Step Back to the Gold Rush Days at the West Red Lake Mining Museum

It's amazing that the current wilderness area surrounded by trees, bays and islands of the west end of Red Lake, was once inhabited by hundreds of gold rush pioneers.

If you are visiting Red Lake this summer take a boat ride out to the West Red Lake Mining Museum. You could also visit by snowmobile in the winter as well! The museum's displays change throughout the year, so visitors are likely to see new stories and pictures each time they visit. Mining properties, homesteads, and characters from that era provide plenty of interesting subject matter. Plan a visit to the west end!

This self-guided museum is finished after being under construction for several years. It is located near the western entrance to West Narrows, only about half a mile from Bow Narrows Camp.

The log building is actually an original cabin from the 1926 Gold Rush to Red Lake which, at the time, was the third-largest in the world. The cabin was formerly located at Bow Narrows Camp (old Cabin 10). It was moved to the current site when the concept of the museum was first broached. Only one story of the original two-story structure was re-erected at the museum site.

The entire project was done by volunteers under the guidance of Brian Kreviazuk seen here repairing the museum's dock last fall.

Docks to access the West End Red Lake Mining Museum

The museum location was originally the home site of Bill Brown, Red Lake's first postmaster. He is buried on an island in front of the museum. If you look carefully you can see his headstone from your boat.

Back in the 1920s and '30s, the west end of Red Lake was a hive of activity with many small gold mines in the area. Eventually, everyone moved to the east end of the lake where the town of Red Lake is now situated. Almost none of the mines at the west end produced any gold while the ones at the east end were winners. Today the town of Red Lake boasts the world's richest gold mine, owned by Goldcorp, and there are new mines under construction.

It seems incredulous that the wilderness at the west end where Bow Narrows Camp is located was once inhabited by hundreds of gold rush pioneers. It is nothing but trees and bays and islands today. About all that remains are the rock piles from the mines and a few corners of the old log cabins.

There is also a large glacial erratic or boulder behind the museum that is a real stunner. The size of a house, it is one of the largest boulders ever discovered from the glaciers that covered this area 10,000 years ago.

Erratic rock at the museum.

Photos are changed from time to time and other exhibits are planned for each year as well. There is no charge to visit the museum.

Although there is a large museum about the history of Red Lake in town, this museum focuses on the mining history at the west end of the lake.  

Volunteers have created a website documenting the history of the West Red Lake Mining Museum. They have some great photos documenting the move of the cabin to its current spot on Red Lake from Bow Narrows Camp.

The website also has a self-conducted tour of West Red Lake. Visit sites used during the Gold Rush of 1926-1940. The west end holds many stories of young men seeking adventure, characters escaping the outside world, and pioneers building a new life. Just beneath the surface is evidence of a much longer history. First Nations people have lived here for thousands of years and the evidence is everywhere; shards of pottery, arrowheads, and spears, and pictographs. View a map of the area with informative descriptions of the historical mining sites you can see or visit

About Erin Rody

I grew up on Black Sturgeon Lake in Northwestern Ontario. I am a staff writer for the Sunset Country Travel Association. Through my articles I hope to entice you to visit the wonderful region I call home. We are all about outdoor adventure; with 70,000 lakes and rivers and a whole lot of forests how can we not be? Whether you like to fish, hunt, canoe, kayak, boat or go camping, Sunset Country has something for you. Enjoy!

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