Rainy River

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.

Highway 11 Rainy River terminus end

Although this website sort of starts in Rainy River, If you came from the south, Rainy River is the end of Highway 11, meaning you have two options: you can take Highway 600 up through Lake of The Woods, or…

Rainy River International Bridge Higway 11

…or you can take the International Bridge across Rainy River to Minnesota (This photo and the above c/o Patrick.)

International Bridge in Rainy River

(Photo: Keith)

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 Locomotive, highway11.caRainy 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.)

Post below, or email me at info (at) highway11 (dot) ca

Rainy River, Ontario, highway 11

Rainy River is small, but is a starting point for outfitting and anything to do with Lake of the Woods. (Photo: User P199 at Wiki Commons.)

Rainy River municipal building, highway11.ca

(Photo credit: User P199 at Wiki Commons.)

7 thoughts on “Rainy River

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  2. The town in NS that has a giant pumpkin festival is Windsor, also home of Kings-Edgewood, one of the oldest private schools in Canada. Giant pumpkins were developed in Windsor by Howard Dill. You can still visit the farm at anytime and his son will be pleased to show you around and explain how the great pumpkins were developed. His father has passed on but he still operates the farm, grows pumpkins and operates two large seed farms in far away California. Behind the farm is the pond where the first hockey game in the world was played – and it’s all FREE to visit.

    Nice Web site btw – haven’t been out that way in 30 years. Nice to see the smallest church is still standing in Emo.

  3. I have just recieved a good book covering the history of Berglan, Tovel, Pratt townships. Great history of swedish/ Norweigen settlers to this area. My question is why doesn’t rainey river district hold a scandanavian festival. I know there are many families with roots that date back to the late 1800′s who moved from minnisota up into Bergland, Rainey River area. I think we have lost our history a bit and I know it can be done with a little community support. Just a thought

  4. You asked for additional information on this piece of Hwy. 11 look at this link
    http://www.momsway.com/ it stands for Manitoba, Ontario, Minnesota and is the route from Wpg MB to Thunder Bay. The Ontario piece is on Hwy 11 thought the Rainy River District. You will enjoy the scenery. This area of Ontario is where the acadian sheild converges with the prairies. As you have aleady noted it is a beautiful part of Ontario. I have just found your site and will enjoy reading through it.

  5. FYI… Rainy River does have a restaurant… a couple motels… OPP station, liquor store, Royal Canadian Legion, bank.. pharmacy… across the river in Baudette Minnesota there is more development, which makes Rainy River look like an even smaller town than it already is. The drive along Highway 11 is fantastic… especially if you are taking this route to Winnipeg. The Highway 17 route is heavily travelled by transport trucks on their way to Winnipeg and points west… this route, because it cuts into the US is probably less travelled because of the problems that would be encountered having to enter the US and then back into Canada 35 miles later at the Sprague border crossing.

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