Day 9 of a 365-Day Portrait of Canada: Marathon, on Lake Superior

The town of Marathon a quiet and lovely spot located in the Thunder Bay district of Ontario on the north shore of Lake Superior north of Pukaskwa National Park, in the heart of the Canadian Shield.

History of Marathon: As long ago as 500 BC the area was inhabited by Ojibway Natives who lived along the Pic River and there are still their descendants living in the area today.

Often referred to as “The Thon” by its residents, Marathon of today was born as a railroad community named Peninsula, due to its location on a peninsula on Lake Superior. Constructing the railroad, between 1881 and 1883, over the region’s terrain was a great engineering feat. At the time of the construction, some 12,000 men and 5,000 horses worked out of the town.

It has been said, but not verified, that certain sections of track would be laid one day, only to be devoured by the earth the next. Like most railroad communities, once the railroad had been completed Peninsula’s population dwindled considerably, and by 1935, the census of the town was just 23.

It wasn’t until a pulp mill was constructed in town, between 1944 and 1946, that the population rose back to 2,500, and the town’s name was changed, first to Everest, Ontario – after D.C. Everest, president of Marathon Corporation of Wisconsin, owners of the pulp mill in the town – then, later the same year, to Marathon, in honor of the paper company itself. The Everest name was discarded due to sounding too close to Everett, Ontario.

In the early 1980s, gold was discovered at Hemlo Ontario, an uninhabited area adjacent to the Trans Canada highway some 40 km east of Marathon. By the late 1980s, three mines were running at Hemlo, with two of the three mines locating their employees in Marathon, which effectively doubled its population making it the largest town along the North Shore between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay.


Lake Superior is the largest of the five Great Lakes of North America. It is bounded to the north by Ontario, Canada and Minnesota, United States, and to the south by the U.S. states of Wisconsin and Michigan. It is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area and is the world’s third-largest freshwater lake by volume.



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