Big City Tales

Canada’s Gateway to the West Rolls Through Thunder Bay | February 27, 2018

Situated on the banks of Lake Superior in Northwestern Ontario, the city of Thunder Bay has long been an important region and natural wonder in the heart of Central Canada. From its early beginnings as a First Nations gathering place to its emergence as a fur trading post and eventual shipping and railway transportation hub between Eastern and Western Canada, there is much to experience and enjoy in “Canada’s Gateway to the West.”

Mount McKay

Offering a gorgeous view of the city and western shore of  Lake Superior, what better way to begin exploring the city than a visit to the Mount McKay Scenic Lookout where the Thunder Bay eagle looms large and majestic. Located on the Fort William First Nation, the lookout includes a walkway and other tributes to the city’s indigenous people such as the Mountain Chapel and Memorial that honours those who died in the world wars.

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Chippewa Park 

After soaking up the views on high at Mount McKay, head on down and take a short drive along City Road to one of Thunder Bay’s grandest and oldest lakefront recreation spots.

Chippewa Park features an old-fashioned carousel and other rides along with a dance hall, picnic areas and long stretches of sand along Sandy Beach looking out toward the famous Sleeping Giant located on Sibley Peninsula.

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The Legend of the Sleeping Giant

While there are a few versions of how the Sleeping Giant land formation came to be, one of the most common centres around an old Ojibwa story.

Legend has it that the spirit figure, Nanabijou, was turned to stone and fell into his final resting place in the waters of Thunder Bay after the secret location of a silver mine known as ‘Silver Islet’ was revealed to white men.

The mine and its riches were intended to be a reward to the Ojibwa for their loyalty and peaceful way of life provided the mine’s whereabouts was safeguarded. Unfortunately, the consequences of its discovery meant instant peril for Nanabijou and the Ojibwa tribe; the great Spirit of the Deep Water was frozen in stone for all eternity and the silver treasure was lost forever.

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Prince Arthur’s Landing at Marina Park

From the winding shores of Sandy Beach at Chippewa Park a good spot to check out next is Prince Arthur’s Landing, a large waterfront complex located in Marina Park.

Whether you fancy a stroll along the boardwalk or a sail on the lake, there is plenty to keep you happily occupied. Public art installations are prominently featured along the pier area, as well as a splash pad/wading pool and skateboard/BMX park for all ages to utilize.

Marina Park is also home to The Anchorage Memorial that honours naval veterans from World War II and the old C.N. Station which was designed in the popular “Railroad Gothic” style of architecture that was popular from the 1880s to the 1930s.

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Fort William Historical Park

The early economic history of Thunder Bay comes to life at Fort William, the world’s largest fur trading post where employees of the North West Company alongside the Ojibwa conducted their business centuries ago.

A large native encampment on the fort’s perimeter showcases traditional wigwams and fur drying techniques along with other crafts and cooking.

Inside the fort over 30 historical buildings depict the day-to-day life of the fur trade industry representatives.

For its time the fort was a grand undertaking and reflected the wealth and success achieved by the North West Company. All necessities were provided including a hospital, apothecary, powder magazine, observatory and jail.

Finlandia

In addition to the intrepid French voyageurs and British settlers who traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to participate in the fur trade, Thunder Bay also has a large Finnish population. Migrant workers from Finland were instrumental in fostering positive labour practices in the early part of the 20th Century.

The Finnish Labour Temple was built in 1910 and proudly flies the flag of its adopted homeland. Right next door you can get your fill of Finnish pancakes at Hoito Restaurant.

Kaministikwia River Heritage Park

More commonly referred to as Kam River Park, the area features a long walkway and scenic views of the Kaministikwia River.

Historical structures such as the 100-year-old James Whelan Tug boat and a vintage VIA Rail train can be found here along with newer public art installations such as the beautiful Animikii – Flies the Thunder sculpture.

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Thunder Bay Museum

Before it was a museum, the building was first known as the Donald Street Station, which was the police station and courthouse for the historic City of Fort William.

Covering the periods of early native life through to modern times, the museum features three floors and six galleries of permanent and rotating exhibits. It’s a wonderful place to get a sense of the local, regional and national influences that contributed to Thunder Bay’s development.

“Superior by Nature”

Thunder Bay’s “Superior by Nature” corporate tagline reflects two equally important aspects about the city: its location in proximity to Lake Superior; and its beautiful natural environment that can be enjoyed year-round.

From lakes and rivers to mountains and forests, the diverse terrain provides the perfect landscape to explore the great outdoors in myriad ways.

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