Rainy River is closer to Winnipeg than Thunder Bay – and considering it’s in the same province as places as far away as Windsor, Ottawa, and Welland, you can tell why some people in the north may feel a bit disaffected. I mean, technically, it is faster to drive from Toronto to Rainy River via the US, passing through Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, rather than taking Highway 17 and/or Highway 11 the whole way.
Depending on the direction you’re travelling, Rainy River is either the start or the end of Highway 11. Atwood Street in Rainy River is the terminus of Toronto’s Yonge Street – all 1600 kilometres of it.
Rainy River is the gateway to northwestern Ontario – well, if you’re coming from the west, that is. Rainy River is about 100 kilometres west of Fort Frances on Highway 11, and about 450 kilometres west of Thunder Bay.Rainy River began with a lumber mill in 1895 and by 1901 the CNR had a stop there. By 1904 the town was established. Today, its importance as a railway and logging town diminished, Rainy River is home to about 1000 people. It’s an important border crossing, with access to Minnesota, and has plenty of outdoor activities.
Rainy River is home to the 4008, a restored steam locomotive that used to run the CNR route to the town. Much like the Shay in Iroquois Falls, the train is a testament to the old logging and railway industries which once dominated northern Ontario. There is a railway heritage museum in town detailing Rainy River’s history with the railway.
Rainy River also has a marina, sports facilities, and both a buffalo and an elk farm. There is a lot of hunting, fishing, boating, and swimming. Rainy River is one of the towns closest to the beautiful Lake of the Woods.
Rainy River hosts a few festivals including the mid-summer Railroad Daze, the Walleye Fishing Derby, and the Rainy River Giant Pumpkin Festival. (Doesn’t some town in Nova Scotia have a giant pumpkin festival too? Where they row the carved pumpins like boats? I don’t know.)
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