Thunder Bay, Ontario

From Academic Kids

Missing image
The official flag of Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Missing image
Thunder Bay Ontario

Thunder Bay (Template:Coor dm, time zone EST) is a city in Thunder Bay District, Northwestern Ontario, Canada. It is the second largest city in Northern Ontario (2001 population 109,016[1] (; CMA 121,986[2] ( The city takes its name from the immense bay at the head of Lake Superior, known on 18th century French maps as "Baie du Tonnerre". The city was formed in 1970 by the merger of the cities of Fort William, Ontario, Port Arthur, Ontario and the townships of Neebing and McIntyre. Its port forms an important link in the shipping of grain and other products from western Canada through the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence Seaway to the east coast. The city is often referred to as the Lakehead or Canadian Lakehead because of its location at the end of Great Lakes navigation.



European settlement on Thunder Bay began with two French fur trading posts (1679, 1717) which were subsequently abandoned (see Fort William, Ontario). Permanent settlement began in 1803 with the establishment of Fort William by the Montreal-based North West Company as its mid-continent entrepôt. The fort thrived until 1821 when the North West Company merged with the Hudson's Bay Company and Fort William lost its raison d'être. By the 1850's the Province of Canada began to take an interest in its western extremity, largely because of a demand for mining locations on the Canadian shores of Lake Superior following the discovery of copper in the Keewenaw Peninsula of Michigan. In 1849 French-speaking Jesuits established the Mission de l'Immaculée-Conception (Mission of the Immaculate Conception) on the Kaministiquia to evangelize the Ojibwe. The Province of Canada negotiated a treaty with the Ojibwe of Lake Superior known as the Robinson Treaty in 1850. As a result, an Indian reservation was set aside south of the Kaministiquia River. And in 1859-60 the Department of Crown Lands surveyed two townships (Neebing and Paipoonge) and the Town Plot of Fort William.

Another settlement developed a few miles to the north of Fort William with the construction by the federal Department of Public Works of a road connecting Lake Superior with the Red River Colony under the direction of Simon James Dawson. This public works depot or construction headquarters acquired its first name in May 1870 when Colonel Garnet Wolsley named it Prince Arthur's Landing. It was renamed Port Arthur by the CPR in May 1883 (see Port Arthur, Ontario).

The arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1875 sparked a long battle for supremacy which did not end until the amalgamation of 1970. Until the 1880s, Port Arthur was a much larger and dynamic community, but the CPR in collaboration with the Hudson's Bay Company preferred east Fort William (the lower Kaministiquia river where the fur trade posts were). Further provoked by a prolonged tax dispute with Port Arthur and the seizure of a locomotive in 1889, the CPR relocated all its employees and facilities to Fort William. The collapse of silver mining after 1890 further undermined the economy of Port Arthur which entered a period of deep depression while Fort William thrived.

Thunder Bay began a period of extraordinary growth in the era of Sir Wilfrid Laurier as a result of transcontinental railway building and the western wheat boom. The CPR double-tracked its Winnipeg-Thunder Bay line. The Canadian Northern Railway established facilities at Port Arthur. The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway began construction of its facilties at the Fort William Mission in 1905, and the federal government began construction of the National Transcontinental Railway. Grain elevator construction boomed as the volume of grain shipped to Europe increased. Both cities indebted themselves by granting bonuses to manufacturing industries. By 1914 the twin cities had modern infrastructures (sewers, safe water supply, street lighting, electric light, etc.). Both Fort William and Port Arthur were proponents of municipal ownership. As early as 1892 Port Arthur built Canada's first municipally-owned electric street railway, and both cities spurned Bell Telephone Company of Canada to establish their own municipally-owned telephone systems in 1902.

The boom came to an end in 1913-14 aggravated by the First World War, but a war time economy emerged with the making of munitions and ship-building. The cities raised men for the 52nd, 94th and 141st Battalions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Railway employment was hurt when the federal government took over the National Transcontinental Railway and Lake Superior Division from the Grand Trunk in 1915, and the Canadian Northern Railway in 1918 which were amalgamated with other government-owned railways in 1923 to form the Canadian National Railways. The CNR closed many of the Canadian Northern Railway facilties in Port Arthur and opened the Neebing yards in Neebing Township in 1922. By 1929 the population of the two cities had recovered to pre-war levels.

The forest products industry has always played an important role in the Thunder Bay economy from the 1870s. Logs and lumber were shipped primarily to the United States. In 1917 the first pulp and paper mill was established in Port Arthur. It was followed by a mill at Fort William in 1920. Eventually there were four mills operating.

Manufacturing resumed in 1937 when the Canada Car and Foundry Company plant re-opened to build aircraft for the British. Now run by Bombardier Transportation, the plant has remained a mainstay of the post-war economy producing forestry, then transportation equipment for urban transit systems such as the Toronto Transit Commission.

The expansion of highways beginning with the Trans-Canada Highway culminating with the opening of a highway linking Sault Ste Marie to Thunder Bay has significantly diminished railway and shipping activity. The St Lawrence Seaway has not therefore lived up to expectations. Grain shipping has declined substantially in favor of Pacific Coast ports. As a result many grain elevators have been closed and demolished, and the Kaministiquia River has been abandoned by industry and shipping.

Thunder Bay has become the regional services centre for Northwestern Ontario with most provincial departments represented. Lakehead University, established through the lobbying of local businessmen and professionals, has proved to be a major asset, reinforced by Confederation College. The same businessmen and professionals were the driving force behind the amalgamation of Fort William and Port Arthur in 1970.


  • Thunder Bay from rivalry to unity / edited by Thorold J. Tronrud and A. Ernest Epp. Thunder Bay : Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society, 1995.

Population and Demographics

(Statistics Canada, 2001)
Population (City): 109,106
Population (CMA): 121,986
Population change (City): (1996-2001) -4.1%
Aboriginal identity population (City): 7250
Visible minority population (City): 2635
Dwellings: 47,889
Area: 328.47 sq. km.
Density: 331.9 people per sq. km.

Racial Groups

Religious Groups

Age Structure

  • 0-14 years: 18.2%
  • 15-64 years: 66.8%
  • 65 years and over: 15.0%

Further information available on the Statistics Canada website Community Profiles.

Government and Politics

The city is governed by a mayor and twelve councillors. The mayor and five of the councillors are elected at large by the whole city. Seven councillors are elected for the seven wards : Current River Ward, McIntyre Ward, McKellar Ward, Neebing Ward, Northwood Ward, Red River Ward, Westfort Ward.

List of mayors of Thunder Bay, Ontario

The Name

Thunder Bay's name is the result of a mishandled plebiscite to determine the new name of the amalgamated Fort William and Port Arthur. Officials debated over the names to be put on the ballot, taking suggestions from residents including "Lakehead" and "The Lakehead". Predictably, the vote split between the two, and "Thunder Bay" was the victor.

City symbols

The Sleeping Giant, as seen from the Thunder Bay Marina, is a symbol of the city.
The Sleeping Giant, as seen from the Thunder Bay Marina, is a symbol of the city.
The Sleeping Giant, a large formation of mesas on Sibley peninsula in Lake Superior, which resembles a reclining giant, has become a symbol of the city. Sibley peninsula partially encloses the waters of Thunder Bay, and dominates the view of the lake from the northern section of the city (formerly Port Arthur, Ontario). The Sleeping Giant also figures on the city's coat of arms and the city flag (depicted above).

Sister cities

Thunder Bay is the sister city of Seinäjoki Finland, Little Canada, Minnesota,Duluth, Minnesota, Bunkpurugu Ghana, Keelung Taiwan, Siderno Italy, Yanaizu Japan, and Bukit Timah Singapore.

Geography and Climate

The city has an area of 328.47 sq. km. which includes the former cities of Fort William and Port Arthur as well as the townships of Neebing and McIntyre.

The former Fort William section occupies flat alluvial land along the Kaministiquia River which has a river delta at its mouth of two large islands known as Mission Island and McKellar Island. The former Port Arthur section is more typical of the Canadian Shield with gently sloping hills, and very thin soil lying on top of bedrock with many bare outcrops. Thunder Bay, which gives the city its name, is immense - about 22.5 km (14 miles) from the Port Arthur downtown to Thunder Cape at the tip of the Sleeping Giant.

The city reflects the settlement patterns of the 19th century. It is therefore highly spread out for historical reasons. Anchoring the west end of the city, the Fort William Town Plot surveyed in 1859-60 was named West Fort (Westfort) in 1888 by the CPR. The land adjoining the lower Kaministiquia River became the residential and central business district of the town and city of Fort William. A large uninhabited area adjoining the Neebing and McIntyre rivers which became known as Intercity separated Fort William from the residential and central business district of Port Arthur. At the extreme east of the city, a part of McIntyre Township was annexed to the town of Port Arthur in 1892, forming what later became known as the Current River area.

Since 1970, the central business districts of Fort William and Port Arthur have suffered a serious decline as business and government have relocated to the Intercity area. There has also been substantial residential growth in adjacent areas of the former Neebing and McIntyre townships.

The climate is influenced by Lake Superior, resulting in cooler summer temperatures and warmer winter temperatures for an area extending inland as far as 16 km. The average daily temperatures range from a high of 17.6°C in July and a low of -14.8°C in January; the average daily high in July is 24.2°C and the average daily high in January is -8.6°C. The city is quite sunny with an average of 2167.7 hours of bright sunshine each year, ranging from 283.4 hours in July to 88.8 hours in November.

Economy & Workforce

Thunder Bay is the largest city in Northwestern Ontario, serving as a regional commercial and medical centre. The main private sector employers are Bowater Forest Products, Bombardier Transportation, Buchanan Forest Products , and Cascades. The public sector employs a large workforce, the main employers being the City of Thunder Bay, the Government of Ontario, the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, Lakehead University, Lakehead District School Board, Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board, Government of Canada and Confederation College. Both the transportation workforce (railways, shipping, freight handling, grain elevators) and the forest products workforce (logging, lumbering, and pulp and paper) have declined over the years. A new medical school, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, will add to the growing life sciences sector of the Thunder Bay economy.

Transportation & Harbour

Thunder Bay is advantaged by air, rail and shipping traffic due to its prime location along major continental transportation routes. The city is served by the Thunder Bay International Airport, the third busiest airport in Ontario. In 2003 598,000 passengers travelled through the airport. The airport is serviced by Air Canada, Westjet, Bearskin Airlines, Wasaya Airlines, Northwest Airlines and Skyservice Airlines.

The city is still an important railway hub, served by both the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railway, despite the decline in western grain shipments. Passenger rail service to Thunder Bay ended over a decade ago, with the cancellation of VIA Rail Canada's southern transcontinental service. The CPR Union Depot (1910) remains in Fort William, with the CNR station (1905) providing tourism related services in Marina Park. For history of railways at Thunder Bay, see the History section.

Thunder Bay has been a port since the days of the Hudson's Bay Company which maintained a schooner on Lake Superior. Significant navigation came after 1855 with the opening of the canal at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan (Soo locks) which allowed ships coming from the lower lakes to bypass the rapids of the St. Marys River (Michigan-Ontario). To facilitate navigation, the federal government dredged the Kaministiquia River from 1873 onwards and built a large breakwater in Thunder Bay beginning 1885. Until the 1970s, coal, grain, iron ore and package freight were handled in enormous quantities. Gradually, shipping by train and boat diminished and now most goods are transported by road. Combined with the 1988 free trade agreement with the United States, these changes have ended Thunder Bay's privileged position as a linchpin in Canadian east-west trade. As a result the city has lost its traditional raison d'être as a break-bulk point, and the city is in economic decline.

Thunder Bay Port Authority ( manages Keefer Terminal built on a 32 hectare site on Lake Superior.

Greyhound Canada ( provides coach service to both regional and national destinations.

Thunder Bay Transit ( provides 17 routes across the city's urban area. There are also numerous trails for walking and cycling.



Radio Stations



Television Stations

  • Channel 2 - CKPR - CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)
  • Channel 4 - CHFD - CTV
  • Cable 10 - Shaw


Elementary and Secondary Schools

Post Secondary Schools


The Thunder Bay Community Auditorium ( (seating 1500 people) is the primary venue for various types of entertainment, including the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra.

  • Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra (, with 30 full-time and up to 20 extra musicians, presents a full range of classical music.
  • Magnus Theatre ( (founded 1971) is Northwestern Ontario's professional theatre offering six stage plays each season.
  • Thunder Bay Art Gallery ( (founded 1976) specializes in the works of First Nations artists, having a collection of national significance.
  • Thunder Bay Historical Museum ( (founded 1908) presents local and travelling exhibitions and houses an impressive collection of artifacts, photographs, paintings, documents and maps in its archives.


Thunder Bay hosted the Summer Canada Games in 1981 and the Nordic World Ski Championships in 1995.

Thunder Bay is currently home to the following amateur sports teams:

Sporting facilities include:

  • Canada Games Complex
  • Loch Lomond Ski Resort
  • The Fort William Gardens (constructed 1949), seating just under 5000 people, is a recreational centre mainly for Ice Hockey, Curling, and concerts.

Places of Interest

Thunder Bay's main tourist attraction is Fort William Historical Park (aka Old Fort William), a reconstruction of the North West Company's Fort William fur trade post as it was in 1815. Thunder Bay harbor in Thunder Bay North also draws visitors because of the beautiful view of the Sleeping Giant and the presence of various water craft. The Thunder Bay Marina includes an along-the-lake-walk, playground, harbour cruises, a children's museum, ice cream shop and Chinese/Canadian cuisine. Other tourists attractions are listed below. A 2.74 m (9 ft) statue of Terry Fox is situated outside the city near the place where he was forced to abandon his run.

Unique restaurants include The Hoito, a Finnish restaurant known for its plate size Finnish pancakes and other Finnish foods, and the Persian Man, a coffee shop, that sells Persians (somewhat like a cross between a large cinnamon bun and a doughnut, covered in strawberry icing), a type of baked good unique to Thunder Bay.

Famous people

External links


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools