North Bay is a city located in Northern Ontario, and lies at the junction of the Main Trans-Canada Highway #17 and the Trans-Canada Northern Route Highway #11. North Bay is located 30km E of Sudbury, 60 km W of Mattawa, and 250 km N of Barrie (via #11). North Bay is a city of 51,000 (2023) on the north shore of Lake Nipissing, and is the major commercial centre around Lake Nipissing. North Bay is also a major railway town, with links west and into Ontario’s far north.
The surrounding natural landscapes, including Lake Nipissing, the Mattawa River to the east, the French River to the west, provide opportunities for outdoor activities such as boating, fishing, hiking, and winter sports including downhill and cross-country skiing.
North Bay also has many cultural institutions, museums, and galleries that showcase the history, art, and heritage of the region.
Visitors arrive from the south (many from Toronto) via its Yonge Street, which morphs in to Highway 11, passing through the Muskokoas before arriving in North Bay. From there hey continue on Highway 11, which becomes the Trans-Canada Northern Route, which arches through renowned mining towns like Temagami, Iroquois Falls, Cochrane, Kapuskasing, Herst, Longlac, Geraldton and Nipigon. Due to its strategic metals mining significance this route was completed during World War II, and it took another 20 years for the Main Trans-Canada Route along the north shore of Lake Superior to be completed. Highway 11 continues west of Nipigon, sharing the path of the Trans-Canada #17 to Thunder Bay, before #11 continues along the southern route closer to the US border to Atikokan and Fort Frances /International Falls before jogging north along the eastern edge of Lake of the Woods through Nestor Falls and Sioux Narrows to Kenora, to rejoin the Trans-Canada.
North Bay History
The area around North Bay was inhabited by the Nipissing First Nation, who relied on hunting, fishing, and gathering.
The North Bay area was visited by French fur traders and explorers in the 1600s and 1700s starting with Samuel de Champlain in 1615. This was commemorated at a plaque alongside the Trans-Canada overlooking the north shore of Lake Nipissing, west of the city. The fur traders set up a number of trading posts along area waterways.
The town of North Bay began to grow in the late 1800s as European settlers arrived to establish communities. The town’s ideal location Lake Nipissing and proximity to the Ottawa River was important for transportation and trade. The area’s logging industry grew quickly, with sawmills processing timber from the nearby forests.
The arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1882 strengthened North Bay’s role as a regional transportation hub.
During World War II, North Bay’s strategic location made it an important site for the establishment of a military airbase, now known as CFB North Bay. The base played a role in air defense and surveillance, particularly during the Cold War. The town also used to the Canadian base for NORAD’s strategic Bomarc missiles until 1967 when Canada decided to abandon its nuclear weapons.
Since WWII, North Bay’s economy has expanded to include manufacturing, healthcare, and education sectors, in addition to forestry, mining, and transportation.