Hello on this rather cool January day! Actually it’s a cold day. But that’s okay since we are on the inside enjoying some nice hot chocolate. The “we” being Muffin and I, however, she is not enjoying the hot chocolate, she doesn’t even like the smell of it. But before I get carried away on that, I just want to apologize for not getting this out earlier today as I was planning, but I was having problems with my laptop and lost what I was doing and ended with my laptop deciding to take a break. Sigh. But all is working okay now, so, let’s begins the tour of our town. However, before we get started on the town itself, we should take a look at our big lake. Why? Because that is probably the main reason this town got started here at this location.
This lake has been a major source for travel for thousands of years. The first European to come to this lake was the French explorer Jacques de Noyon in 1688. Lake of the Woods (our lake) has been a major fur trading route and also for lumber and gold mining. There were many gold mines in the area from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Unfortunately most of the gold was shallow so many of the mines did not operate for very long.
Lake of the Woods is located partly in the United States in the state of Minnesota and partly in our neighbor province of Manitoba, but mostly here in Ontario. A Hudson Bay fort, and fur trading post, was built nearby on Old Fort Island back in 1836. The island was actually located in the Winnipeg River. This was the first known European structure built in this area. In 1861 the post was moved to the mainland and the town of Rat Portage grew up around it. The post became a general store and was closed eventually in 1918.
The length of Lake of the Woods is about 68 miles (109 km), the maximum width about 59 miles (95 km). The lake covers 1,679 square miles (4, 350 square km). It’s a fairly shallow lake with a maximum depth of 210 feet (64 meters). The shore length, not counting islands is about 25,000 miles (40,000 km) and including the islands would be about 65,000 miles (105,000 km). There is 14,532 islands in the lake, mostly in the northern half of the lake. The southern portion of the lake is low, and sandy while the northern portion is carved out of granite rock.
Originally the name of our town was Rat Portage due to the abundance of muskrats in the area. Muskrats are not rats but are a semi aquatic mammal that looks like a small beaver. However, the name was changed to Kenora in the early 1900s. The name Kenora was made by taking two letters from each of the 3 communities in the area, “ke” came from Keewatin, “no” came from Norman, and “ra” from Rat Portage.
All three communities are side by side along the northern edge of Lake of the Woods and are now incorporated into the city of Kenora. Although large enough to be a small city by government standards, it really isn’t much more than an average size town. The population is less than 15,000 year round residents and getting less each year. But in summer the population swells to around 40,000 due to all the tourists that have cottages in the area. However, the town is not built for such a large population so summer traffic can be terrible and parking is even worse.
Well, this is our initial look at our town but there will be more coming up so I hope you will be back to join us in this little tour of our beautiful town. We have already seen most of the parks in the area during our “coffee” series last summer so we won’t be revisiting those. But there is still a lot to see here which I will be sharing twice a week. Part 2 will be ready on Thursday. Until then, I hope you all enjoy your day and God bless!
Steve and Muffin.
© 2020 Steve McLeod.