5 Obscure Facts About Northwestern Ontario

This region is known for its outdoor vacation opportunities but it's also got a fascinating history. Here are 5 facts that most people don't know about Sunset Country.
Polar bears in Ontario

1. Northwestern Ontario Has the Planet's Most Southerly Population of Polar Bears

Yes, you read that right, not only are there polar bears living in Northwestern Ontario, but the population that lives here is the most southerly in the world. Polar bears are summer visitors along the Hudson/James Bay coastlines as the sea ice melts they spend the summer on land with females finding dens to have their cubs. A large population is living in Polar Bear Provincial Park, which also has the third largest wetland in the world. 

Map of polar bear movements in Polar Bear Provincial Park
Map showing boundaries of Polar Bear Provincial Park in Northwestern Ontario.

2. Northwestern Ontario is the Location of One of Ontario's Most Famous Bank Robberies

On May 10, 1973, in the then Town of Kenora, a man entered the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce with an empty duffel bag and a bomb strapped to his chest. In his mouth was a detonator for the bomb. He proceeded to demand money and an escape vehicle while police surrounded the bank from the outside. A volunteer police officer named Dan Millard, posing as the getaway driver, went into the bank to carry out a duffel bag with $100,000. It seemed like this masked bandit would get away with his heist. 

As Millard and the robber made their way out to the car, a police sniper fired a shot at the robber that detonated the bomb. The large explosion killed the robber instantly. Constable Millard, who was in front of the robber with the duffel bag full of money over his back, was only slightly injured, the bag of money offering protection against the blast. The blast scattered the $100,000 that Millard was carrying along Main Street, and almost all of it was recovered. Due to the intense explosion, the robber's body was badly disfigured, including his face. The robber has never been identified. He is buried in an unmarked grave in the Kenora cemetery. Learn more about the robbery here.

Kenora Bank Robbery 1973

3. There's a House Made of Bottles in Redditt, Ontario

If you are ever passing through Kenora it's worth the time to take a 25-minute drive up the Redditt Road to the Redditt Bottle House. Built by Hank Deverell in 1973 to house his wife's doll collection, the house is made up almost entirely of wood and bottles. It is something you must see to believe and the site has three other unique houses built by Hank for the doll collection. Here is a link to the Redditt Bottle House Facebook page.

The Bottle house in Redditt, Northwestern Ontario, Canada

4. Some Well-Known People Were Born in Northwestern Ontario

Like elsewhere, Northwestern Ontario is the birthplace of some famous people. Did you know these individuals were born here?

Paul Shaffer 

Paul was TV talk show host Dave Letterman's right-hand man and band leader for over a decade in addition to appearing in several movies. He was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Norval Morrisseau 

Arguably Canada's most famous Woodland Artist, Norval was born on the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek First Nation in Northwestern Ontario in 1931. Known for paintings that reflect Ojibwe spiritual traditions, he is a member of Canada's Indigenous "Group of Seven". He died in 2007.

Shaman and Turtle by Norval Morrisseau
Shaman and Turtles - Norval Morrisseau

Bobby Curtola 

Born in Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay) in 1943, Bobby Curtola was a Canadian singer and a major teen idol icon in the 1960s. Curtola recorded several hit songs but his biggest hit was Fortune Teller recorded in 1962. In the 1970s Curtola hosted a musical series on CTV called Shake, Rock and Roll and went on to perform in Las Vegas in the 1980s. He died in 2016

5. The Sunset Country Travel Region Has More Lakes Than People

Making up over half the geography of Northwestern Ontario the Sunset Country Travel Region stretches from the Manitoba border to Upsala and from the Minnesota border to Hudson Bay. With a land area of approximately 100,000 square kilometres, Sunset Country gets its name from the fact it is the last part of Ontario where the sun sets each day. In this region are 70,000 lakes, rivers and streams while the total population is just over 65,000 people. Kenora is the largest city at 15,500 followed by Dryden and Fort Frances

Endless lakes in Ontario's Sunset Country

Whether you already knew about these 5 things or had no idea, a trip to the Northwestern part of Ontario should be on your bucket list. This huge region is the least explored part of the province and has such beautiful landscapes it will keep you coming back. There are many places to stay in Northwestern Ontario making it easy to book a trip. Don't forget to bring your fishing rod!

About Gerry Cariou

Gerry is Executive Director of Ontario's Sunset Country Travel Association and is an avid fisherman and nature photographer. Gerry has been writing about Sunset Country's varied travel experiences for over 20 years and lives these experiences year-round in Kenora, Ontario.

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