Fraserdale

Fraserdale, Ontario, highway 11 siteFraserdale began life as the railway stop three miles from the Abitibi Canyon Colony.  It is not on Highway 11, instead being about an hour’s drive north on Highway 634.

The colony, approximately 5 kilometres from present-day Fraserdale, was constructed by Ontario Hydro to house staff for nearby hydroelectric dams. At its height, the Abitibi Canyon Colony was home to 300 people. Major indoor facilities included a three-sheet curling rink, hockey rink, swimming pool, four-lane bowling alley, billiard room, library, gymnasium, and a theatre. The extent of these facilities were needed to help entertain families in such an isolated location.

Abitibi Dam near Fraserdale

Abitibi Dam near Fraserdale (Photo credit: Patrick, including the next photo.)

However, the Abitibi Canyon Colony fell victim to isolation and economics. Children has to leave the colony for high school or complete final years by correspondence, often boarding with families in Timmins and Kapuskasing. The Abitibi Canyon Colony was the most extensive community ever built by Ontario Hydro, at its height housing up to 1500 residents. Until 1966, the community was only accessible by rail, and even then the train only ran three times per week. By the 1980s, the site cost well over 1 000 000$ per year to maintain. The Abitibi Canyon Colony was eventually phased out in 1980 over a two year period. Check out the Abitibi Canyon Reunion site for some old photos and memories.  The colony’s history is available here.Rail equipment in FraserdaleAccording to info from Don, Fraserdale wasn’t much of a town while the Abitibi Canyon Colony was up and running. Today Fraserdale is a small hydro community, and acts as starting points for bush journeys and wilderness trips, most frequently for canoeists who are traveling up the large rivers to Moosonee or Moose Factory.

Highway 634 began construction in 1966. Completed and paved in 1971, the road links Fraserdale to Smooth Rock Falls and Highway 11, approximately 75 kilometres to the south. Like many northern towns, the community was named for a railway engineer, Alan Fraser.

Fraserdale siding, ontario highway11.ca

Fraserdale siding solitude. (Photo credit: User P199 at Wiki Commons.)

Jamie was up that way a few years ago and reported that the Polar Bear Express will pick up passengers at Fraserdale Station according to a sign at the start of 634 in Smooth Rock Falls. Island Falls GS is a dead end but a good stop where you may be able to see helicopters.  The highway is paved right to Abitibi Canyon GS, and is in great shape.

Recently, author Joseph Boyden wrote a short (fictional) story about the building of a dam in the Abitibi River canyon in his collected of short stories set in the north titled Born With A Tooth.

I didn’t head up the road to Fraserdale during any of my journeys and couldn’t find much on the net. Thanks to Patrick and to Jamie for the photos.

Can you add to this page? Please email me at info (at) highway11 (dot) ca

Fraserdale, hydro generating station, highway 11

View from Island Falls hydro station (Photo credit:  Jamie, including next two photos)

Fraserdale Ontario rapids otter

Fraserdale Ontario 50th parallel highway 11

At the 50th parallel

33 thoughts on “Fraserdale

  1. My family moved to Fraserdale in 1964. I was 2 1/2 years old. I still remember the train ride there. My father was Robert Sweezey and he was a teacher at the School. We lived there from 1964 until June 1970 before moving to Sudbury. We first lived in the old colony up on the hill in a 2 storey white house and eventually moved to the new colony into a bungalow. The first 2 years or so there was no road. We had to take the train from Smooth Rock Falls. I remember my brother who was 9 years older would take the bus which was I believe was a 45 mile trek into Smooth Rock for high school. I remember when they built the Rec Centre and how excited we were. I certainly remember the black flies and the smog machine that all the kids would run through for fun when they tried to kill the bugs! I remember going on the Polar Bear Express as well. I remember my grade 2 teacher’s name was Mrs. Lebreton. I also remember a teacher by the name of Mrs. Ramsbottom. I also remember the Lavigne family and my good friend was Bernadette Heiblein. We kept writing to each other until we were 16 years old. Memories….

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  5. Hi Chris,
    My Brother, Terrance, sent me your link, which he found while researching for his new novel, “Bones in the Dam” which was just released last week. It has a lot of memories of “The Canyon” and the people who lived there.
    I lived in Abitibi Canyon with my Brother, Terrance, and our parents, Tom and Hilda Millet from 1947 to 1954. I spent a lot of my time with both the Iserhoff and Wischee Families. Susie was my best Friend in the Canyon and used to bring me jewellery to school in Miss Anderson’s class. I used to spend so much time with your Families that my nickname was..and still is..”Wischee”!
    Those were the best remembered years of my Life. It was a pure and uncomplicated time and many of the experiences are still present and important to me.
    Your Father taught my Brother and I a lot of useful things about winter.
    Never eat snow if you are thirsty. It drops your body temp. Always carry pebbles to suck if you are thirsty.
    Never spit outside in the winter. It releases precious heat.
    Good to read your blog.
    Best health and wishes to you and your Family.
    Best thoughts,
    Cheryl Millet Marquez

  6. i was born in fraserdale,ont.in 1949.my family lived on the hill on right hand side just before getting into the canyon.my dad tomas ierhoff worked for the hydro in fraserdale for about 25 yrs.we were a family of 11.now there are only foury remaing that are living,fred,johnny,louisa, and me chris.mom passed away in the old clinic for those of you who remember the old clinic.the old staff is where i watched my first hockey game on t.v with my dad.i have lots memorys of the canyon.and we can’t forget the whichee family who used to be our close negbours.henry whichee and his family.well i could write more,but that’s good for now.if you remeber my family please feel to e-mail me. i give permission to use my e-mail,or facebook me. Thank You Christopher Iserhoff

    • lived at the Fraser dale train station from 1952 to 1963. My father treva and Audrey bain. My dad was the station agent. We went to school in the canyon. I remember going to school on a motor car that my father built. The smith family came to school with us. I remember your family Chris Iserhoff and Henry whichee.
      treva bain. April 22, 2015

    • Hi Chris, It is so great to see your post. My sister Treva Bain was looking for the Abitibi Canyon Reunion and found you. We lived at the Ontario Northland Station, and went to school in the Canyon. My father was Trev Bain, station agent and my Mom was Audrey. Your sister Louisa used to come and stay at our house. Louisa was always an amazing artist. She used to do all the muros for our Christmas concerts at the big recreation hall. My Dad knew your Dad and Mom. I used to pick you guys up with Dad’s car, on way to school. My grampa had a 47 oldsmobile and I drove it sometimes to school. Of course I was under 16 and had no licence. The good old days. My Dad gave the car to your Dad, Tom when we left Fraserdale. I picked up Louisa, Susie, Freddy, Johnny, etc. I remember the Wischees (Harry, Henry, etc.). Played with those kids too. I left in 1963 to go out to High school. Mom and Dad moved to Connaught. I have tons of pictures of us at the Xmas Concerts. Would love to see you guys again. Is Louisa in Moosonee? Please email back. Thanks Amber and Treva

      • well hello Amber.it’s very heart warming to hear from someone from our old home town.yes i remember your old cadillac you used to pick us up in.as for my sister louisa you asked about she lives in Timmins,Ontario.she now 70 years old.yes alot of good memeries in that old canyon.i just retired from job one year ago now enjoying my retirement.worked for 38 years as a heavey equipment operater.i have two girls and 6 grandkids.well thats it for now.stay healthy and live long.again good to hera from you.you can also find me on facebook.

    • Hi Chris,
      We lived in the Canyon from about 1953 to 1960. I remember hunting small birds with sling shots with you and your brother Tommy. We also used to go down towards the dam and play in those old cabooses and rail cars. There was a few of us – I think Garnet Van Horne may have been with us but I’m not sure. Sorry to hear Tom is gone now – those were great memories. It was a great time to be a kid. Take care,

      Bill

    • Hi Christopher,

      I lived in Abitibi Canyon starting in 1946 and went to school with Henry and Harry Whichee–we were in the same class. Samson W. was a bit older, but I knew him pretty well too. I knew your dad slightly, and Louisa and little better.

      The Canyon holds a lot of good memories for me, and it was a real delight to find your post. I hope all is well with you and your family.

      Best thoughts–
      Terrance

  7. My dad worked for hydro as a Station operator and was transferred there in late 62. My family lived there till just after they built the road in from SmoothRock Falls, 66 or early 67. Once the road was built it was easier for the families there to have cars.
    I was in kindergarten to grade 1 at the school there. My older brother was one grade ahead of me. One teacher I remember is Mrs. Ramsbottom. I think she might have been the principal. My dad was active with the scout troop there. I was told by my younger sister that she found a picture of the scout troop back then, online, that my Dad is in. His name was Roy Elliott.
    I went back there in 2003 to look around. Nature is very much reclaiming the area. I did find paved streets. Didn’t have them when wee were there. They were still dirt and gravel.
    I have a few fond memories of there. Used to live beside the Shill’s. Fond memories of picking berries in the woods behind the house in early summer. Going swimming in the river by the cliff at he river in the summer. And of coarse blackfly season…..lol. Also snowbanks along the streets up to the top of the telephone poles. There is a picture around of my brothers and me standing on top of one, heads above the top of the poles.
    I hope to get back there again at least one more time.

  8. I lived in Abitibi Canyon from September 1963 til June 1968. We loved it there. I would have loved to have gone back and seen what it looked like before it was phased out. I remember the recreation centre. I loved to go there to skate, swim, and bowl. It was for me one of those experiences that you never forget. I loved sledding down the big hill in the winter. Unless you lived there you would never understand what it was like to live in a community that was modern but isolated. Also the bugs were awful. I was pleased to find this page to write my thoughts.

  9. My family lived in Fraserdale during the late 60s. I remember hills to roll down, graqvel pits, strange landscapes, cold winters and buggy summers. I remeber the movies I watched at the community centre and the sheer monstrous power of the dam. I’m taking my own girls on a road trip soon. Right to the dam! If it still exists.

  10. My dad was a heavy machinery operator and had brought me on a run with him up to Fraserdale. I was a ripe age of 5 or 6 and I still recall the shear size of the damn. But again at that age everything is massive in size. But regardless, 30 years later, after the fact my dad has passed away I still recall memories of Fraserdale.

  11. Fraserdale might look like its seen better days ..that is because the entire colony was shut down in 1982.Ontario Hydro deemed it too expensive to maintain and that was the end of it.Some of my best memories come from that tiny place in the middle of nowhere.Would I do it all over again ..no doubts in my mind,a very profound yes!!

    • Your jewelry is befituaul as always! I notice the pieces more prominently in the photos when the girls aren’t smiling or looking at the camera (the first and last pics). Your eyes go straight to the bright smile or striking eyes in the other photos. Keep the pretty girls but make the detailed jewelry the focus.

  12. We used to live @ Smokey Falls, my dad was operater in charge at the Hydro Plant … i remember being young and having to travel through fraserdale to get back to Hwy 11 and go visit family in Kap & Hearst … we actually went up in 2008 … and there is almost nothing left at the smokey falls site and Fraserdale has seen better days lol

  13. The second printing of Memories Through the Mists of Time was just released. It is the story of the Reise family who live at New Post Hudson’s Bay Post north of Abitibi Canyon, and then moved to Abitibi Canyon, after the dam was completed. If anyone wants more information they can contact us at birchbarkcanoe@nexicom.net

  14. The Soda Shop in the Bishops basement was like Arnolds Drive-In on Happy Days—the ONLY place to go! Always wondered what happened to Janice and the rest of the Bishop family when they left the Canyon

  15. My parents built the soda shop in our basement in Abitibi Canyon in the early 1960′s. Those were the most memorable years of my life. Me and my sister Dolly ran it during the summers for extra cash when we weren’t babysitting for the neighbours. The Lavignes lived next door to us at the time. Although the soda shop was built to entertain the teenagers in town, many parents dropped in for milkshakes or banana splits. Amateur night was the best. Everyone got to sing, dance or play the guitar and generally have a great time.

    • I remember that. We loved the soda shop or whatever it was called. W lived just a few houses away. My name is Brenda Sparkes. My dad’s name was Sparky. My sister’s name is Karen. My mom’s name is Irene. I live in Huntsville Ontario.

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