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Sunset Country - Red Lake District Information
Posted July 15th., 2012

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History of
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Red Lake, Ontario

Located at the northern end of Highway 105, the Municipality of Red Lake is the most northwesterly municipality in Ontario. With a population approaching 5,000, this full service northern community is made up of six distinct town sites, Red Lake, Balmertown, Cochenour, Madsen, McKenzie Island and Starratt Olsen. The east to west extent of the Red Lake water system is almost 75 miles - from Pipestone in the west to East Bay and the Chukuni River emptying from Little Vermilion Lake in the east. Over one hundred miles of interconnected waterways of the Chukuni River and Lac Seul drainage system join Red Lake itself with the CNR Railway at Hudson and Sioux Lookout to the south.
Click map to enlarge
Red Lake is the site of the richest Gold mine in Canada to-day. Previously known as the New Dickenson Property, it has been amalgamated with several other local producers and reborn as Goldcorp. In fact, with prices of Gold above $1,300/oz., the Red Lake area is undergoing a 21st century exploration boom that rivals that of the early 1930's.

Distances to Red Lake

At Vermilion Bay, take Highway 105 north 172 km (106 miles) to the Municipality of Red Lake. From Winnipeg, you'll take the Trans Canada Highway (Highway 1) to Vermilion Bay then north on #105 via Ear Falls

Red Lake to Kenora - 270 km.

Red Lake to Winnipeg (MB) - 470 km (290 Miles) - 6 hrs.

Red Lake to Thunder Bay - 535 km (355 Miles) - 7-8 hrs.

Transportation to Red Lake

In the early years of its existence Red Lake was only accessible by air or water. It was once the busiest airbase in Canada (1937), but from the late 1940's, the Red Lake area has had an all weather DOT approved Airport located at Cochenour/Balmertown which is serviced daily by Bearskin Airways flying scheduled flights from Winnipeg & Thunder Bay.

It is hard to comprehend in 2012, that many of the original pioneers that went in to the Red Lake area in the 1920's and early 1930's, did so by water leaving from Hudson or Sioux Lookout, across Lac Seul to Pine Ridge & Ear Falls on the English River, then crossing the watershed to the Chukuni River system and on to Red Lake. Depending on the season, they travelled by canoe after breakup and dog team or even on foot over the ice in the winter months.

The other alternative was by airplane. In fact, Red Lake carved out a page in aviation history in 1925 when the Howey Mine, staked by the Howey brothers, became the first mine in Canada to be developed by flying in the materials to the remote site by bush pilots flying a variety of float or ski equipped aircraft.

The first of these were the Curtiss HS-2L Flying Boats hired from the Ontario Forestry Service which used Sioux Lookout as their main base.

The credit for that innovation is laid at the doorstep of Jack Hammell who was also the mining promoter behind the Pickle Crow mine at Pickle Lake. Even the famed prospector Gilbert Labine of the Eldorado, Great Slave Lake, Pine Point pitchblende discovery fame flew into Red Lake to participate in its development.

In 1934, the price of gold rose from $20.00 to $35.00/oz, resulting in increased mining activity in Red Lake. By the mid 30s, the bush plane was dominating travel to the goldfields, and in the summer of 1936 and winter of 1937, with aircraft landing at fifteen minute intervals, the Bruce Channel between Cochenour and Mckenzie Island on Red Lake, became the busiest airport in the world.

The formation of Western Canada Airways in Hudson in 1926 by Harry 'Doc' Oaks with the backing of James Richardson, to service the Red Lake Gold Rush, and the prior founding of Patricia Airways at Sioux lookout, as well as Starratt Airways, made a lasting impact on air travel in Canada. From these early aviation ventures evolved Canadian Airways and later CP Air and Canadian Airlines. Not to be overlooked is Elliott Air Services which flew into Red Lake and surrounding area in the mid 1920's.

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