Longlac is approximately half way between Toronto and Winnipeg, and is 320 kilometres from Thunder Bay. So for me, on one particularly longish trip, making it to Longlac was kindofabigdeal.
There is nothing between Hearst and Longlac save for maybe a gas station (and I mean maybe) and the Klotz Lake washroom/swimming combo rest station on the side of the road. The drive seems. to. take. for. ever. (ok I think I got my point across, it’s probably not that bad.)
So, for me at least, the oncoming arrival of Longlac was a big deal – finally, the end of this 200 kilometre stretch of nothingness…! It’s no surprise that the town’s Protestant church is named St. John-in-the-Wilderness. And it wasn’t founded in the fur trading days either – this was founded ‘in the wilderness’ in, wait for it, 1943.
Today, Longlac is a former paper and forestry town trying to reinvent itself in a difficult economy and represents the westernmost edge of northern Ontario’s francophone belt – just under half its residents are French-speakers. Hence the local caisse.
When you get into the town you’re immediately greeted by a horse statue and two beached boats. The horse is pulling logs (which you can’t see unless you climb up the little hill to the statue itself.) I think the boats are supposed to carry logs too. They seem to be the remains of a former miniputt course. It’s too bad it can be a bit confusing to the visitor.
Longlac has a long history. Prior to 1800 the town was a North West Company trading post. In 1814, the Hudson Bay Company set up a rival post, and in the spirit of modern commercialism the two merged in 1821. There is a historical plaque with a statue of two guys in a canoe, representing the role of Aboriginal peoples and fur traders in building Longlac. There’s also a town history board back at the tourist office/former mini putt site.
Longlac used to be a mill town but today, no mills operate in Longlac. All three have shut down in the last few years. “Founded on fur, sustained by the forest” is Longlac’s motto, and considering that the forestry industry is contracting in northern Ontario, you have to wonder what a town of 1200ish will find to sustain itself. What other jobs can there be in the area? How long before parents have to start working in Alberta? It is communities like Longlac that you really feel for – they’ve survived this long.
Longlac’s main strip is Forestry Road, which runs perpendicular to Highway 11. It has a row of streetlights right in the middle of the road, which practically invites you to play a game of bumper cars with your vehicle. What happens if you have to swerve for a dog?
Longlac has the requisite truck stops and third tier franchises of a Highway 11 town, with places like Robin’s Doughnuts and 2 for 1 Pizza. There’s an LCBO outlet, a bed and breakfast (Lily’s), and what seems like the newest Rexall pharmacy in Canada. (It is so shiny and suburban that it looks a bit out of place.)
I hope to visit again. Maybe someone can send me an email and let more know a bit more so I can add it here.
Northeast of Long Lac is Switzer Lake. In the bush near the boat access is a old sizable inclined sheet metal structure. Was this used to sort gravel, recover gold or something else? Thank You.
I love Longlac. My husband is from there and although you are correct about the mills shutting down and people leaving to work out West or elsewhere, it still has its quaint homing call. The people are down to earth and awesome, the surrounding lakes are beautiful, and there is reslilience as they try and recover.
I was just made aware of a post on this site by mark davies dated I believe feb 7th 2015 why are you using my name dude not cool yes I did live in longlac and did know those people but have nothing to do with this story so stop using my name
Back around 1975 our family drove a truck camper into the Geraldton area while on holiday. Seeking a place to camp for the night and being a police officer in the states, I went to the O.P.P. office for advise..
Officer I spoke to suggested a place where he and his family camped. All I remember is that it was about 20-30 miles north on a paper company road. It was a small site for just two camp spaces. It was just off the road to the right about 100 ft or so with a lake shore a short walk away. Many years later some thing keeps calling me back but doubt if I could find it again. Any ideas?
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Clear things up, there is a wood mill running behind the town and on your way to Ginoogaming (77 Reserve), the stupid horse was knocked down by a storm – a year or two years ago. It hasn’t been fixed since. A skate park has replaced the abandoned mini putt. The white church just off the highway on your way to Longlake 58 reserve was burned down by delinquents on May 23, 2018.
lonac sucks!! i live here it’s the worst freak sakes