One tourist guide I picked up said that Smooth Rock was the “perfect stop over and supply center.” Man, those guys really know how to write a tourist brochure. Talk about underselling…Smooth Rock deserves more than that!
Nestled along the picturesque Mattagami River, Smooth Rock is more than just a town that sounds like a radio station. It was home to Jeffrey Buttle, a recently retired Olympic silver medalist and world champion figure skater; Louise Pitre, a singer who has appeared on Broadway; and JP Parise, a former NHLer who played in the ’72 Summit Series, has coached at the famous Minnesota Shattuck-St Mary’s hockey program, and who is also the father of New Jersey Devils’ forward Zach Parise. Those are three people that should have their own “Welcome to Smooth Rock, the home of…” signs on the way into town. I’ll pledge 50$ toward that.
Smooth Rock is a largely francophone community of 1800 centered on the pulp and paper mill. The problem is that “the North’s biggest little town” (their motto, I think) is about to get smaller as the mill shut down indefinitely in July 2006. Smooth Rock is facing an uncertain future after the loss of their major employer. Which is really sad, since it’s a cute town and probably a great place to grow up and to retire. I’ve heard that the town and its residents are trying to start up a community-based venture to restart the now shuttered mill, but I don’t know if they’ve been successful.
Smooth Rock doesn’t have a tonne of touristy-type stuff. There’s the Forget Me Not BnB west of the river. There’s also a nine-hole golf course, a nice park on the east side of the river, and there are some fishing opportunities as well. Smooth Rock is good place to stop on the way to Kapuskasing and a place to get gas if you’re heading up to Fraserdale.
Northway Restaurant claims they have the “best poutine in the north”, although I’m sure that Poutineland in Timmins gives them a run for their money. Audrey’s has good breakfast in a spartan setting. There’s also Coco’s Chip Stand off the highway. Rue Sixth is the main business section for Smooth Rock. There’s a full-blown LCBO, an Esso, and a Tim-Br Mart. The Moose Motel provides accommodations and SRF’s entry into the “some big weird thing” motif that is all the rage on Highway 11: a statue of a moose. There is no Tim Horton’s or chain stores as far as I have seen. I don’t know if there is a Chinese restaurant, but it’s northern Ontario so there must be one somewhere.Also, don’t be fooled. There are signs advertising the “SRF Centre” on Highway 11 in both directions. It’s not a mall – the “SRF Centre” is a truckstop with some slightly self-aggrandizing tendencies.
On an anecdotal bent, the town of Smooth Rock Falls used to plow each resident’s driveway in the winter. I don’t know why that service ended.