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Gunflint Narrows

Gunflint Narrows, at Milepost 85.8, was the Canadian terminus of the railway.

It was situated at the narrows between Gunflint Lake to the south and Magnetic Lake to the north. A 400-foot trestle bridge was constructed in 1892 to carry trains from Ontario into Minnesota to the Paulson Mine and beyond. It was, at the time, one of the most remote border crossings in North America.

At some point after the railway opened, possibly in 1895, the railway’s main station on Gunflint Lake shifted from Leeblain to Gunflint Narrows. That same year, Victor Pelletier opened at trading post at the narrows. Additionally, according to long-time resident and author Justine Kerfoot, there was also a hotel/station, customs house and coal bunker at the location. The shift to the narrows was likely due to the proximity of nearby families, mostly of Indigenous decent. This included the Cook’s, the Powell’s, the Plummer’s and others.

Trains did not regularly travel into the US; they likely only crossed the border to utilize a turning wye located 1.75 miles (2.8km) from the narrows. In 1901, Pelletier left his trading post to return to Port Arthur. This is probably the impetus for Canadian Northern (CNoR), the new owners of the line, to stop running trains past North Lake (MP 71) the next year (see timecards). Conversely, Pelletier may have left when it became known that CNoR was going to discontinue service to that area. The loss of the trestle at North Lake in 1909 severed the line past Milepost 75 and cut Gunflint off from its connection to the Canadian Lakehead. Slowly, the number of people living near the narrows dwindled and the bridge was dismantled in the early 1920s. The last permanent resident, Charlie Cook, passed away in 1997.

The First Nations people who lived nearby considered the waters of the Narrows, the Cow-o-bob-o-cock (where the rock ledges come together), a place where evil spirits resided.

For more information on Gunflint Narrows and the people that resided there, please check out these excellent books by the late Justine Kerfoot:

Woman of the Boundary Waters 1986

Gunflint: Reflections on the Trail 1991

Link to the 1911 map.

There are several videos of the remains of Gunflint Narrows from 1998 to the present in the YouTube playlist below.

 

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