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Discovering Northern Ontario with kids – Elliot Lake

March 8, 2011 by · 3 Comments 


2010_09_12_18_50_06What should you do when you are in a small town in Northern Ontario?

You would think that September would be a nice time to visit.  But let me tell you that it is quite cold up there at that time of the year.    Fortunately, my mother-in-law strongly suggested that I bring coats and warm sweaters for everyone before we left (thank goodness for wise mother-in-laws).

But what can you do in Elliot Lake, a retirement community located north of Lake Huron, halfway between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie?

Seriously.   With about  11500 people in town and mostly retired people, is there anything good to check out?

And with signs everywhere saying “You are in Bear Country” it doesn’t inspire confidence.

We spent a few days in Elliot Lake  in September 2010 when my husband was having meetings for a contract with the Elliot Lake Retirement Living.  While there, we explored the area and discover that you can do quite a bit in Elliot Lake, ON.

The Fire Tower Lookout is a replica of an old-fashioned fire ranger’s lookout station. The view from it is a 360 degree panoramic view of Elliot Lake and the surrounding areas, including the North Channel of  Lake Huron, Manitoulin Island and even the U.S.! The kids had a blast taking turns with the telescopes and check out the people down in Elliot Lake with it.   The view was breathtaking and I can only imagine what it must look like during the Fall season.    All around the lookout, you can also read more about the various mines that existed in the past.   

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Landscape from the tower.

View of the city of Elliot Lake.

While daddy is at his contract, how did we kept ourselves busy?   Well we are homeschoolers so I had planned in advance and brought a variety of school books to read, work and learn.  I had brought crayons, pencils, activities, and lessons to do while my husband was having his meetings.   Being homeschoolers means we had the opportunity of travelling with him and go to a city we never been before.  It was our first “official” homeschool time on the road and I doubt that it would be our last one.   I think this was the farthest we ever went in Ontario!   We covered math by counting cars passing by and making a tally chart on the colors of car they were counting, we read some interesting books on nature, we practice writing and much more.

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2010_09_13_16_18_04One afternoon, when hubby came back from his contracting day, he brought a surprise for the kids. Out in the parking lot, he found a frog hopping along between the vehicles.   To save him from a dreadful end of life, he decided to put it in his lunch container (yeah) and surprise us with it.  So the kids got an up close view of a living creature namely the frog.  

Needless to say that the little frog has made our day complete with a nature lesson.    The kids were able to hold it(well little Jasmine decided to pass on this one…) and observe it before we let Froggy go back in the wild.  I almost wished I had a Frog dissection app to complete the day with a biology lesson!

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There is a small boardwalk along a small lake in the center (well almost) of the town.   There you can find two monuments and sculptures to remember the miners and the mining industry from the earliest days of the town. 2010_09_14_08_52_54

The details on the statues were amazing and the marble images were stunning.    Our time on the boardwalk was short but the sun was warm.    Many people stop for walking their dogs or for drinking a coffee on the side of the road.

My husband’s uncle once worked in the mines in Elliot Lake and now lives in Sudbury.   Visiting the area was special in a way because it was linked to our extended family.

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Believe it or not, there is a museum in Elliot Lake!   And in it you will find a ton of information on how the mining industry was done in the past.    Since we were in town, I decided to bring the kids to this museum and have a field trip at the same time.
After our time on the boardwalk near the lake, we drove to the museum for a little history lesson on the mining industry.

While entering the Information Centre, we can see these beautiful doors that will reflect the light of the sun.   These are the Denison Doors and they once were located at the main entrance of the administration building of the Elliot Lake Denison Mine which was apparently the world’s largest uranium facility of its time. 

The museum is located in the lower level of the building.    In it you will find mining and nuclear power exhibits, information on nuclear materials, mineral samples and their locations in Ontario, a model of a uranium mine mill in Elliot Lake, historical background of the city and the area as well as a wildlife exhibit.

The highlight of the visit for us was the little movie about the mining industry in Elliot Lake.   It was quite a long movie and we didn’t finished it but the lady at the museum was amazed how good the kids were throughout the part we listened.   I must say that it was very educative and showed us life before the city was founded and how people were living back in the days of the beginning of the mining.    We also learned how the prospectors explored the region and discovered great mining opportunities.

It was a perfect educative field trip!

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Some equipment from the miners as well as rock samples from around Ontario.

A tent and the gears used in the days of prospecting.

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The wildlife exhibit.    There was every kind of Northern Ontario animals there.

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2010_09_15_15_35_43_0006Yes the title is right, the day before we left my husband worked only in the morning for his contract and we had the afternoon to explore the area a bit more.    He didn’t want to tell us where he was bringing us first.  It was a BIG secret….   Imagine our surprise when he brought us to the dump!  Why are we here, I have no clue whatsoever but hubby is very disappointed somehow.   That’s when he tells me he was hoping that we could see black bears.   What?   Really?   So the kids and I start looking around.  Suddenly a bunch of birds just fly away like this.   We are all wondering what is going on, that’s when I see it… a black bear had come out of the woods and is going slowly towards the dump.  
We drove a bit to get a better look and saw not one, not two but four black bears in the next 30 minutes…   This activity was free and the experience was priceless!

The area, owned by Rio Algom Ltd, consists of 182 hectares (450 acres) of wetlands that include marsh, bog and shoreline, as well as mature mixed forest, regenerating woodlands and disturbed areas that resulted from forestry and mining during the late fifties.

If you look at the map below, you can see that there are various trails that can be taken.   We decided to go with the Beaver Meadow Trail which was 3.1 KM long.   


We had a beautiful afternoon in front of us and after visiting the dump it was nice to walk and observe the nature around.   The cattail marsh was calm that afternoon and not too many birds were seen.   The kids enjoyed throwing rocks in the pond and we showed them how to get the stone skipping.    The path was quite large and easy to walk on.    Someone with a stroller can definitively go there.   Also, around the marsh, you have some bird observation places (when you are in luck of birds that is).   

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The picture below can give you an idea of the path.   This section was made of small rocks and very sturdy.  


The area behind the marsh was a bit more trickier to walk through it.   I would not bring a stroller there.   But my kids had fun walking through the plants and discovering nature at its fullest.

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The last section of the trail was through the woods and there we had the opportunity to walk on beautiful boardwalks through the woods.   They were well maintained and quite large.  


In conclusion, contrary to what some people might say there’s quite a lot to do in the area – that is if you like trails and outdoor activities.

If you ever pass through Elliot Lake, stop and discover this mining town turned into a retirement town.


3 Responses to “Discovering Northern Ontario with kids – Elliot Lake”
  1. Gary & Brenda says:

    Great post! It is nice to see some information on travelling in Canada, I haven’t seen very many of them. We live in Manitoba and I had heard of Elliot Lake but never visited. Great pictures too, love to see the smiles on the children’s faces…. and the scenery.

  2. Julie says:

    Thanks for the great info on Elliott Lake! We are planing a summer expedition into Canada via Sault St. Marie and this sounds like a great place! I agree with the previous post…you don’t find alot of blog info on Canada. Thanks!


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