The Rainy River District offers numerous lakes, rivers and wilderness to create a sportsman's paradise. Tourism has become a secondary industry in the area, with the development of facilities to serve the vacationer who arrives to experience North Western Ontario at its finest.
Tourism in fact began before the turn of the century, although the first visitors were not considered tourists. Wealthy business men began to arrive in the Rainy River District to take excursions through the area for relaxation, fishing and hunting.
In the late 1800's the first excursion boats brought visitors to the area. Following the route of the Voyageurs, the early steamboats were the most important mode of transportation. At the time there were few roads and no railway existed. The boats not only got the travellers to their destination but they were able to see beautiful scenery on their way.
Daily excursions took the outdoor enthusiast to the beautiful wilderness area of the region. The Cascades on the northern tip of Rainy Lake were a tourist attraction as well as a picnic area for the local people. Sunday was the most popular day of the week for the working men were on their day off. Local families were the most frequent users, although some tourists also visited this beautiful site.
Important developments in the creation of a tourist industry were the opening of the railway linking Fort Frances and Rainy River in 1901, the continuation to Atikokan in 1902 and in 1908 the completion of the railway to Duluth. The arrival of the railway made the area more accessible to the tourist.
Before the completion of the International Bridge in 1912, the American tourist would cross the river either by foot bridge or ferry. The foot bridge crossed directly over the falls, which were not harnessed until 1905-1910. The ferry boat the "Rainy River" made hourly trips from Fort Frances and International Falls at a cost of 25¢ during the day and 50¢ at night. The "Niobe" was another ferry offering transportation anywhere on the Rainy River or Rainy Lake. A picnic trip was a popular leisure activity for it offered an experience of the wilderness of the district.
The increase in visitors resulted in the need for hotels, which quickly sprung up along Front Street in Fort Frances. When the ferry could no longer sufficiently accomodate the influx of visitors the need for an international bridge between the Fort and Falls was established. Begun in 1909, the bridge was finally opened with a daylong celebration on Aug. 1, 1912.
Many tourists came to the area to take advantage of the beauty of the wilderness, as well as the hunting and fishing. Stories of successful hunting trips and large catches lured more and more American outdoorsmen to the area.
By 1915, the possibility of a steady income from the tourists became obvious. Mr. Lloyd and Mr. Watson took the opportunity to open a tourism outfitters store which provided all necessary accomodations and equipment for a camping trip on Rainy Lake.
Other excursion boats transported tourists to local sports on Rainy Lake such as Pither's Point. No roads were extended to this then.
By the early 1920's residents of the area realized the potential of a possible tourist industry and pursued the development of pleasant accomodations and activities for the visitors.
By the mid 1960's tourism was well established and continues to be developed today as a vital industry to the area.