The first major accomplishment of road-building in this area was the Nipigon Highway between Thunder Bay and Nipigon, which opened in 1924. After a steel decked bridge spanning the Nipigon River was completed (1937) a further 92 km (57 mi) highway was completed east to Schreiber, just west of Terrace Bay.
About half the highway between Thunder Bay and Nipigon either under construction or four-laned (as of 2010)
About 8 km along the East Loon Road is the Thunder Bay Amethyst Mine, where Ontario's provincial stone, amethyst, is mined and sold.
Amethysts were discovered near the Ouimet Canyon (miday between Thunder Bay and Nipigon) during the 1955 construction of a road to a forest fire lookout tower (McTavish Tower). Amethyst production started in 1960 and continues today.
At the East Loon Road is a clearing beneath which the Trans-Canada natural gas pipeline lies buried. It is marked by little yellow numbered signs on white posts, and a strip of cleared land through the forest which is gradually growing over again. The right of way provides a route for new plant species to be introduced into the area.
From here a gravel road leads north 12.07 km to the spectacular Ouimet Canyon. A vertical joint (fissure) in the rock has been eroded over many centuries to a depth of 107 m and a width of 152m. Rocks fallen from the vertical sides have accumulated at the bottom, which is protected from the warm summertime air of; to create an Arctic micro-climate that allows several arctic plant species to thrive, such as Arctic wintergreen, the moss Aulocomnium acuminatum, and the Iiverwort Temnome setiforma saxifrage. Visitors should approach the lip of the canyon cautiously, since there is no protective barrier.
No traveller can tall to notice the rusty red layers of stone which give the area (and the town) of Red Rock its name. The name which geologists give to this local pocket of soft red rocks Is "Sibley Group". The rocks of the Sibley group would have eroded away a long ago, except for the protective layer of volcanic rock that lies on top of them. Travelers will observe high, steepsided hills, with the two layers of rock clearly visible
The Nipigon River is Lake Superior's largest tributary and it was very near here that the carved wooden hero of the children's book, "Paddle·to·the Sea", began his epic journey. The flow in the Nipigon River is slightly augmented by diversion of some of the water from the Ogoki River, far upstream, which normally flows into James Bay via the Albany River. By international agreement, this water diversion scheme (and another farther east near Terrace Bay) were built to provide additional water for Canadian hydroelectric power production at Niagara Falls.
The Nipigon River Bridge, a steel deck truss road bridge opened in 1937, a crossing that even today remains the only paved route linking eastern and western Canada.
In order to widen the Trans-Canada Highway to 4 lanes, the new bridge was needed. The future westbound bridge opened late in 2015, and the bridge would open to four lanes when the eastbound bridge would be completed in 2017. In 2016, The new cable-stayed Nipigon River Bridge on Highway 11/17 was damaged, and for a period closed the highway link between Ontario and the rest of Canada. The only option for motorists driving across northern Ontario is to cross the U.S. border, there being no alternate road routes north of the Trans-Canada
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