Visit the Manitouwadge Public Library today for a look at tomorrow!


Public Library

2 Manitou Road
Community Centre
Manitouwadge, ON

Phone: 807-826-3913

















Manitouwadge Public Library

Manitouwadge Area

Manitouwadge, Ont, Township, pop 2949 (2001c), 3395 (1996c), 3972 (1991c), area 351.97 km2, inc 1975, is located in northwestern Ontario 397 km northeast of Thunder Bay.

Map of Manitouwadge area


Manitouwadj, an Ojibway word meaning "Cave of the Great Spirit", is testament to the early inhabitants of the area. Although no written records exist, the nomadic Ojibway Indians have left a distinct impression on the culture of Manitouwadge. Through their tradition of oral communication, has come two legends, which weave the story of our development.

Lake Manitouwadge, known for its tranquil waters, is set deep in a rugged escarpment and is surrounded by dense forest. From the beginning of time, it had lain virtually unknown to anyone except the nomadic Indians. The first legend describes how Manitou, the mighty spiritual father, was sailing down a stream in a canoe that had a rudder attached to it. As he was traveling, he noticed a huge Canada goose flying into the sunset. Being hungry, Manitou quickly drew an arrow from his quiver, put it in his bow and shot the bird. As the giant bird fell, it created such a disturbance that the rudder was torn from the canoe.

When the waters had once again settled, the giant bird, a large fish and the rudder of the canoe were lying on the land. Manitou feasted that night and once again in the morning. He was so filled with a sense of well-being that he at once set about creating the area of Manitouwadj. Into the depressions formed in the ground by the huge Canada goose, the large fish, the rudder from his canoe and his moccasined feet, he poured water to make lakes. Hills were formed from the ground that was pushed up in the commotion. From the copper rings around the shaft of the arrow and the copper of arrow head, ore bodies were formed. The wood shaft of the arrow was made into deciduous trees, while the wood from the rudder formed the coniferous trees. To commemorate his stay, the mighty Manitou named the place Manitouwadge, literally meaning Lodge of the Great Spirit.

The second legend dating back to the 1800's suggests that copper ore was first found at the end of the last lake in the chain. Copper was extracted albeit in crude fashion by settlements of Ojibway Indians, camped along the North Shore of Lake Superior. One year, a prolonged drought resulted in record lows of the water in area lakes, necessitating a great deal of portaging of the canoes. At the eastern end of the last lake, a young Indian brave ventured into a previously undiscovered opening. Intrigued, he shouted and was frightened to hear his voice echo back to him. He hastily returned to his companions and informed then of his discovery of the Wadge of the Great Spirit, Manitou. Thus the lake became known to the Indians as Manitouwadge, Cave of the Great Spirit.

Later, the spelling of Manitouwadj was changed to Manitouwadge, when chartered maps and geological reports of the area were done. Three prospectors Roy Barker, Bill Dawd, and Jack Forster were instrumental in the development of Manitouwadge, as a mining community. They are depicted in the town logo, at the site of the gossans, where mining operations would begin a few years later. Their partnership sealed by a handshake, represented hope and optimism for the future townsite.

Then following the establishment of the Noranda (Geco Division) and Willroy Mines in the early 1950s, Manitouwadge was organised as an Improvement District by the Province in late 1954. It was planned by the Provincial Department of Planning and Development. Steady growth followed and effective January 01, 1975, the Improvement District was raised to Township status.

Mining and forestry have been and continue to be the primary local industries and the base of the economy and growth in Manitouwadge. In 1968, the Ontario Paper Company moved its centre of area operations from Heron Bay South to Manitouwadge. During 1975 to 1976 the Woodlands Division of the American Can Corporation began closing their bush campsites. The result was a slow growth in population until 1978 (as workers relocated to town), when the Willroy mine closed and the population decreased.

With the discovery of the Hemlo Gold fields, Manitouwadge once again experienced steady growth.

Today, Manitouwadge continues to be a friendly community, where dedicated individuals carry on the efforts of the early pioneers and where a handshake seals friendships. Just as it did for three prospectors by a remote lake in Northern, Ontario nearly fifty years ago.
The History of Manitouwadge was extracted from
MANITOUWADGE: Cave of the Great Spirit
by Pauline Dean