Steep Rock Lake

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Steep Rock Lake
Location of the lake in Ontario, Canada.
Location of the lake in Ontario, Canada.
Steep Rock Lake
LocationOntario, Canada
Coordinates48°47′N 91°40′W / 48.79°N 91.67°W / 48.79; -91.67Coordinates: 48°47′N 91°40′W / 48.79°N 91.67°W / 48.79; -91.67

Steep Rock Lake is a body of water near the township of Atikokan, northern Ontario, Canada. It was originally fed by the Seine River.


Steep Rock Lake and the surrounding region was carved out by retreating glaciers. The lake was carved out as a sprawling "M" shape and is 14 miles long with a surface area of 7 square miles. The lake lies 6-7 km (4 miles) north of Atikokan and 215-225 km (135-140 miles) west of Thunder Bay. The ridges around the water rose 25 meters in places, often with visible outcrops of iron.[1] The area straddles two major fault systems: The Quetico Fault and the Steep Rock Lake Fault systems.[2] Active speculation about mining the area began as early as 1885, when land deposits were bought by the McKellar and Graham families. However, a patchwork terrain of deep soil, swamp land, and boulders hindered exploitation.[1] Julian Cross, a mining prospector, later came to the area in 1926 and in 1937 through exploratory drilling located a major orebody under Steep Rock Lake.[1]

During World War II, a program was implemented to drain the lake.[3] This diversion of the river allowed open-pit mining of hematite iron ore under the middle arm of the lake by Steep Rock Iron Mines Limited and the East arm was mined by Inland Steel Company through its subsidiary Caland Ore Company Limited. By 1949, the site was producing a million tons of ore per year and had an estimated 500 million tons of ore deposits.[4]

This lake was the site of an elaborate UFO hoax in 1950.[5] In 1957, a caribou antler was discovered in the exposed silt. This specimen may have been deposited here by a barren-ground caribou at the end of the last ice age, demonstrating that the species once lived in this region. These caribou are now found much further to the north.[3][6][7][8][9][10][11][2][12][13]

Amount of Iron Ore Shipped From the Mines[14][edit]

  • Errington Open Pit Mine: 9,165,000 Tons
  • Hogarth Open Pit Mine: 25,606,184 Tons
  • Errington Underground Mine: 3,706,844 Tons
  • Roberts Open Pit Mine: 18,000,000 Tons
  • Caland Open Pit Mine: 34,634,818 Tons

Presidents of Steep Rock Iron Mines Limited[15][edit]

  • Joseph Errington: 1939-1942
  • Major-General Donald Hogarth: 1942-1950
  • Morson Scarth (Pop) Fotheringham: 1950-1967
  • Neil Edmonstone: 1967-1970
  • Ray Jones: 1970-1976
  • Larry Lamb: 1976-1984

Canadian Charleson Iron Mine Limited[edit]

The Canadian Charleson Limited property consisted of 19 claims covering an area of 1,450 acres. The claims were secured in 1952 by Charleson Mining Company from the owners, J.A. Mathieu Ltd., C.E. Pattison, and Rawn Iron Mines Limited.[16] By December of 1960, Canadian Charleson Limited became a wholly owned subsidiary of Oglebay Norton Company.

Aerial of Charleson Recreation Area

Gravel deposits as a source of iron ore was recognized after Steep Rock Iron Mines Limited opened up some pits for sand and gravel. The gravel on the property averaged approximately seventy feet thick and contained an estimated reserve of 50 million cubic yards of ore-baring gravel.[17] In 1955, the company built a $2 million concentrator near what is now the Atikokan Municipal Airport. The concentrator contained a washing station and a screening station and was operated seasonally. The mining operation itself looked more like road construction than mining and used a Euclid Scrapers, which then transported it to the hopper to be dumped. After going through the concentrator the final result was a high grade product of 58% iron.

During the seven years of operation the total amount of iron ore shipped from Canadian Charleson Limited was 672,895 tons. The mine shut down in 1965 due to poor economic climate, low demand for lump ore due to the preference for iron ore pellets and high costs.

After the mine closed down, the area became a main source of gravel and fill for the town of Atikokan. The Atikokan Airport was built on the flats in 1975. The area that the pits were located was renamed Charleson Recreation Area and is used for dirt bikes, motorcross, Sports Days, mud flings, snow machines, horse back riding, hiking and mountain biking.


  1. ^ a b c Mastrangelo, Richard James Michael (2018). "Echo and Features: Atikokan, Steep Rock Iron Mine and Corporate Culture". Papers & Records. 45: 33 – via Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society.
  2. ^ a b Shklanka, R (1972). "Geology of the Steep Rock Lake Area: District of Rainy River". Ontario Department of Mines and Northern Affairs. Geological Report 93: 3.
  3. ^ a b Nelson, Jon (2009), Quetico: near to nature's heart, Dundurn Press Ltd., p. 62, ISBN 1-55488-396-2
  4. ^ Staff (Oct 24, 1949), "A great new supply of ore", Life: 89
  5. ^ Colombo, John Robert (1999), Mysteries of Ontario, Dundurn Press Ltd., p. 207, ISBN 0-88882-205-7
  6. ^ Bergerud, A. T.; Luttich, Stuart N.; Camps, Lodewijk (2008), The return of caribou to Ungava, McGill-Queen's native and northern series, 50, McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP, p. 69, ISBN 0-7735-3233-1
  7. ^ Beamish, Royd, E. (December 1, 1945). "Big Iron". Maclean's Magazine: 1–8 – via Maclean's Archives.
  8. ^ Gray, J.H (September 1, 1943). "Drama in Iron". Maclean's Magazine: 1–8 – via Maclean's Archive.
  9. ^ Coffin, Tris (Spring 1957). "Pay Dirt at Steep Rock". The Beaver Magazine: 4–8 – via The Beaver Magazine.
  10. ^ "New Producer on Steep Rock Range". The Northern Miner. May 26, 1960.
  11. ^ Gorman, W.J (1942). "Steep Rock Iron Mine". Canadian Geographic Journal. Vol. XXV, No. 5: 245–260. |volume= has extra text (help)
  12. ^ Bartsch, Werner (1983). Exit with Excellence: How One Unusual Shutdown Transformed Mining Traditions. Atikokan, Ontario: Quetico Press.
  13. ^ Smith, Philip (1986). Harvest From the Rock: A History of Mining in Ontario. Toronto, Ontario: Macmillan of Canada. ISBN 0-7715-9705-3.
  14. ^ Taylor, Bruce (1978). Steep Rock: The Men and The Mines. Atikokan, Ontario: Quetico Publishing. pp. 76, 96, 99, 108.
  15. ^ Taylor, Bruce (1978). Steep Rock: The Men and the Mines. Atikokan, Ontario: Quetico Publishing.
  16. ^ Shklanka, R (1972). "Geology of the Steep Rock Lake Area: District of Rainy River". Ontario Department of Mines and Northern Affairs. Geological Report 93: 59–60.
  17. ^ Taylor, Bruce (1978). Steep Rock: The Men and the Mines. Atikokan, Ontario: Quetico Publishing. p. 110.

See also[edit]