The Ontario government is investing over $800,000 to revitalize the Turtle Portage Marine Railway on Lake of the Woods.
The marine railway provides a 400-foot shortcut for users to move their boats between Whitefish Bay and Sabaskong Bay on Lake of the Woods, instead of travelling 145 km by boat around the Aulneau Peninsula.
The system uses a boat dolly mounted onto a railway track, which is then operated manually to move boats over the land. It’s operated by staff with the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry.
"Lake of the Woods is a vital part of tourism in the Northwest, attracting cottagers and visitors who come to enjoy the many recreational opportunities the area has to offer," said Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford.
"Turtle Portage is an iconic landmark on Lake of the Woods and that’s why our government is proud to ensure that boaters can safely use this overland crossing for many years to come,” adds the Minister.
Ontario says the railway will be upgraded to improve its functionality, safety and reliability, allowing for more recreational boating opportunities on the lake. Construction is set to begin in the spring.
"I know a lot of people like to use Turtle Portage. Sabaskong Bay and Whitefish Bay are very different waters and locals as well as guests like the ability to fish both in the same day. I believe it's an important historical tradition that is an asset to our region and should be maintained,” says owner of Helliar’s Resort, Wayne Helliar.
"I find the Turtle Portage ramp vital to the economies that I live in (Morson and Sioux Narrows). I own and operate Gill’s Morson Marina, and Gill’s Trading Post, and I know I have people that enjoy coming and using our facilities and services after portaging either direction,” says owner of Gill’s Marina and Gill’s Trading Post, Terry Gill.
"Historically, Turtle Portage has been a critical piece of transportation infrastructure for the eastern parts of Lake of the Woods,” says Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls Mayor, Norbert Dufresne.
“We are pleased to learn of the significant investment being made by the provincial government so that it will continue to operate with considerable improvements, ensuring that our waterways will remain open and safe for the residents and visitors of Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls to travel,” adds Dufresne.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry proposed closing the marine railway in 2019 due to financial concerns, which was decided against. The railway was installed in 2000, replacing a roller way from the early 1990s.