North West River is a small town located in central Labrador. Take a look below for 25 fun and interesting facts about North West River, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
1. Established in 1743 as a trading post by French Fur Trader Louis Fornel, the community later went on to become a hub for the Hudson’s Bay Company and home to a hospital and school serving the needs of coastal Labrador.
2. North West River is the oldest modern settlement in Labrador.
3. Fornel’s trading post was known as Fort Esquimaux Baie (French for “Eskimo Bay Fort”).
4. It was succeeded in 1757 by Fort Montagnais Point.
5. The Hudson’s Bay Company established Fort Smith, whose surrounding settlement became known as Lake Melville Post and then North West River Post.
6. Central Labrador has been inhabited by Indigenous societies, such as Innu and the Maritime Archaic people, for over 7,000 years due to its bountiful wildlife.
7. In 1743 French fur trader Louis Fornel was the first European to establish a year-long settlement at the present site of North West River.
8. The site was primarily used to trade furs with the local indigenous peoples for European goods.
9. French settlers from Quebec moved to the area surrounding North West River to work as voyageurs and coureurs des bois (i.e., trappers).
10. Many took on Inuit wives creating a population of Métis trappers and traders.
11. Traders would also do business trading goods with the nomadic Naskapi Innu.
12. European fur traders relied on the knowledge of the land possessed by the trappers and the Innu to provide them with furs.
13. Trappers living in and around North West River would come to the trading post to exchange furs, such as beaver, mink, marten, seal, fox, and bear, for flour, raisins, canvas tents, axes, guns and other goods.
14. Trappers maintained traplines inherited from relatives throughout central Labrador.
15. With the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1763) Labrador was passed from the French to the British.
16. With the arrival of the British came the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1836 who would enjoy a trade monopoly over central Labrador’s furs for more than 100 years.
17. The newest of the Hudson’s Bay trading posts was constructed in 1923 and still remains as museum run and maintained by the Labrador Heritage Society.
18. In 1893 British doctor Wilfred Grenfell began traveling the Labrador coast providing medical services to fishermen and the aboriginals living in Labrador. In 1914 the International Grenfell Association was formed. The mission took doctors and nurses from the United Kingdom, and a handful of Commonwealth countries, to serve the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. One of these doctors was Dr. Harry L. Paddon, who in 1915 established a hospital in North West River which would eventually serve the entire coast of Labrador.
19. In 1981 the International Grenfell Association dissolved, leaving all properties to the Grenfell Regional Health Services Board, a locally run board, no longer relying on the support of missionaries. The hospital in North West River was closed by the provincial government in 1983.
20. On July 15, 1903, Leonidas Hubbard with his two companions departed North West River for his tragic canoe expedition.
21. On June 27, 1905, Mina Benson Hubbard departed North West River to complete her husband’s failed mission of 1903.
22. In July, 1928, Gino Watkins used North West River as the base for an expedition in which he and Jamie Scott explored the area on foot, by canoe and with dog sledge. They were initially accompanied by Lionel Leslie. In nine months the pair travelled about 800 miles by canoe and 1500 miles by dog sledge.
23. The North West River Cable Car was first used in 1961 as a way to connect the people of North West River to neighboring Sheshatshiu and to the road leading to Happy Valley-Goose Bay. The Cable Car remained in use until a permanent bridge was constructed in 1980.
24. The fur trade collapsed after the Second World War. Many trappers abandoned their traplines to work at the new air force base at nearby Goose Bay.
25. Although North West River has remained small in size over the last 250 years, it remains a lively place full of history. The town offers scenic walking trails along the waterfront, through the forest or to the top of “Sunday Hill” where hikers can see a panoramic view of Lake Melville, the Mealy Mountains, Grand Lake and Little Lake. A modern bridge connects North West River to the rest of the continent which was constructed in 1980. Before that a cable car spanned the river for 19 years. Before that the river was only passable by boat.