I promised the girlz, I would try to continue our stories of Patio Girl adventures on the road. After all the great posts from Gwen’s trip to Portugal, I hope I can produce something as interesting as hubby and I drive out to British Columbia.
It’s been hard to decide what to blog about first, after six days of travel. Would it be the stunning beauty of the trees, lakes, and rocks of the Precambrian Shield through northern Ontario. Or the crazy high water levels and flooding we saw? Or maybe the new birds I’ve added to my life list. Or perhaps the talent of my friend Andrea, whose home on Nym Lake at the edge of Quetico Park, is chock a block full of her craftwork – from pottery to felted ornaments to weavings and so on. Or my first experience of the prairies. So much to chose from.
In the end the decision was fairly easy. I have a passion for geology, minerals, and mining history and when Andrea offered to drive us to the former Steep Rock iron mine site outside of Atikokan, we were happy to accept. The mine operated from the mid 1940s until the late 1970s and played an important role in providing raw materials for the production of a variety of things, including World War Two Hawkers Hurricanes planes.
The mining of the site was an engineering marvel because the ore actually lay beneath Steep Rock Lake and its extraction involved damming and draining the water.
The site is huge and is becoming quite naturalized again but there Is still lots of evidence of what was there, if you look. We took in elevated views of some sections of the pits and discovered remnants of the train line that serviced the site. We drove along a pit road and stopped for pics at a tailings area. What is most striking is the color of the earth throughout the area, the rusty red of weatherized iron ore. It looks just gorgeous against the white birchs and evergreens of the area and is guaranteed to send you on your way with red stained shoe soles!
I could have spent much more time exploring the mine area but we wanted to visit the town of Atikokan too. It wasn’t too difficult to imagine what the town must have been like in the mid 20th century when the mine was a booming local industry, but today unfortunately there are a lot of empty storefronts and buildings. Even in the thirty plus years my friend has lived in the area, many businesses she once knew are gone. I was glad to be able to support the local shops by stopping at the grocery store, the thrift shop, and Walt’s dry goods store. Unfortunately the Atikokan museum was closed that day. It apparently has a lot of artifacts and information on the town and the local mines.