Fort William Historical Park, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

Fort William Historical Park

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Fort William Historical Park, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

Fort William in Thunder Bay, Ontario is considered the world’s largest fur trade post, and one of the largest living historic attractions in North America. This area has long been an important Canadian transport hub. In recent times it has been best known as the western-most port on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system, where grain and other products are loaded on ships bound for export markets. However, this strategic location for transportation dates back to the early days of the fur trade when Fort William, a community that would later make up modern-day Thunder Bay, was a crucial link between east and west.

Fort William Historical Park, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

Fort William Historical Park recreates those glory days when this was the inland headquarters of the North West Company. Fort William was the rendezvous point where western-bound trade goods were brought from Montreal, and voyageur brigades brought furs from the west for trans shipment.

Fort William Historical Park, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

Recreating life during 1816, this place is huge – covering 250 acres across 57 buildings. The fort is brought to life by several guides in period dress who play the roles of voyageurs, traders, blacksmiths, coopers, those who tended the animals on the working farm, among many others. Especially impressive is the large shed where birchbark canoes are made and repaired. Visitors can even take part in some activities. What’s not to like about a place that lets you throw axes, fire a muzzle-loading musket, or sample freshly-baked biscuits?

Fort William Historical Park, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

Fort William Historical Park, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

Allow at least a few hours to visit the site. You can take a guided tour or wander on your own. For longer visits, you can even stay at the attached campground. From a photographic point of view, the highlight is the many guides in period dress, many of whom really get into their roles. Check out the Fort William website for more details. For a more comprehensive look at the many attractions in and around Thunder Bay, also visit Thunder Bay Tourism.

Fort William Historical Park, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

A Sample of what you will see at Fort William

Fort William Historical Park, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

The Ojibwa Encampment just outside the fort walls. The Ojibwa were important to the operations of the fort, supplying a variety of materials such as birchbark and spruce for canoe building, snowshoes, moccasins, maple sugar, wild rice, and game meat.

Fort William Historical Park, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

The cooper. The large work area reflects the importance of making wooden casks at Fort William. They were used for everything from gunpowder to liquor, tobacco and practically every type of food.

Fort William Historical Park, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

We found this to be the most impressive part of the fort – filled with authentic birchbark canoes, and all the bits and pieces used to construct and repair them. While birchbark canoes were the ideal craft to ply the waters of Canada, they frequently needed repairs or replacement. Fort William was one of the main centres for canoe building.

Fort William Historical Park, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

Learning about building birchbark canoes.

Fort William Historical Park, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

Baby goat. Fort William differed from most fur trade posts in that it had a working farm. It provided food such as meat, milk, butter and eggs, as well as crops such as oats, peas, potatoes and barley.

Fort William Historical Park, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

The 90-pound pack of pressed furs ready for transport to Montreal

Fort William Historical Park, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

The voyageur.

Fort William Historical Park, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

Metis fur trader

Fort William Historical Park, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

Fur warehouse.

Fort William Historical Park, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

Fine dining for the big-wigs who would meet here and plan.

Fort William Historical Park, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

Fashioning crafts from leather.

Fort William Historical Park, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

The tin smith.

Fort William Historical Park, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

Dr. John McLoughlin’s apothecary – everything to cure whatever ails you.

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