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.