the city itself get electricity from the Kelsey project, built on the Nelson above its confluence with the Burntwood before the Churchill diversion occurred. A barrier 3 can be seen on the Burntwood just above the bridge 4, and a floatplane terminal with three planes is located on the north bank just below the bridge 5. Thompson is also served by a land airport, located off the photo to the north.

The carefully designed curved streets, crescents and embayments contrast with the less orderly appearance of Flin Flon (figures11.2, 11.3, and 11.4) Here, the topography is less difficult; there are no lakes to be avoided and the mining area is not obvious—its northern edge is just visible at the bottom of the photo 6. PTH 6 7 from Grand Rapids to the south becomes PR 391 at the southwestern city limits. PR 391 runs through the eastern side of the city where it is a divided road and crosses the Burntwood River en route to Lynn Lake further north. A main road loop runs off to the west 8, with embayments running off it on both sides.

A branch of the Hudson Bay Railway Line 9 which joins the main line to Churchill at Sipiwesk skirts the eastern edge of the city with sidings 10 leading to a block of railway-related buildings 11. Rail cars can be seen on some of the sidings 12. Much of the commercial area lies between the railway and PR 391. Several large flat-topped buildings 13 can be seen in this area with large parking lots 14—only partly occupied at the time the photo was taken. A large shopping mall 15 with associated parking areas is located west of PR 391.

The carefully planned residential areas show the whole range of residential dwellings: single family houses 16, duplexes 17, townhouse complexes 18, small apartment block 19, large apartment blocks with several floors 20, and mobile home courts 21. Within the residential areas three sets of buildings 22 that are schools. They all have parking lots with a few or no cars—to be expected given the date (August 6) on which the photo was taken—and associated playing fields. A large building west of PR 391 is a hospital 23. A large recreational area including a running track 24,baseball diamonds 25, and indoor facilities 26, located just south of the Burntwood River serves the community. Another smaller recreational area with a baseball diamond 27 and a hockey rink 28 is located west of PR 391, near the hospital.

In the west it looks as if land is being cleared for future development 29, and in the south is a sewage lagoon 30, just south of an area of light industry with numerous buildings with cars parked beside them 31.

Figure 11.1: Thompson

Figure 11.1: Thompson

Figure 11.1

Vertical air photograph: MH: 92544402-210 and 211

Flight height:  lens focal length: 153.79 mm

Scale: 1:20,000 (approx.)

Date: August 6, 1992

Location: Township 78; Range 3 WI

Map sheets: 1:250,000 63P Sipiwesk

                    1:50,000 63P/12 Thompson


[i] Scott, G. A. J. “Manitoba’s Ecoclimatic Regions” in The Geography of Manitoba: Its Land and Its People eds. J. Welsted, J. Everitt, and C. Stadel. 1996, figure 4.2, 45.

[ii] Holm, G. F. ed. Geographical Names of Manitoba. Winnipeg: Manitoba Conservation, 2000, 273.

[iii] Young, H. R. “Mining and Extractive Industries in Manitoba” in The Geography of Manitoba: Its Land and Its People. eds. J. Welsted, J. Everitt, and C. Stadel. 1996, 240.

11.2: The Location of Flin Flon


The distinctively named Flin Flon[i] is the oldest of Manitoba’s northern mining communities. “The Flin Flon-Snow Lake area has been actively explored for gold and base-metal deposits since the early 1900s. Gold was discovered near Snow Lake in 1913, the Flin Flon sulplide ore body was staked in 1915, and the Mandy Mine, 5 km southeast of Flin Flon, began production as the first base-metal mine in 1916. More than 20 base-metal deposits have been developed in the Flin Flon-Snow Lake area, primarily by the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Company Ltd (HBMS).”[ii] Flin Flon itself dates from the 1920s and now includes fifth generation inhabitants producing a sense of community not always found in mining towns. “HBMS operates a metallurgical complex at Flin Flon…. Copper and zinc are the main metals produced, and variable amounts of gold, silver, cadmium, lead, selenium, and tellurium are obtained as by-products.”[iii]

The city is located on the Precambrian Shield near the southern edge of the Northern Coniferous Forest vegetation zone.[iv] Most of the land is covered by dark-toned coniferous forest 1, but in some areas lighter-toned bedrock is visible 2 that may be due in part to mine-generated pollution 3. As is normally the case on the shield, the area is strewn with lakes many of which are named on the relevant 1:250,000 topographic map: Hamell Lake 4, Creighton Lake 5, Meridian Lake 6, Reddy Lake 7, Douglas Lake 8, Bootleg Lake 9, Wekach Lake 10, Boot Lake 11, Mystic lake (north end) 12, Phantom Lake 13, Louis Lake 14, Hapnot Lake 15, Ross Lake 16, Flin Flon Lake 17, Pine Pond 18, Little Cliff Lake 19, Cliff Lake 20, Embray Lake 21, Big Island Lake 22, three arms of Schist Lake—Northwest Arm 23, Inlet Arm 24, and Northeast Arm 25, White Lake 26, Hook Lake 27, and Ledge Lake 28.

Flin Flon Lake 17 is almost completely filled with mine tailings and therefore appears a much lighter tone than the other lakes, except for those in the southeast 29 which are very light-toned because of specular reflection. Creighton 30 in Saskatchewan is located south of Flin Flon Lake and the city of Flin Flon 31, is located between Flin Flon Lake and Ross Lake 16 as well as east and north of Ross Lake 32. A dashed line 34 indicates the stepped boundary between Manitoba and Saskatchewan with a correction jog of over 1½ miles (2.4 km) 33 north of township 66.

A series of light-toned linear features are easily observed because of the contrast with dark-toned coniferous forest areas. PTH 10 35 enters from the southeast and loops north of Flin Flon 36 to enter from the northeast. PR 106 37 exits to the northwest eventually reaching Smeaton over 340 km away in Saskatchewan, and PR 167 exits to the southwest 38 travelling a much shorter distance to Denare Beach just inside Saskatchewan. The Hudson Bay Railway line—a thinner light-toned line 39—follows the eastern shore of the Northwest Arm of Schist Lake crossing it in the north 40 to enter the city from the southeast. Other light-toned features are cut lines followed by power lines 41, one of which 42 leads to a light-toned area 43—the now abandoned Mandy Mine. Finally, a northwest/southeast trending line (light-toned) at the north end of the Northwest Arm of Schist Lake 44 is an abandoned airport; the city’s airport is now located further southeast near Bakers Narrows. The small settlement of Channing 45 is located north of the old runway.

Flin Flon is the oldest of Manitoba’s mining communities and the eleventh largest community in Manitoba. It has managed in the main to survive the ups and downs of mining communities although its population did decline from 6,572 in 1996 to 6,000 in 2001,and to 5,594 in 2006. It has recently achieved some notoriety because Health Canada has let a contact to Prairie Plant Systems Inc. to grow medical marijuana in an abandoned mine shaft in the area.

Figure 11.2: The Location of Flin Flon

Figure 11.2: The Location of Flin Flon

Figure 11.2

Vertical air photograph: A22425-150

Flight height: 38,450 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 152.135 mm

Scale: 1:74,000 (approx.)

Date: August 3, 1971

Location: Township 66 and 67; Ranges 26 W1 and 30 WI

Map sheets: 1:250,000 63K Cormorant Lake

                    1:50,000 63K/13 Flin Flon


[i] Flin Flon “was named after Josiah Flintabetty Flonatin (Flin Flon for short), hero of a novel by J. E. Preston Muddock (1905) called The Sunless City. In the novel, Flin Flon builds a submarine and ventures down to the centre of the earth where he finds a city in which everything was made of gold. About 1913, prospector, Tom Creighton found a copy of the book while on a portage on the Churchill River. In 1915 he and his party read the book while spending the winter in the bush. Creighton (a community just to the west in Saskatchewan was named after him) was hunting moose on the present Flin Flon Lake when he fell through the ice. He built a fire to dry his clothes and when the snow melted he saw gold-bearing rock. The next day he and his friends staked claims and named them after the fictional hero” in Holm G. F. op. cit., 2000, 82.

[ii] Young, H. R. op. cit. 1996, 240.

[iii] Young, H. R. op. cit. 1996, 241.

[iv] Scott G. A. J. op. cit. 1996, figure 4.2, 45.

11.3: The City of Flin Flon

Of the lakes identified on figure 11.2, those that can be seen here are Flin Flon Lake 1, Ross Lake 2, Little Cliff Lake 3, Pine Pond 4, Hapnot Lake 5, and Louis Lake 6. Only at the north end of Flin Flon Lake 7 is the dark tone indicative of water; the rest of the lake is lighter-toned 8 indicating mine tailings with darker-toned channels running to the east and southeast 9 across them. An embankment has been built along the south and east shores of the lake 10 and a dam across it 11 to contain the tailings. An unidentified lake in the centre of the photo 12 is the city’s reservoir; a water line can be seen emanating from it in the northeast 13.

The lakes and expanses of bedrock, often with steep slopes, made planning the city’s layout difficult; hard bedrock at the surface necessitated the building of water and sewage lines in insulated tubes above ground level. In some parts the “standard” grid layout was used 14, but in other areas curved roads exist 15.

Many often-intersecting linear features that are easily identified but not so easily interpreted complicate the photograph. Perhaps the best place to start is with the readily identified PTH 10 16 that swings to the north of the city entering from the north-northwest 17. It runs through the city centre 18, intersecting a prominent east/west road (3rd Avenue East) 19. Near this intersection are many large flat-topped buildings 20 in what is the commercial centre. None of the buildings is readily identifiable, but the largest 21 is probably an arena.

Another linear feature is the railway line 22 that enters from the south along the east shore of Ross Lake and then loops to the north 23 to enter the city from that direction 24. The main HBMS complex 25 is located between the railway and PTH 10. Numerous long, narrow sheds 26 are visible west of a huge—825 feet (251 m) high—smoke stack 27.[i] Its shadow falls west-northwest 28 indicating that this is an early morning photo (as the sun was in the east-southeast). The wind at the time was from the south-southwest blowing smoke to the north-northeast 29. The railway line continues southward past Hapnot Lake 5 to another mine where the shadow of a headframe can be seen 30.

Residential areas are located east and south of the commercial district 31, east and north of Ross Lake 32, and in Creighton 33.

Figure 11.3: The City of Flin Flon

Figure 11.3: The City of Flin Flon

Figure 11.3

Vertical air photograph: A27718-19

Flight height: 11,050 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 152.934 mm

Scale: 1:20,100 (approx.)

Date: June 14, 1992

Location: Townships 66 and 67; Ranges 29 and 30 WI

Map sheets: 1:250,000 63K Cormorant Lake

                    1:50,000 K/13 Flin Flon


[i] For a ground photo see Young H. R. op. cit. 1996, figure 16.9, 241.

11.4: The Centre of Flin Flon

East of the parking lot is the commercial area. PTH 10 19 enters from the north and runs through the city centre. Several large flat-topped buildings are located in the blocks immediately east 20 and west 21. Numerous cars are parked beside some of them 22, 23, 24 suggesting they are shopping centres. A large building near the southern edge of the photo 25 may be an arena. A residential area—principally with small single-family dwellings 26—is seen in the east.

This large-scale photo permits the identification of details not seen on figures 11.2 and 11.3. In the northeast is the town’s reservoir 1 part of which has been blocked off 2. The rest of the photo can be divided into three zones: 1) the mine area 3; 2) a commercial area to the southeast 4; and 3) a residential area to the east 5.

Like the elevators in Churchill the smoke stack 6 dominates the skyline. This is another early morning photo with the shadow of the smoke stack 7 falling to the west/northwest. It is spewing smoke which is being carried north 8. The purpose of the stack is to lift smoke high enough that it is blown away to miss the city, which it does—at least on windy days. However, the pollution eventually descends affecting the landscape further afield. The mining and smelting complex with numerous large buildings 9, several of which are joined by conveyor systems 10, surrounds the stack. A water line 11 runs from the reservoir to a building near the stack 12. Several sets of oil storage tanks, some horizontal 13 and others vertical 14, are located within the industrial zone that is interlaced by railway lines 15 and sidings 16 some with railcars on them 17. A large parking lot with about 150 cars located on it 18 and room for at least 100 more is located south of the mine works.

Figure 11.4: The Centre of Flin Flon

Figure 11.4: The Centre of Flin Flon

Figure 11.4

Vertical air photograph: A27718-32

Flight height: 3,550 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 152.934 mm

Scale: 1:5,100 (approx.)

Date: June 14, 1991

Location: Township 67; Ranges 29 and 30 WI

Map sheets: 1:250,000 63K Cormorant Lake

                    1:50,000 63K/13 Flin Flon

11.5: The Pas

The Pas was a strategic location during the fur trade era, and a series of forts were built there. It was incorporated as a town in 1912 and now (2006) has a population of 5,589 The CNR reached The Pas in 1908, and the Hudson Bay Railway line was begun here in 1910 reaching Churchill in 1929.[i]

The town is located on the south side of the east-flowing 600 feet (182 m) wide Saskatchewan River 1 just below the entrance of the Pasquia River 2 with the Opaskwayak Cree First Nation on the north side. The Pas is an important regional centre. It is the location of University College of the North as well as having a saw milling industry that relies on local forest resources and effective railway distribution of the finished products. It is also the centre for the relatively recently developed (post-World War II) agricultural area of the Pasquia Settlement and Carrot River Settlement to the southwest, which at 53º 45' north is the northernmost agricultural area in Manitoba.

In this large-scale photo, the CN line with sidings carrying many rail cars can be seen in the south 3. In the extreme south is the northernmost grain elevator in Manitoba 4, identified by its shadow with round oil storage containers located nearby 5. A long narrow building to the west of the line further north 6 is probably the railway station. Just north of this, the line curves to the northwest to cross the river at right angles on a metal bridge 7. PTH 10 crosses the river to the west of the railway 8. It makes two right-angled bends 9, and 10, as it progresses southward, and eventually runs parallel to the railway line 11. Most of The Pas’s commercial area with many large rectangular buildings 12 is located between the highway and the railway. A large T-shaped building is the hospital 13.

One well treed residential area 14 is located southwest of the commercial zone, and west of that is a racetrack 15. Another residential area is located east and northeast of the railway line. Much of the area follows a grid pattern, but the orientation of the grid varies from place to place 16, 17, 18, and some crescents appear near the fringes 19 and 20. The type of dwelling varies from single-family houses 21, to townhouses built around courts 22, to apartment blocks 23. Within this area is a large recreational complex with a race track 24, baseball diamonds 25, and indoor facilities 26. A school is located near the townhouses 27; it has a baseball diamond 28 and a skating rink 29 associated with it. The large complex of buildings south of the recreation area is Keewatin Community College 30 (now University College of the North). Another recreation area is located by the river on either side of the bridges with a baseball diamond to the east 31 and camping ground to the west 32. In the extreme east is a transformer station 33, with a wide cut line 34 indicating the route followed by power lines.

PTH 10 35  leads north to Flin Flon with an offshoot (PR 287)-- off the photo--to Clearwater Lake Provincial Park at which many The Pas residents have cottages. Other route ways are PR 285 36 which leads east to Ralls Island and PR 289 37 which leads east to the airport and Grace Lake.

In the First Nations area the large dark-topped building 38 is a rink; north of it is a shopping mall complex 39 with numerous parked cars beside it. Single-family dwellings are located in crescents 40 with a school nearby 41.

Figure 11.5: The Pas

Figure 11.5: The Pas


Figure 11.5

Vertical air photograph: MB91009-248

Flight height: 6,900 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 152.028 mm

Scale: 1:12,000 (approx.)

Date: May-September 1991

Location: Township 56; Range 26W1

Map sheets: 1:250,000 63F The Pas

                    1:50,000 63F/14 The Pas


[i] Holm, G. F. op. cit., 2000, 271.

11.6: Gillam

Gillam is different from Lynn Lake, Snow Lake, and Leaf Rapids in that it is not directly connected to mining. It owes its existence to the need to service the construction of large hydro electric power (HEP) plants on the Nelson River. Its population boomed temporarily in the late 1980s when the Limestone hydro dam was being constructed on the Nelson River north of town. It declined to 1,873 by 1991 and by 2006 was down to 1,209. However, there has been some renewed interest in the Conawapa Dam on the Nelson downstream from Limestone, so Gillam’s population might increase again.

The town is located on the south side of Stephen Lake 1, a widening of the Nelson River. It is backed by the fast-flowing Kettle River 2, on which there are several rapids 3, which flows east to join the Nelson River off the photo. On the Nelson east of Gillam are the Kettle Generating Station, the Long Spruce Generating Station, and the Limestone Generating Station. An embankment seen in the east 4 is part of the approaches to the Kettle Station.

The Hudson Bay Railway line 5 crosses the centre of the area. The station 6, a dark-toned building, is located north of the line with several sidings to the south 7. A one-mile (1.6 km) long train 8 can be seen on the line. A west-southwest/east-northeast trending airstrip 9 is located on the south shore of Stephen’s Lake with associated buildings to its south 10. Planes also land on the lake near the eastern edge of the photo 11. PRs 280 and 290 12 run from Gillam to Sundance on the Nelson near the Limestone Station. Numerous cut lines for power lines can be identified 13.

The centre of town is just north of the railway station. Here are located several large buildings, the largest of which 14 is probably a rink. Residences are located around this centre; some appear large enough to be single-family dwellings 15. There is also a large mobile home court in the west 16.

Figure 11.6: Gillam

Figure 11.6: Gillam

Figure 11.6

Vertical air photograph: MH 9998640404-201

Flight height: 10,000 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 153.083 mm

Scale: 1:20,000 (approx.)

Date: August 16, 1999

Location: Township 85; Range 18E

Map sheets: 1:250,000 54D Kettle Rapids

1:50,000 54D/7 Kettle Rapids

11.7: Leaf Rapids

The town is located near the north end of Granville Lake where it empties into the Churchill River. Although there are no rapids on the photo, they exist on the Churchill River east of town off the photo.

Leaf Rapids is located east of PR 391 1 that runs between Thompson to the south and Lynn Lake to the north. The town is located on an esker complex and PR 391 follows an esker for many kilometres; light tones west of the road represent gravel deposits of the esker visible through the tree cover. The mines are located some distance from town. “The Ruttan Mine, located 20 km east of Leaf Rapids was discovered by Sheritt Gordon in 1969.”[i] Production began in 1973: from 1973 to 1979 by open pit methods and from 1979 onwards by underground methods. The life of the mine was extended by the discovery of the “West Anomaly” deposit 1 km west of the existing mine from which production began in 1991.[ii] The town’s population was 1,613 in 1991 but by 1996 dropped slightly to 1,504 and to 1,304 in 2001; by 2006 there were only 539 inhabitants. The last drop was largely due to the closing in 2002 of the nearby Ruttan Mine.

The photo shows the town site east of PR 391. A cluster of buildings in the south centre 2 is the “uptown shopping mall joined as one enclosed complex with the town’s school (kindergarten to grade 12) and health care services, so that people may move from one to the other in midwinter without experiencing the weather outside."[iii] Close by are baseball diamonds 3 and a racetrack 4. On all sides of the complex—except the west—are residential areas including single-family dwellings 5, townhouse complexes 6, apartment blocks 7, and mobile home courts 8. In the northeast is a separated area with several large buildings 9 that may house commercial or mine-related activities. In the southwest the coniferous forest has been cleared for ski slopes 10.

Leaf Rapids recently (2007) gained notoriety by banning plastic shopping bags—the first community in Canada to do so—and by encouraging the use of electric golf carts for trips around town. This is in keeping with the town's history. It was planned as an experimental town suitable for a northern environment (no residence is more than 10 minutes walk from the town centre) and in 1975 the town won the Vincent Massey Award for Excellence in the Urban Environment.

Figure 11.7: Leaf Rapids

Figure 11.7: Leaf Rapids

Figure 11.7

Vertical air photograph: MB99006-253

Flight height: 6,800 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 152.096 mm

Scale: 1:12,000 (very approx.)

Date: June 16, 1999

Location: 56º 28' N; 100º 00' W

Map sheets: 1:250,000 64B Uhlman Lake

                64C Granville Lake

1:50,000 64B/5 Pemichigamau Lake


[i] Young, H. R. op. cit. 1996, 242.

[ii] Young op. cit. 1996, 242.

[iii] Kienetz, A. “Northern Living and Resource Towns” in Welsted, Everitt and Stadel op. cit. 1996, 169.

11.8: Snow Lake

The Snow Lake area is part of the “Flin Flon-Snow Lake greenstone belt up to 50 km wide; [that] extends from east of Snow Lake into Saskatchewan west of Flin Flon.”[i] The area “has been actively explored for gold and base-metal deposits since the early 1900s.”[ii] Gold was discovered near Snow Lake in 1913, the town site was cleared in 1945, and several mines operated in the area from then onwards,[iii] but by 1996 the mine in Snow Lake was closing down; as a result the population fell from 1,837 (1986), to 1,598 (1991), to 1310 (1996), to 1,207 (2001), and 837 (2006).

The town site is located in the Northern Coniferous Forest vegetation zone[iv] with coniferous forest covering much of the land so that cut lines for power lines are very obvious 1. The photo shows the town site in 1993 located on the north shore of Snow Lake 2 with the mining area located to the north 3.

The town is located at the northern end of PR 392 4, a spur that runs north from PTH 39 an east/west road that joins the Pas/Flin Flon and Thompson ; PR 395 runs south of the lake 5.

The town site is planned with bays and crescents in contrast to the grids of southern towns. It is divided into two by a wooded area 6. The northern area is clustered around a series of large buildings 7 probably the town’s commercial centre. Some of the residences appear to be single-family dwellings 8. A road north of the residential area 9 separates it from industrial—maybe mine-related—buildings 10. The southern residential area seems to have some single-family dwellings 11, apartment blocks 12, and mobile home courts 13 common in mining settlements. A communication tower 14 throws a shadow almost due north indicating that the photo was taken near noon, suntime.

Figure 11.8: Snow Lake

Figure 11.8: Snow Lake


Figure 11.8

Vertical air photograph: MH 93569422-90

Flight height:  lens focal length: 152.79 mm

Scale: 1:15,000 (very approx.)

Date: September 22, 1993

Location: 54º 53' North; 100º 02' West

Map sheets: 1:250,000 63K Cormorant Lake

                    1:50,000 63K/16 File Lake



[i] Young, H. R. op. cit. 1996, 240.

[ii] Young, H. R. op. cit. 1996, 240.

[iii] Young, H. R. op. cit. 1996, figure 16.8, 240.

[iv] Scott, G. A. J. op. cit. 1996, figure 4.2, 45.

11.9: The Location of Churchill

Manitoba’s northeast boundary, disputed between Manitoba and Ontario, was drawn running in a generally northeast direction from the northeast corner of the rectangular 1881 version of Manitoba. The result was that Manitoba obtained part of the Hudson Bay shoreline on which is now located Churchill, Canada’s only Arctic Seaport. “The shortest route from the prairies to Europe is via Hudson Bay and the North Atlantic, so it makes sense to have a port on the coast of the bay. Thus it was that, at the urging of the prairie wheat farmer, a port was established at the mouth of the Churchill River…. The Hudson Bay Railway [from Winnipeg to Churchill] was completed in 1929, and in 1931 two ships left the grain terminal late in the summer.”[i] It was hoped that Churchill would become the major terminal for grain export from the Prairies but this was not all. Later Churchill “became the home of an international atmospheric research centre [and a military base] and it still houses the Institute of Arctic Ecophysiology and the Churchill Northern Studies Centre”[ii] but it never became the major port that was hoped. However, its population reached about 5000 in the late 1950s, but with the closure of the military base and a decline in grain shipments, it had fallen to 923 in 2006. The future of the railway, which is now owned by a U.S.-based company, is in doubt, but now that the economic emphasis is on ecotourism based on polar bear and beluga whale viewing, it is more important than ever to the welfare of the community. Many visitors arrive by rail, the journey being part of the overall experience.

The photo shows the mouth of the Churchill River between a peninsula on which is located Fort Prince of Wales 1 to the west and Cape Merry 2 to the east. The town of Churchill 3 is located in the centre of the photo with the Hudson Bay Railway entering from the south. 4 The line leads to the large elevators 5 located by the wharf 6 at which grain ships are loaded. South of town are sidings on which numerous railcars are located 7. Imperial Oil’s storage tanks 8 are located east of the wharf. A main road 9 runs along the southern edge of town and continues east to Fort Churchill (off the photo). Where it turns to the east is a cluster of buildings in four rows 10. This is Akudlik that “was built between Churchill and the airport (off the photo to the east) during the 1950s to house workers for the Northwest Territory Government. When the government headquarters moved north to Rankin Inlet (outside Manitoba), the workers left.”[iii] To the north is Akudlik Marsh 11, with several lakes including Lake Isabella 12 and Lake Rosabella 13, which offer excellent bird viewing including the rare Ross’s Gull.[iv] Although polar bears are seen in the town of Churchill, most of the “watching” goes on well to the east and south of town.[v]

The mouth of the Churchill River is tidal with a large area of tidal marsh occurring south of town 14. The white line off Cape Merry 15 is probably the contact line between out-flowing river water and seawater.

Figure 11.9: The Location of Churchill

Figure 11.9: The Location of Churchill

Figure 11.9

Vertical air photograph: A22955-20

Flight height: 17,500 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 152.68 mm

Scale 1:35,000 (approx.)

Date: August 8, 1972

Location of Cape Merry: 58º 47' N; 94º 12' W

Map sheets: 1:250,000 54L Churchill

                    1:50,000 54L/16 Churchill


[i] Sweet, G. “Churchill: Historic Settlement, Arctic Seaport, Tourist Centre” in Welsted, Everitt and Stadel op. cit. 1996, 172.

[ii] Sweet, G. op. cit. 1996, 172.

[iii] Senecal, C. Pelicans to Polar Bears: Watching Wildlife in Manitoba. Winnipeg: Heartland Publications, 1999, 242.

[iv] Senecal, C. op. cit. 1999, 242.

[v] Cordozo, Y. and Hirsch, B. “Bear Watching for All Seasons” Times Colonist (Victoria) May 27, 2004, p E3.

11.10: The Town of Churchill



This low-level, large-scale photo shows the layout of both the port of Churchill and the residential area of town located between Hudson Bay to the north 1 and the Churchill River to the south 2. Tidal Marsh, with the characteristic dendritic drainage pattern 3, can be seen in the southeast. The marsh has a well-defined seaward edge 4 with some light-toned sand along it. Further west is land without the dendritic pattern 5 suggesting that bedrock is exposed, and on the original photo with the use of a magnifying glass, large boulders can be seen sitting on the surface 6. This area was water covered in figure 11.9 and is probably now exposed because a large percentage of the flow of the Churchill has been diverted upstream into the Nelson River to increase power generation on the latter.

Churchill is a planned community following a plan produced in 1932 by the Manitoba Department of Mines and Natural Resources. The plan “that resembles modern designs in some respects was adopted for the town. Churchill does not have the bays and crescents characteristic of a modern layout in the residential areas, and rectangular blocks are still dominant. Very clearly, however, the uniform rectangular gridiron has been successfully avoided by means of main collector avenues and a few curving streets, and by introducing a “square” and some roughly radial intersections which provide variety.”[i]

The railway line is the town’s main raison d’être It enters from the east-southeast 7 with several sidings 8 on which are located about 400 railcars, presumably carrying grain for shipment. One short siding leads to the passenger station[ii] 9 and another 10—which appears to be abandoned—leads to a group of buildings 11 on the shore. The main line continues west to another series of sidings 12 (with over 50 railcars) running alongside large grain storage elevators 13. A ship 14 is being loaded at the wharf by a conveyor 15 that runs from the elevator to the ship. Dust 16 from the grain is being blown westward by an easterly wind. East of the elevators are large oil storage tanks 17 served by a spur from the railway 18.

The main street of the community—Kelsey Boulevard 19—runs parallel to the railway line with various industrial buildings 20 between the two route ways. The residential area lies northeast of Kelsey Boulevard, the most obvious element of it being the town centre complex 21 built in the 1970s that “ includes the hospital and medical centre, the high school and library, a swimming pool, curling and skating rinks, a restaurant, a playground, and a number of offices—all under the same roof.”[iii] As can be seen in the photo, it is built in several levels and has a magnificent view of the bay. An open square is located to the southwest 22 with a shopping centre on its west side 23. Residences are located east 24 and west 25 of the square. Most of these are prefabricated townhouses arranged in an offset fashion 26 along the roads with a few single-family dwellings. Other items not previously mentioned are a second oil storage area 27 and the cemetery 28, located as usual near the edge of town.

Figure 11.10: The Town of Churchill

Figure 11.10: The Town of Churchill

Figure 11.10

Vertical air photograph: MH827068405-190

Flight height: 6,100 feet; camera focal length: 152.034 mm

Scale: 1:12,200 (approx.)

Date: September 20, 1982

Location of town centre: 58º 46' N, 94º 09' W

Map sheets: 1:250,000 54L Churchill

1:50,000 54L/16 Churchill


[i] Warkentin, J. and Ruggles, R. I. Historical Atlas of Manitoba. Winnipeg: Manitoba Historical Society, 1970, 376. The plan appears on page 377.

[ii] A passenger train still runs from Winnipeg to Churchill once per week and is completely booked during the bear-viewing season. However, the train’s speed is limited because of a deteriorating track.

[iii] Sweet, G. op. cit. 1996, 174.

11.11: The Location of Lynn Lake

Lynn Lake is the northernmost of the mining communities in Manitoba located in the Trans-Hudson Orogen of the Precambrian Shield.[i] “Manitoba’s first nickel-copper mine was discovered in 1950 by Sherritt Gordon Mines Ltd. at what is now Lynn Lake, 250 km north of Flin Flon. The A, EL, and Farley Mines were subsequently brought into production in the area. During 1953-76, more than 20 million tonnes of ore were mined, containing 167 million kg of nickel, 95 million kg of copper as well as cobalt, gold and silver.”[ii] The population of the community grew to 2,500, but with the closure of the Farley Mine in 1976, mining in the immediate vicinity closed and despite continued exploration in the area for base metal deposits and gold, by 1996 the population had fallen to 1,038 and to 699 in 2001, with a slight rise to 714 in 2006.

The photograph shows the Lynn Lake area in the very early stages of development. The area that became Lynn Lake 1 is located between the northern ends of Lynn Lake 2 and West Lynn Lake 3. To the west are Sheila Lake 4 and Ralph Lake 5 and to the north, Eric Lake 6, West Eric Lake 7, Burge Lake 8, and Barbara Lake 9. The area is located near the northern edge of the Northern Coniferous Forest vegetation zone.[iii] Coniferous forest appears in dark grey tones10, with marshy areas, lighter in tone 11. Very light-toned areas—mainly in the centre of the image 12—are lichen covered areas or bare rock, except for the areas between and north of the Lynn Lakes 13 which have been cleared for construction.

The early stages of settlement are seen between West Lynn Lake and Lynn Lake 14 with a route way—road or railway line entering from the south 15. On the original photo, with the use of a magnifying glass, some buildings can be seen east of 16, and north of Lynn Lake a faint grid pattern 17 probably indicates the future location of roads.

Figure 11.11: The Location of Lynn Lake

Figure 11.11: The Location of Lynn Lake

Figure 11.11

Vertical air photograph: A11080-204

Flight height: 17,000 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 152.4 mm

Scale: 1:32,600

Date: September 18, 1947

Location: Township 90 and 91; Range 23 WI

Map sheets: 1:250,000 64C Granville Lake

                    1:50,000 64C/14 Lynn Lake


[i] See Corkery, M. T. “Geology and Landforms of Manitoba” in Welsted, Everitt and Stadel op. cit. 1996, figure 2.1, 13.

[ii] Young, H. R. op. cit. 1996, 241.

[iii] Scott, G. A. J. op. cit. 1996, figure 4.2, 45.

11.12: Lynn Lake in 1955

This high-level photo shows the settlement after it had been in existence for several years. The higher vantage point allows a larger area to be covered. In addition to the lakes named in figure 11.11, Frances Lake 1 can be seen to the west and Eldon Lake 2 to the east. Dark-toned patches of coniferous trees can be seen on higher land 3 with lighter-toned marshy areas between.

By this date a residential area 4 is well established between Lynn Lake 5 and West Lynn Lake 6 as well as north of Lynn Lake. Many of the first buildings in town (houses, school, a church) were moved by tractors and large sleds (locally referred to as "cat trains") in the early 1950s over winter roads from Sherridon, 120 km south, where the orebodies were exhausted. In many cases the families moved to Lynn Lake, with their houses to resume employment with Sherritt Gordon Mines. The mining area 7 is located east of the residential areas; several large buildings are located here. Further east a deposit of mine tailings has already started to accumulate 8. Also by this time various transport and communication routes to “the outside” are visible: 1) a railway line from the south 9 passes between the main area of mining buildings and the waste pile, ending just north of the settlement 10. Sidings can be seen near the mining buildings 11 and near the northern terminus 12; 2) an airport 13, with a north/south runway 14, is located northwest of town; 3) a float plane terminal, with jetties, is located on the west shore of Eldon Lake 15; and 4) PR 394 leads out of town 16 past the airport and eventually to Kinoosao about 100 km away on the Saskatchewan border. Also visible is a light-toned cut line that is probably followed by a power line 17.

Figure 11.12: Lynn Lake in 1955

Figure 11.12:  Lynn Lake in 1955

Figure 11.12

Vertical air photograph: A14889-145

Flight height: 30,000 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 152.7 mm

Scale: 1:60,300 (approx.)

Date: August 30, 1955

Location: Township 90 and 91; Range 23 WI

Map sheets: 1:250,000 64C Granville Lake

                    1:50,000 64C/14 Lynn Lake

11.13: Lynn Lake in 1975

This lower level, larger scale photo shows Lynn Lake at its peak, just before mining ceased in 1976. A well-developed residential area is located in the centre. Two zones of residential development—one south 1 and the other north 2—are joined by an area with larger buildings 3, the administration, commercial, and recreational centre. A group of large buildings near the northern edge of the residential area 4 may be apartments. East of the residential area are large buildings associated with the mines 5, and a baseball diamond 6 can be seen between these and the residences. The area of mine tailings is much-enlarged 7 extending east almost to Adam Lake 8. This has recently been in the news as it creates a serious environmental and health hazard for air and water quality of Lynn Lake. Water seeping through tailings enters the water system and when areas of tailings are dry toxic dust is blown by the wind. Another mine head is seen further south with a headframe 9 suggesting sub-surface mining, but a large crater to the west 10 suggests open pit mining—at least to start with. Waste from the mine has filled the north end of Lynn Lake 11. Parts of the lake were also drained as part of the ore body was located direcly beneath the lake.

The railway line from the south 12 has several sidings in the north; railway cars can be seen on many of these 13, and to the northwest are many railway-related buildings and storage areas 14. By this date the runway has been paved and a centre line marked 15. Terminal buildings can be seen to the east 16. The floatplane terminal area on Eldon Lake 17 has expanded, and more roads can be seen than on figure 11.12. PR 396 exits to the southwest 18 leading to Fox Mine 45 km away. This mine was discovered by Sherritt Gordon in 1961 and was in production from 1970 to 1985, producing copper and zinc with gold and silver as by-products.[i] PR 394 to Kinoosao exits to the northwest past the airport 19, and in the northeast, PR 391 20 leads to Leaf Rapids 100 km to the southeast. The cut line (power line) visible on figure 11.12 is still visible 21 with another one further west 22. In the extreme south 23 is the collapsed roof of an underground mine showing up as a dark toned circle surrounded by a light toned area.

Figure 11.13: Lynn Lake in 1975

Figure 11.13: Lynn Lake in 1975

Figure 11.13

Vertical air photograph: A24142-173

Flight height: 17,000 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 152.676 mm

Scale: 1:30,000 (approx.)

Date: July 11, 1975

Location: Township 90 and 91; Range 23 WI

Map sheets: 1:250,000 64C Granville Lake

                    1:50,000 64C/14 Lynn Lake


[i] Young, H. R. op. cit. 1996, 242.