As someone who has come to Northern Ontario as an adult, I believe that this unique landscape shapes everything we do here. To begin with is the sheer size of the place. The region is just over 840,000 square kilometres or 310,000 square miles. This is 87 per cent of Ontario’s land mass. To put this in perspective, France and Germany combined are about 900,000 square kilometres.
The Official Road Map of Ontario, which is widely available in Ontario for free, and has Southern Ontario on one side and Northern Ontario on the reverse side. A common mistake is to assume that both are at the same scale. The Northern Ontario side is more than double the scale yet only five per cent of the population, or 740,000, live in this vast area. Population density is 0.9 square kilometres. Don’t forget that the largest freshwater lake in the world (Lake Superior) forms a large portion of Northern Ontario’s southern border.
What does this mean? Most people are located in the five main cities: Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay and Timmins. Outside of these main centres are little towns that can be a hundred kilometres away from the next town. In addition, there are numerous communities that are unincorporated townships. The people who live in these areas don’t have any services that are not run by volunteers. Think volunteer fire services. On the other hand, their taxes are a lot less than their town counterparts.
Infrastructure outside of the main cities and towns is limited to highway corridors. This means that cell service is limited in some areas and nonexistent in others. In addition to the highway corridors, there are thousands of kilometres of roads that need regular maintenance. Damages to roads that are not a high priority often take weeks or even months to repair.
Those of us who live here share this land with a lot of wildlife. Beavers, wolves, eagles, moose and deer are all common. We have had to adjust to living with bears, crows and mice. We don’t leave anything out to attract wildlife. Those of us that feed birds, do so only in the winter.
Weather has a huge impact on us. It can be extremely cold or extremely hot in some areas. In other areas, the lakes moderate the temperatures but can dump a lot of snow. Private contractors are employed to clear the roads quickly, but sometimes it is too much and often main arteries are closed in the winter time.
Most of the area is located on the Canadian Shield, a rocky plateau filled with lakes and forests. This landscape is ideal for the outdoor enthusiast. Whether you enjoy your outdoors from the back of a snow machine or hiking along the beaches and outcrops, there is plenty of space here to do it all. There are opportunities for fishing and hunting, paddling and hiking, skiing and snowshoeing as well as motorized sports in this outdoor playground. Whether you play in the coastal highlands or interior lowlands, there is much to explore.