The road from Wekusko to Snow Lake

The train rhythmically clicked its way from Winnipeg, on through Dauphin, Swan River, The Pas and finally, we arrived at Wekusko.

For the Manitoba Centennial in 1970, C.W. Casselman, an early resident of Snow Lake wrote about first arriving in the community: 

The train rhythmically clicked its way from Winnipeg, on through Dauphin, Swan River, The Pas and finally, we arrived at Wekusko.

This was as near to Snow Lake as we could get by train. We stepped off and looked about us to see a settlement of a few little houses, the railway station and platform. The land was flat and covered with pines that looked as though they had been deprived of their vitamins. They were scraggly and a little stunted. Little did we know how we would come to love those trees and the area they represent.

Main Street Snow Lake in 1963. Photo: Town of Snow Lake

We then began to wonder about more practical things. What, if any, communication existed between Snow Lake and the outside world? What was the road like from here to Snow Lake? What would our work be like? About 75% of the passengers on the train held Wekusko as their destination and now they milled about on the platform, searching for their luggage and getting a look at the land. We began to feel, in a small way, as though we were a part of a much larger brotherhood of men who were simultaneously working in many parts of the North to open up this great land. We boarded an old yellow bus headed for Snow Lake camp. We were on the last leg of our journey to the Howe Sound gold mine, the largest gold mine in the North and we wondered again what would be in store for us at the other end of this road. One thing I did know about Snow Lake was that it had been named by a man called Lew Parres. He named it Snow Lake because he found the water in the lake was as soft as that you get when you melt snow.

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The road from Wekusko to Snow Lake had been built in 1946 through an agreement between Howe Sound Exploration Co. and the Manitoba Government. Previously, men and machinery had been brought in by caterpillars, but now with the road in passable condition, the important business of getting equipment in to get a mine in operation would be made a little easier. In October of 1946, the first truck arrived in the Snow Lake camp.

We watched the bus driver Doug Borton as he negotiated the never-ending curves in the road. We later learned that in the 37 miles of road from Wekusko to Snow Lake, there were 56 curves. We had the feeling the road had been laid out by an old garter snake who had imbibed heavily in someone’s cache of whiskey. As we watched out of the window, we frequently saw wild game cross the road or stand near the water-filled ditches. About ten miles out from Wekusko Doug Borton stopped the bus, got out and gave three shrill whistles. In seconds, from out of the thick bush came three foxes. Doug reached in his pocket and pulled out three candy bars and the foxes ate right out of his hand. When his hand had been licked clean, the foxes ambled back into the bush and Doug took his place behind the wheel of the bus. He told us of the road construction crew finding these foxes when they were building this section of the road and they had tamed them with chocolate bars from their lunches.

After we rounded the 56th curve, we found ourselves looking down at the Snow Lake camp.

As of 2021, Snow Lake has an estimated population of 980 people. Mining has been the mainstay of the community. There is currently exploration in the Snow Lake area for gold, zinc, copper, and various other metals, and it is expected that the area will boom again, maybe because of lithium.

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