The small, Northwestern Ontario community of White River came about because of its hearty climate, beautiful landscape and abundant resources. However, there was a more important factor: location.
From the beginning, building rail towns in the Canadian Shield – with its harsh climate and difficult topography – was a necessary but tedious task for the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Northern Ontario was a connector between Central Canada, the Prairie Provinces and British Columbia. In crossing this region, a stopover point had to be located somewhere. William Van Horne picked the perfect spot for the division, a tiny spot he referred to as Snowbank. It may just have been a C.P.R. work camp in 1885, but by 1886 it was a modern rail town, with a deluxe station house, fine hotels, and an ice house. Also needed was a stockyard to feed and water the livestock that regularly traveled through. All of this was developed and White River’s population skyrocketed from 10 families in 1886 to 42 families in 1906. The town continued to grow until the present population of 1000 people.
With the completion of the Trans-Canada Highway in 1961, elements of the outside world began to trickle into White River and it ceased to be an exclusive railway town. The highway brought new industries and businesses particularly relating to the tourism sector. A new mode of transportation was established in the form of White River Airways. Slowly the railway was becoming less prominent. Abitibi Price established a lumber mill in the 1950’s which became Domtar Forest Products and is now owned by White River Forest Products. Our little railway community has developed into a booming lumbering community. We have opened stores, motels and restaurants. We have certainly come a long way!
The next time you are in White River why not stop at the White River Heritage Museum located on Elgin Street and view some of the photos and artifacts displayed about White River and its rich and colourful history. You can also stop at the Tourist Information Centre for a tour of an authentic C.P.R. Caboose, one of the very few left in Canada!
Every August, White River holds a festival to commemorate the purchase of Winnie by Captain Colebourn. This year Winnie’s Hometown Festival will be taking place August 16-18, 2013. If you are a Pooh fan, be sure to attend!
Don’t forget to visit Winnie in his Honey Tree on the highway to get your picture! And stop by our Information Centre for more information about Winnie and Northern Ontario.