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.
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.According 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.
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