In the 1890's, John Booth decided to build a railway to move his lumber from what is now Algonquin Park, to his mill in Ottawa. To accompany the railway, a town was also needed. Rather than purchase land from the people of Parry Sound, which Booth considered too expensive, Booth built his own town, Depot Harbour.
The railway provided excellent access to eastern Canada and the harbour provided easy access to ships to export goods. By 1898 the town had two large grain elevators, a hotel, boarding houses, homes, stores and three churches.The town was dry (no alcohol), citizens would have to travel to a nearby town for a drink.
The railway was eventually sold to Grand Trunk Railway and in 1918, the CNR took over. To reduce costs, the roundhouse in Depot Harbour was closed. In 1933, a spring ice floe damaged the railway bridge in Algonquin Park and was not repaired. The damaged bridge would not allow trains to travel from Depot Harbour to Ottawa. No longer a grain route, steamers became a rare sight until 1941 when they stopped arriving altogether. The explosives plant in Nobel, ten kilometers north of Parry Sound, used one of the nearby warehouses to store cordite (used in the production of explosives).
Four years after the ships stopped arriving, in 1945, it was decided to tear down the old grain elevators. While tearing down the elevatirs, they caught fire. Sparks from the fire made their way to the cordite warehouse and exploded into a fireball. Rumor has it you could read a newspaper from the light of the fire, some 7 kilometres away. By the 1950's the coal dock has closed, the railway bridge covered with wood and the townsite fell into a state of disrepair. Homes were sold for $25 and the townsite was completely abandoned by 1964. The rails were lifted in 1989.
The roundhouse is still standing, old car parts can be found inside. The company safe is supposed to be nearby in the woods. Some foundations can be found nearby in the woods. By the shore you will find the cement steps which lead up the foundations of the old Catholic Church.
Standing on the rocks and looking out to the water, you can make out the fishing nets to your left, used by the natives. Over by the port you can find the foundations of the grain elevators, railway bed, and buildings.
Depot Harbour is the largest town in Ontario to have become a ghost town.
Directions: Take Hwy 69 to Parry Sound. From downtown Parry Sound, take Hwy 69A south to Great North Road. You may also take Parry Sound Road to reach Emily Street. Follow the Great North Road to Emily St. Cross over the swing bridge and continue on until you reach the cemetery. At the cemetery, turn right along a narrow dirt road and travel a short distance until you reach Old Track Road. Turn left on Old Track Road until you reach the roundhouse.
Permission to view the site must be obtained from the Wasauksing First Nations Band Office.
The building with the vault is at exactly 45°19'3.00"N , 80° 5'47.63"W
The roundhouse is at exactly 45°19'9.29"N , 80° 5'38.54"W (Thanks to Kevin A.)