(from “Signs of History – An Explorer’s Guide to the Rich Heritage of the Wawa Area” by Johanna Rowe)
The Wawa Goose
The Wawa Goose needs little or no introduction. The Goose has stood at the entrance to Wawa since 1960 greeting all visitors.
Fortunately, there is a fundraising campaign underway at this time to help raise funds to replace the Goose. There is more information at the Tourist Information Centre beside the Goose.
Saint Margaret Mary Cemetery
This cemetery is just across from the Michipicoten Memorial Community Centre, and a short stroll from most of Wawa’s hotel/motels. It is a very quiet spot bordered by Mission Road.
Mr. Vallee Park
Started in the early 80’s by Mr. Arsene Vallee. After creating a staircase up the bluff, he continued to create a path to Anderson Lake. In order to do this he drained the swampy land by digging a drainage ditch 1,000 feet long, 3ft wide and 5ft deep. This veteran did this day after day, by hand! At the end of the trail is Anderson Lake where he built a large picnic table and a fishing dock.
Arsene Vallee spent most of his days here after he completed the park with his best friend, a black lab “Lady”, until his death in 1994.
Since then, a local group of volunteers has worked hard to keep the park beautiful, but today the staircase needs work, so ascend at your own risk!
Wawa Lake – Place of Clear Water
This Sign of History is located in the small historical park on the corner of Broadway Avenue and Mackey Street, across from Lion’s Beach.
The present townsite of Wawa was first occupied by the Anishnabe (Ojibway people). The grassy open meadow that existed on this western shore of “wawagonk” was a perfect location for fishing, hunting, trapping and periodic encampments of Northern Ontario’s earliest inhabitants.
Mormon teamsters were the first Europeans to occupy the Wawa townsite and construct permanent structures for shelter. The Mormons set up a camp of sturdy log cabins, stables and a blacksmith shop which were utilized by the many prospectors who swarmed into the region a decade later.
The small log cabin located on the property across Mackey Street from the Lakeview was built adjacent to a boarding house run by the Leveille family in the mid-1930’s . Utilized by a long list of businesses occupying this site, the building now remains as a unique example of a stacked log structure.
Type of Sign: Wawa Lake Beachfront Trail Sign
Directions: From the Wawa Goose, follow Hwy 101 into Wawa. Continue along Mission Road (Hwy 101) to Broadway Avenue, then follow Broadway Avenue to the parking area just before the Rotary Drill at the end of the street.
Location: This interpretive panel is located in Heritage Corner on the corner of Broadway and Mackey Street, opposite the Lakeview Hotel on Broadway Avenue and the Lion’s Beach on Wawa Lake.
Special Instructions: The panel may not be in place during the winter season
Algoma Ore Division – Sinter Plant
This park commemorates the historic contributions of a local Ojibway trapper William Teddy and his wife Louise Towab to the significant mining heritage of the Wawa/Michipicoten region. Local stories record that while collecting water during a picnic at this spot in 1897, Louise Towab and her husband William Teddy discovered gold either at the bottom of her pail, or uncovered a rich gold-bearing quartz vein hidden under moss on the forest floor.
Word about this historic gold find spread quickly. The Michipicoten Gold Boom occurred around the same time as the famous Klondike rush. Fortune seekers from around the world flocked to the forests surrounding Wawa Lake. The Bureau of Mines quickly established the Michipicoten Mining Division, the first of its kind in Ontario. The Division office was located in the factor’s home at the Michipicoten Hudson’s Bay Company post on Michipicoten River.
The Teddys were paid $500 for their chance find that led to a miniature Klondike and sealed Wawa’s future as a mining-based community.
Sign of History – adopted by Wawa Rotary Club.
Directions: From the intersection of Hwy 101 and Broadway Avenue, travel 2.4 kms up the highway along Wawa Lake.
Location: The park site is visible on the lake side (north) of Hwy 101. The sign of history is located along the road as you enter the park.
Sir James Mine
This is the remains of the Sir James Mine, found at the end of Wawa Lake, about 2 kilometers on the Loonskin Lake Road. It is not safe to walk in the pit area, and the area is posted.
Please admire from the road only.
Scenic High Falls – Magpie River
Michipicoten River Village “The Mission”
This quiet cemetery located on the north bank of the Michipicoten and Magpie Rivers is the final resting spot of approximately 2 dozen frontiermen and women of both the 19th and 20th centuries. Due to the ravages of both time and vandals, few markers remain.
Louisa Mackenzie was the wife of Angus Bethune, who was a Chief Factor for the Hudson’s Bay Co. in Sault Ste. Marie in 1830. Louisa died while her husband was stationed as a relief factor at Michipicoten’s Hudson’s Bay Co. post in 1833. Mother of 5 sons and a daughter, Louisa’s father, Roderick Mackenzie (a partner in the North West Co.) was a cousin of the famous Canadian explorer Alexander Mackenzie who completed the first recorded European crossing of North American in 1793. Alexander Mackenzie stayed at the Michipicoten post during this historical journey.
Louisa Mackenzie was great-grandmother to the renowned Canadian Doctor Norman Bethune who discovered a cure for Tuberculosis in the early 1900’s. The Mackenzie headstone is the oldest historical artifact remaining in the Wawa-Michipicoten region today. Vandals shattered Louisa Mackenzie’s headstone in the early 1990’s. The Township of Michipicoten was able to recover all the pieces and successfully restore the marker.
A trail begins from a small pullover off the south side of the Harbour Road. The well worn path is a 2 minute walk through the woods to a quiet cemetery on the north bank of the Michipicoten River.
The Michipicoten River Cemetery is no longer in use, but is still a beautiful place to visit. This cemetery includes families of both First Nations and European descent. The oldest headstone dates back to 1901.
The Medicine Cave
Government Dock has been a favourite spot to watch waves and the sunset. In the 1880’s steamships full of supplies that the Mormons took overland to help build the Canadian Pacific Railway were here.
In 1910, The Dominion of Canada and the Canadian Pacific Railway built a wharf and warehouse. Those structures were destroed in the 1960’s although remains can still be seen along the rocks, and occasionally the autumn storm waves will remove the sand revealing some of the piers.
Scenic Lookout – Michipicoten Bay
This is the best spot to look out over Michipicoten Bay. Occasionally Michipicoten Island is visible, and to your right is the lighthouse at Perkwakwia Point.
Tremblay Flats Cemetery
This site on the Magpie River gives the visitor a unique
view of the evolution of hydro-electric power generating technology during the 20th and 21st centuries.
The crumbling remnants of the original Steephill Falls dam features can be seen at the base of the present Great Lakes Power Company hydro generating complex. Construction on the historic dam began in 1911 and took 2 years to complete. A “flat-slab buttress dam”, Steephill was built in order to supply power to the Magpie Mine (iron) located 20 km north and 2km west of the Magpie River. When the mine closed in 1921, Steephill continued to supply power to pyrite and gold mines in the Goudreau area.
The dam was abandoned in 1927. With greater demands for hydro-electricity in the Algoma District in the 1980’s, The Great Lakes Power Company initiated the development of a hydro-electric generating station at the Steephill Falls site. Construction was completed in 1991. The old facilities were spared demolition and are dwarfed by the advanced size and technology of the current operations.
As you approach the Magpie River and dam facilities you will notice the gradual scarcity of trees. This region is called the Magpie Valley Treeless Zone. Due to a combination of frequent forest fires throughout the 20th century, high prevailing winds from Lake Superior and the presence of sulphur fumes from the Algoma Ore Division sinter plant, vegetation has had difficulty surviving in this rugged landscape. Due to greater efforts in forest fire prevention and the decrease in local air pollution, Mother Nature is reclaiming this unique ecosystem.
Sign of History – adopted by Wawa Rotary Club.
Directions: From the Wawa Goose, travel north on Highway 17 towards White River. Approximately 20 kms from Wawa, turn right onto a gravel road “Steephill Dam Road” maintained by Great Lakes Power.
Location: The road leads directly to the Magpie River and the Steephill Falls Dam. The original dam can be seen directly below the current dam infrastructure.
Special Instructions: Please respect cautionary signs put in place by Great Lakes Power. Due to the unique environment, this site is situated in a restricted fire zone. Please respect Restricted Fire Zone signage put in place by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
The Grace & Darwin Mines
No longer accessible by the public.
The Michipicoten High Falls Dam – Great Lakes Power
Driftwood Beach – Michipicoten Post Provincial Park
The “fort-like” building on this site was called Fort Friendship. It was a tourist attraction developed by Mr. B.A. Turcott in the late 1960’s. Mr. Turcott was a local businessman who lived with his wife Agnes in Wawa during the 1950’s to the 1970’s. The Turcotts were instrumental in recognizing the tourism potential of Wawa’s remote corner of Northern Ontario and played a prominent role in the birth of the Wawa Goose Statue which was unveiled at the opening of the Trans-Canada Highway on September 17th, 1960.
In order to take advantage of the growing numbers of travelers through the Wawa area the Turcotts purchased land along the shore of the Michipicoten River and constructed Fort Friendship in the late 1960’s. It included a gift shop, a bottle church, a mini-zoo, Goose Statue, Tower of the Prime Ministers, and a museum. The Fort also offered ferry boat rides on the river and a walk to a waterwheel on a creek running into Mission Lake.
With the sudden death of Mr. Turcott, who is buried with one of his dogs between the Fort and the bank of the Michipicoten River, came the sudden demise of the Fort. Unable to maintain its success, Mrs. Turcott sold the buildings and the property. Many of the items donated to the museum were either taken to the dump or sold at an auction in Sault Ste. Marie. Some artifacts were rescued, but unfortunately many have disappeared forever.
Vandals and mother nature have taken their toll on this unique business venture. The bottled “Church of the Departed Spirits” was once the only church of its kind in North America. The majority of the property is surrounded by Michipicoten Post Provincial Park and perhaps will someday be included in the unique natural and cultural history within the park’s boundaries.
UPDATE: The Original 100 Golden Acres as purchased by the Turcott’s has now been purchased by the Clement Family. Joanie Clement is in the process of restoring the Fort buildings. Access is not possible at this time due to a road access issue. Please respect the signs posted, and give respect to the landowner.
Sign of History – No Sign
Directions: Drive approximately 7 kms south of the Wawa Goose on Hwy 17 and turn right on a rough gravel road 1 km past the Michipicoten River bridge.
Location: Fort Friendship is located about 1.5 kms down this gravel road that ends up at Driftwood Beach. The road splits in two at one point, but each road takes you to the same destination.
Special Instructions: The road is privately maintained. Vehicles with higher clearances would be more suited to the road conditions. Or better yet, hike, bike or cross-country ski the route which will increase your likelihood of encountering wildlife.
Between 1725 and 1904, French Traders and independent traders, The Northwest Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company operated trading posts on both banks of the Michipicoten River at this lookout at Buck’s Marina.