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9. Transport

This map shows some of the main trails (short dashes) and winter roads (long dashes) of the Lac La Loche area.
Trails go from West La Loche to Garson Lake, La Loche to Bull's House, La Loche to Turnor Lake and La Loche to Descharme Lake.
Some of these trails have been in use for over 250 years.   .....view more of this map.

La Loche was connected to the highways system in 1963.

Saskatchewan Highway 155

"No. 155 highway was begun in 1947 as a development road" (Star-Phoenix-Aug. 29, 1963)
"The new road follows closely the old wagon trail cut 100 years earlier" by the HBC.
The official opening of Highway 155 from Green Lake to Buffalo Narrows was held in August 1963. more
The road extension to La Loche was also completed in 1963.  
Highway 155 was rebuilt and paved during the 1980's. 
The 300 kilometer highway begins in Green Lake and ends in La Loche.

Saskatchewan Highway 955 ....The Semchuk Trail

Highway 955 (off of Highway 155) was completed in 1979. It begins in La Loche and ends at the old Cluff Lake Mine site. 
A 4.5 kilometers section is paved from La Loche to the Clearwater River Dene Nation.  
From there a paved access road leads to the village of Clearwater. 
The 245 kilometer road then continues north as a gravel road. 
The Clearwater River Bridge at Warner Rapids is about 60 kilometers from La Loche.
Further north an access roads leads to Descharme Lake. Descharme Lake is about 95 kilometers from La Loche.

Ice road to Uranium City
" They included an extension of Highway 955 (Semchuk Trail) to URANIUM City, built in 1955–56 by Martin Semchuk, John Midgett and Jonas Clarke" about the Semchuk Trail of 1956 in the following links.

Saskatchewan Highway 956....The Garson Lake Road

Highway 956 or the Garson Lake Road (off of Highway 155) is a 44 kilometer gravel road that leads to Garson Lake. It continues into Alberta as a winter road. 
There is an access road to Black Point. Construction began in 1986. It was completed in 1999.
View the chronological summary of the planning, funding and construction of the Garson Lake Road on the following link. .....The Garson Lake Road

Link: View the HBC boat route from Green Lake to La Loche on this 1904-1907 map.
The old wagon trail from Green Lake to Prince Albert via Fort Carlton is also on this map.

Water transport        ....see The Portage La Loche Brigade
Canoes were used by the brigades arriving at the Portage from 1778 until 1823.
York boats: The Portage saw the first York boats arrive in 1823.  
York boats were used by the Portage La Loche Brigade from 1826 to the 1870"s.

Dogs Teams

March 1955 La Loche (Father Mathieu and his dog team).  The Hudson's Bay Company store in the background built in the 1950's is still standing and is part of the  Northern Store.

Dog teams: Winter travel was by snowshoe and dog team with sleds. Rackets (snowshoes) were sometimes used to break a path ahead of travelers who walked or used dogs and sledges. The sled was also called a sledge, a toboggan, a cariolle or a carryall.

"The Northern Packet": The HBC  system of yearly winter mail delivery called "The Northern Packet" was done entirely by dog teams, sleds and men on snowshoes. The sledges were pulled by 3 to 4 dogs with little bells on their harnesses.
The Fort Gary to Norway House section of 350 miles took 8 days. At Norway House other teams were dispatched west, north and east.
(from the "Red river" book by Joseph James Hargrave published in 1871)

Portage La Loche/La Loche

Horses and oxen

Horses and oxen
were brought in to help at difficult portages such at the one in La Loche.
The animals had to be fed so pastures had to be found or planted for them

The authors of "Canoeing the Churchill" wrote: "In 1842, possibly the first year horses were used on Methy Portage, a Metis 
named "Old Cardinal" had thirty-four pack horses on the portage to assist with freighting."..Marchildon, Greg; Robinson (Sid) (2002). Canoeing the Churchill A Practical Guide to the Historic Voyageur Highway. Regina: University of Regina.. ISBN 0-88977-148-0 the fall of 1847, all of the Hudson's Bay Company's horses at Lac La Loche died of disease, as did another fifteen of twenty horses owned by an "Indian" who leased them out for portage work."

"I crossed the Portage in the course of the day, horses being kept here by the Hudson's Bay Company to facilitate the trajet, and observed at night at the upper or north-west end." from the diary of surveyor Sir John Henry Lefroy for September 16, 1843.

In 1862 carts pulled by oxen and horses were used at Portage La Loche. 

"Efforts have been made to facilitate the transport across it (the  Portage) by means of oxen and carts; but the men belonging to the boats are often necessarily employed here, as on all the othe Portages, in carrying the packages on their backs." page 181 "Red river" by Hargrave 

Oxen appear to have been used as early as 1850 and were still in use in 1883.

Bull's House: In La Loche some of  the animals spent the winter at the end of the La Loche River on Peter Pond Lake. The people of this small settlement of Bull's House took care of the animals over the winter.  A natural pasture was located there as well as an important fishery. During periods of high water level's at Bull's House hay was cut at Hay Point three miles away and brought in to feed the animals. This was an outpost of the Hudson's Bay Company and run by company 
employees from Ile a la Crosse. 

Photo: Victor 'Dor' Janvier on horseback 1940's La Loche

Freight Swings and Railroads

Freight swings: Above are three photos of cat swings taken at La Loche in the  1940's. (from SHSB)
These freight swings came by winter road from Big River and later from Buffalo Narrows. 

Freight would arrive by rail to Big River then hauled over the ice road to La Loche. 

New windows, doors etc. for the school, the convent, the church and other buildings built in the 1940's and 1950's in La Loche
must have been delivered by these freight swings. Although a sawmill in La Loche furnished much of the wood
other materials had to be ordered.

The following link has a history of freight swings with photos of horse drawn swings as well as cat swings.
This site has histories of other villages as well. (Buffalo Narrows, Ile a la Crosse, Big River etc.)

The first railway (CPR) reached Alberta in 1883. This caused great changes in the HBC transportation system. 
New HBC routes bypassed the more expensive Portage La Loche route. 

The railway (CNR) reached Big River in 1909 about 375 kilometers from La Loche.

The railway reached Waterways, Alberta (Fort McMurray) in 1921. 
Cheecham, Alberta (on this line) was 100 kilometers from La Loche.

In the winter freight was hauled from Big River and Cheecham by freight swings to the northern villages.

Airplanes/Bush Planes

The first airplane landed on the lake in La Loche on June 28, 1929.
"The Great Portage" a local newsletter writes the first airstrip was built  by the Saleski River in 1952 and the first plane on wheels landed on October 1 that year.
The reason given for building the airstrip wrote Mr. Poisson of the D.N.R. was that during "freeze-up" and "break-up" of the lake ice 
planes could not access the community for two to three weeks.
Airstrips were built at other northern locations during the 1940's and 1950's.

On January 2, 1955 the plane carrying the La Loche HBC post manager  Stan Woodward, his wife and family 
and three children from La Loche crashed at Buffalo Narrows killing everyone on board.
(from The Manager's Tale (Events and Tragedy) at
See the page "News Clips:" for a newspaper account.

Above is a photo of a plane on skis at La Loche. The letters CF on the wing dates the photo to after 1928. This plane may be delivering mail. 
The first air mail flight to La Loche was in 1936.

C & M Airways of La Loche.
C & M Airways was started by John F.  Midgett and Grover M. Clarke in 1968. 
John Midgett flew fish out of northern Saskatchewan from as early as 1956 (the year he got his pilot license).
They were flying out of Descharme Lake where they had set up a fish filleting plant and an airstrip.
John Midgett also opened the Lloyd Lake Lodge in 1969.
(Information from the "Saskatchewan Aviation Hall of Fame" website and the Star Phoenix.)

A photo of CF-BTC  norseman airplane owned by C & M Airways for a brief period in 1978.
This plane flew from 1940 to 1992. 

View a history of this plane and photo at " item 29" on "The Aircraft" page at the following link.

This CF-BHS also flew out of La Loche. The norseman was registered 
by G. M. Clarke and John F. Midgett on May 16, 1966 and re-registered 
to C & M Airways of La Loche in 1971. 
The C and M initials stood for the owners Clarke and Midgett. 
On September 28, 1989 it was registered to La Loche Airways.

Photo of CF-BHS and two other planes on Saleski Lake at La Loche in the 1970's.
Saleski Lake was also known as Little Lake (hence Little Lake Avenue).
(from "Rowdy" a forum at
One plane is being refueled.

A history of the norseman (N29-7) CF-BHS 
01/31/2009. New from the factory, the aircraft was registered as CF-BHS to Tom Lamb of Lamb Airways of The Pas, Manitoba, Canada, on October 4, 1945. Twenty-one years later, on May 16, 1966, the aircraft was sold to G.M. Clark and John F. Midgett of Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, It was reregistered to C and M Airways of La Loche, in 1971, while on September 28, 1989 it was registered to La Loche Airways.

While taxiing on Cree Lake on October 11, 1989, fire broke out and the aircraft was beached on Prowse Island and subsequently damaged beyond repair by the fire. The registration was cancelled on April 4, 1990. Eighteen years later its remains had been rebuilt to static display in the colours of Lamb Airways and on June 28, 2008 unveiled on a pedestal in the Lions Park, Thompson, Manitoba, to commemorate the bush plane and their bush pilots, especially Tom Lamb. View also photo 5916.

1936 envelope of the first air mail flight from La Loche to Ile a la Crosse

1936 envelope of the first air mail flight from La Loche to Buffalo Narrows and the photo used for the illustration

Driving Directions from La Loche