Pearl / Dorion

Welcome to Ontario’s “Canyon Country…”

Dorion gas station mural canyon country pearl highway 11 yonge street thunder bay ontario

The mural at the now-abandoned gas station at Dorion, near Pearl on Highway 11

Situated between the Wolfe River and Coldwater Creek, Dorion is your typical Highway 11 dot-on-the-map.  There are some scattered houses and an abandoned motel, but nowhere really to turn off the highway, at least that I have seen in my drives for work along the road.

Dorion indian head ontario highway 11 thunder bay rock statue canyon country

Dorion’s Indian Head on Highway 11. I’m really not saying the human head or face here…

Dorion is home to Canada’s largest wildlife mural – but not in the local gallery, or the town hall, or the café, but ….drumroll… at the Esso station.  The station is painted on all three sides, with moose, fish, and wolf representing Dorion’s place in “Canyon Country”.

As well, the station features a recreation of an Aboriginal sculpture known as the Indian Head.  (Both are pictured here.)  This sculpture is a recreation of Indian Head, a rock formation found in nearby Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park.  This is pure Highway 11 – random things in a completely random place.

Highway 11 randomness #347b: random fake animals near Pearl, Ontario

Highway 11 randomness #347b: random fake animals near Pearl, Ontario

Dorion is in the middle of what is called “Canyon Country” as Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park is approximately 12 kilometres north of the ‘town’. Nearby Eagle Canyon is a private park that has built Canada’s longest suspension bridge over the Ouimet Canyon – 600 feet across and more than 200 in height.

Dorion is also home to a bottled water works, Ontario’s largest fish culture station, the Trillium Motel, a bait shop, and a bible camp.

Pearl wasn’t on the map.  In Pearl you can find the Rocksville Amethyst Shop, some animal statues (which are small by Highway 11 standards), and a few bush side-streets.


18 thoughts on “Pearl / Dorion

  1. Good day. I moved from Toronto to Thunder Bay in the fall of 1984 and drove through your quaint area for the first time. It was in full fall colors and was beautiful. It was the first time I had heard of the town of Pearl and since then wondered if my family was somehow connected to it. I asked my father if he knew of any connection to us. He told me that my grandfather worked on the survey crew for the railroad through ontario and it may be possible that some of the landmarks were named after the workers. We do know for certain that Pearl Beach in Larder Lake Ontario was named after my Grampa Thomas Pearl (brother was Will Pearl)
    as there are records and photos confirming such. He had owned a general store on the “beach” at one point in his life. . In regards to the town of Pearl and the river I would love to know if there is any family connection. Both my grand parents were from Prescott ontario originally and my dad grew up in Scarborough ontario (then a borough of Toronto) and recalls playing on and climbing on the Scarborough Bluffs. Does anyone know how the river and settlement got its name Pearl.
    Thank you . Donald Ross Pearl

  2. I was through Pearl last week and stopped to look at the McTavish Recreation Centre, formerly McTavish School, at which my Dad, the late Walter Miller, was principal in the late 50’s through about ’67 (as mentioned in my earlier post above).

    The school still stands and remarkably can be entered through the side door entrance to the furnace room…given that the place is open and unattended it is pleasantly surprising that there is so little vandalism or weather damage, just a bit on the messy side for the most part.

    A lady who went to the school and still lives in the area informed me that the school is slated to be torn down in the future, to make way for the twinning of Hwy 17. The eastern end of the twinned portion presently begins about 10 kM west of the school road, but there is already construction underway at the west side of Nipigon on the new parallel road, so I imagine it won’t be too much longer before the old school is taken down. If you’re in the area, I do recommend you visit the school and walk around the inside to collect as many memories and photos as you can before it’s too late.

    As always, I welcome e-mails from anyone who remembers my Dad or the junior-grades teacher Mrs. Winslow from their childhood, and I thank those former students who have previously been in contact with me. All the best to you, Pearl!

  3. My Dad and uncles and Aunt grew up near Pearl when my Grandfather ran a section house for Kinghorn Rail. The house was between Peal and Pass Lake. My Dad brought me there when we were out hunting I was about 12 years old, so that would of been around 1964. I want to go bring my son and see if I can find any sign of the old place. I heard the tracks are not used can quads go down there along the tracks? Want to try it this August.

  4. Lived in both Pearl and PassLake as a kid. Have been trying for years to locate an old friend; Rhonda Remple – does anyone know her or know how she might be contacted? As far as I can tell, her parents are “gone” (?) and / or she has been married and changed here name, or she is “gone” as well…?



    • George and Effie Rempel are still alive and still live in Pearl. Their ph # is 807 977 2637.
      I grew up in Pearl and know them well.
      Hope this helps.

    • Hey Sam (Andrew). I am down in southern Ontario now. It is beautiful here, but so different from the north! Good times growing up in Pearl, at the rink, the swimming pool, and playing cards. Good times!

  5. I grew up in Pearl(next door to Andersons) and went to McTavish school. I have alot of great memories of my country life in Pearl with wonderful neighbours and friends.

  6. OMG..I went to visit my grandfather when he lived in Pearl when I was 10 or 11..(so many years ago)..Loved it there!! what beautiful scenery. Good memories!

  7. hello all of my fellow pearl members this jim bobbs and i made it big,i now work at sobeys as a cashier,when i get my first pay check,,i will bvuy everyone a beer,,,love yall ta peices…see yall friday

  8. My dad was principal and taught at McTavish School (with Mrs. Winslow) in Pearl from the 50s into the mid-60s. His name was Walter Miller, and had been known as Walter Miettinen before he legally changed his name in 1958. If anyone has memories of my dad or of the School before it became a Community Centre, I’d love to hear from you at All the best to the residents of Pearl!

  9. pearl is a small hamlet of a village, named after pearl river which is in all honesty nuthing but a oversized creek. and has about 5roads leading off the highway (or is it 2 roads named road 5 south and north??) basically it is just a location of a MTO garage and thats about it,

    the aminals statues, rockville ect are located approx 20 km west at pass lake, where there a few hotels, a truckstop, and a highway leading to the sleeping giant provincial park (recieved the most votes in cbc’s canada’s natural wonders”) and silver inlet, where back in the early days of canadas history, was the richest silver mine in the world. (the place also boasts some of the coolest wildlife and indian legends of all time)

    its almost common to be able to hear wolves howeling at night in the park since its a major migration trail (actually migration dead end but animals are map stupid), sleeping giant also boasts 1 of the oldest skelital remains ever found (world wide) dating back to pre ice age

  10. In those days the Ontario Government ran a large fish hatchery in Dorion. Wonder what became of that hatchery ? Perhaps Mike Harris closed it down ?

    • The Dorion Fish Culture Station in still in operation. it was recently renovated and updated. The public can tour the station. You can probably get their contact information on the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources web site
      Deb, Dorion resident

  11. I was camped for a few months in the woods north of Dorion, as a tree planter. We’re talking 1981. One of the few places in Ontario, with red soil. Kind of like PEI. Grateful to this day for the physical strength and the emotional strength, I gained during those summers in Northern Ontario.

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