HISTORY OF NIPIGON RIVER
The Nipigon River has always been famous for three things -
- its beauty
- its trout
- and the fact that it was considered un-driveable
The general consensus of opinion, however, is that the river's fame as a trout stream has been highly over-rated by a few individuals who have used this method of advertising to attract unsuspecting tourists to their community.
Our experience on this river for one summer has been that only 67 persons over and above local Hydro people have gone up the river from the Hydro end. We were unable to separate Nipigon people from this amount but feel certain that they comprised 25% of the total. We also were unable to collect figures on the Virgin end. However, we believe 75 persons all told would be a high figure. This would certainly not indicate any claim to fame as a trout stream. It might also be added here that most of these people were on the river for the first time and that most of them were not pleased with the fishing possibilities.
The first attempts to drive any part of the river were made in 1900 by James Whalen. Mr. Whalen cut 16' Pine logs on the river and drove them to Nipigon.
At this time there was no power development and the section between the present Cameron and Alexander power Stations was very rough. There was also a considerable stretch of rough water at what is now known as Split Rock and a 10' falls at the present Island Portage. The present Lake Jessie consisted of two lakes with a short stretch of river between.
Mr. Whalen had camps on the river and its tributaries from 1900 until 1907. He drove it from various places up as far as Pine Portage. Contrary to general belief he never stuck a drive on this river although he did stick one on Bass Creek in 1907. He, however, experienced considerable difficulty with centre jams on the section between the present Power Plants. Some of this wood, he was never able to get and it remained there until the Power Plants were built and the flood took the wood off.
During the War, the Hydro Electric Commission started the construction of the present Cameron Falls power Station. This station went into operation in 1921. It has a 72 foot head water and it raised Lake Jessie and made one large lake out of the two small ones. It also flooded out the rapids at Split Rock and the falls at Island Portage.
In 1927, the construction of the present Alexander Power Station was commenced and the Plant went into operation in 1931.
In 1927 D.A.Clarke Limited took a drive from Island Portage. He experienced difficulty with the eddy in the Cameron Pool below Cameron Falls. Clarke had taken drives from the foot of Cameron Falls and from Lake Helen previously to this drive. He also took other drives from above this dam.
C.W. Cox had also taken drives from the foot of Cameron Falls and in 1937 he took a drive from Pine Portage down.
A drive was also taken from Lake Jessie by the Thunder Bay Improvements.
In 1938, drives were taken from Frazer Creek, Bass Creek and all along the lower stretch of river.
Lake Helen has, however, been driven steadily since about 1900.
In the Fall of 1937, the Abitibi Power and Paper Company Limited started extensive improvements on the river and in the Fall of 1938, they drove approximately 14,000 cords of wood from Lake Nipigon to Lake Helen.
This was the first drive to be taken the entire length of the river.