Elk Lake

Elk Lake is a community of about 800 people at the junction of Highways 65 and 560, on the banks of the Montreal River.  Equally anglophone and francophone, Elk Lake sits at the western edge of the Temiskaming Clay Belt and is primarily a forestry town. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page for more photos.)

Elk Lake, Highway 66, Ontario

Random photo at the Domtar mill in Elk Lake, with random worker from a random website

According to Museums North, remnants of pictographs on rocks show that the Elk Lake area was along trade routes used by the Cree and Anishnabai people. These routes were already well established prior to the establishment of the Fur Trade of the mid 1600s. Remnants of an Aboriginal graveyard that can be seen on the south side of town indicate that Elk Lake was settled long before Europeans arrived. The local Ojibway peoples named the lake after the huge herds of elk that roamed the area at this time.

Elk Lake church

Church in Elk Lake

Although forestry had been going on in the area since the mid 1800s, Elk Lake didn’t become settled by Europeans until silver was discovered in the area in 1906. The town was set up in 1909, road connections to Elk Lake were built (previously, you could only get there by steamboats on the Montreal River, from Latchford) and eventually there were 30 active mines in the area, and the town peaked with a population of 10 000. A line of the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway was built to the town in 1913.

Elk Lake Today

Today, Elk Lake is home to about 400 people. The town straddles the shore of the Montreal River, which makes for some beautiful views, especially when the sun shines off the shimmering water. I was pretty impressed with how clean and tidy Elk Lake was – the village could make for a nice getaway if you’re willing to go off the beaten path in search of quiet, solitude, and relaxation. It’s also not too far from Long Lake, which has even more hunting, fishing, boating, and swimming opportunities.

Elk Lake River

Elk Lake River

Elk Lake’s major employer is the Elk Lake Planing Mill, owned by forest industry giant Domtar. You can call 678-2210 to go for tours in the plant. Mining has all but disappeared, although high metals prices have re-ignited exploration in the area. Being at the western edge of the Temiskaming Claybelt, there is also some agriculture in and around Elk Lake, largely beef and horse farms.

Bison farm, Elk Lake

The fence doesn’t inspire…

Elk Lake, surprising to some, has gotten a bit of a reputation for being a community with a green outlook. The town is known as a proponent of sustainable forestry. It is also the site of the Elk Lake Eco Resource Centre, a conference/banquet/retreat/hotel facility which was built with local economic and environmental sustainability in mind. Citizens of Elk Lake were also instrumental in the fight against Adams Mine, when the Ontario government was proposing to use the former Kirkland Lake mine site as a dumping ground for Toronto’s garbage.Farm country, Elk Lake, northern Ontario

As for services, I’ve only been to Elk Lake once so I can’t comment too much. In addition to the Eco Centre, there’s a chip stand (year-round!), an LCBO, gas, some motels, a small grocery store and an outfitters. I know there are a number of tourist camps, lodges, and cabin rental places in the area that offer outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, snowshoeing, canoeing, and camping. Elk Lake is also home to a cross-country ski club that maintains about 15 kilometres of trails. The municipal campground has a boat launch, a beach, and hiking along the Bear Creek Rapids. The town is also close to the northernmost point of Makobe-Greys River Provincial Park.
In 2009, the Township of James (in which Elk Lake is situated) will celebrate their 100th Anniversary.

WOODPiLE! Elk Lake

Finally! It’s been so long since I’ve seen a woodpile!

Hayden – Elk Lake Serenade

Elk Lake, I think, is also the inspiration for the title of Hayden’s CD Elk Lake Serenade, which I can say (and can many others) is probably one of his best albums. (Hayden is a Toronto-based folk-rock musician, who was heralded as the next Beatles in the mid 1990s when he released a home-made tape recorded in his bedroom. Evidently, that level of fame never panned out, however, he is still a fantastic musician nonetheless.)Elk Lake River

Email me to add to this page at info (at) highway11 (dot) ca, or comment below

7 thoughts on “Elk Lake

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  2. Hello,

    Borealis, the history of the paper industry in Trois-Rivières center (QC) is currently working on the adaptation of an exhibition that is running: Generations, when the paper is a family affair. Adaptation will add elements of Ontario and New Brunswick. We meet a total of 18 families, including four in Ontario to capture their family history in the industry. To learn more about our show, I invite you to visit the following link: http://www.borealis3r.ca/en/exhibitions/temporary/generations/

    We visited Elk Lake last spring to meet Terry Fiset which will be part of our show.

    The exhibition will travel thereafter through eastern Canada. See the following information: http://www.naturesciences.qc.ca/event/generations/

    I need to find very quickly, a picture of the city of Elk Lake in connection with the forest and paper industries.

    I wonder if you are able to give me a little help in the search for this photo, it would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you in advance for your cooperation!

  3. Many Years a go I purchased some property in Davidson Twp near Council Creek and I am having a difficult time locating maps of the area. Perhaps you can steer me in the right direction. Thanks

  4. I am trying to find out any information about my grandmother. She was born in Elk Lake 1916. Rumor has it that she is of aboriginal lines. Is there anywhere that I can find out this history?

    • Hi Jane

      Both my Grandparents grew up in Elk Lake and probably know of your grandmother. What was her name? I can ask for information from them!
      There are some records at the Township of James municipal office as well, or there is the Elk Lake Museum.

  5. My memeoires of Elk lake go back to December 24, 1953. I was working out of Swastika maintaining the telephone long distance equipment. On December 24 I was in Cobalt maintaining the telephone switchboard and batteries. I arrived back in Swastika after checking equipment in New Liskeard at 5 PM I was called out at 7:30PM with a report that Elk Lake was not getting rings on the long distance circuits to Cobalt. I arrived in Elk Lake at 9:45 PM after travelling through Charlton on Highway 560.
    I found that the AC power from Ontario Hydro had dropped feeding the carrier equipment.
    I adjusted the power supplies on the telephone carrier equipment to compensate for the low hydro voltage. The whole town of Elk Lake was decorated with Christmas lights and was spectacular
    I waited for test with Cobalt and also checked that the AC power would not increase to blow the telephone power supplies.
    While waiting Mrs Craig the Telephone Chief Operator gave me some Christmas Cake and a coffee .
    The telephone switchboard and equipment at that time was usually in homes. This was to provide service at small cost.
    Everything was working ok and I left Elk lake at 11PM . I decided to take Highway 65 to New Liskeard
    and number 11 to Swastika. I knew that on Christmas that there would not be many cars travelling 560 from Charlton.
    I arrived back in Swastika at 2AM Christmas morning.
    There were probably many long distance calls on Christmas day to Elk Lake by various families.
    In a small way I made this easier for them.

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