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Chippewa Park

“Visit the Lakehead's 300 acre natural playground nestled in the woodland on the shore of Lake Superior. Just a short seven miles from the heart of the City, Chippewa Park combines rugged scenic beauty and vacation privacy for the enjoyment of the entire family."
- Parks and Recreation Department, City of Thunder Bay "Visit Chippewa Park." 1970. 

Where? City Road Size: Approximately 270.1 acres
Created: Opened July 15, 1921
Major Features:
  • Deed signed between Indian Affairs and the City of Fort William, 1917
  • Mission Site renamed "Chippewa Park," July 6, 1921 
  • The park opened with a picnic, July 15, 1921
  • Bandstand constructed on the Chippewa Park waterfront, 1924
  • Merry-Go-Round, the first of Chippewa Park's amusement rides, purchased 1926
  • A 125-foot-long dock constructed, 1931
  • First log cabin built, 1932
  • Second (replacement) Merry-Go-Round, 1934
  • Roller coaster, tilt-a-whirl, large cable ride, and bumper car arena, 1967 
Land Acquired:

In 1922, the land for Chippewa Park (270.1 acres) was purchased from Indian Affairs for $25,000.

Land Usage: Regional Park


Each image in the slideshow is a link to original records and more information.

Historical Highlights:

  • On December 29, 1917, the Fort William Band of Indians signed a deed, giving 270.1 acres of land to the Crown, who in turn sold it to the City of Fort William. The City paid $25,000 for the land.

  • On July 6, 1921, the park was formally named "Chippewa Park." The name refers to the original inhabitants and owners of that land. 

  • On July 15, 1921, a picnic, hosted by Mayor Dennis and his wife, celebrated the park's opening. Gay Page of the Times-Journal and Chairman W. A. Dowler of the Parks Board were also in attendance.

  • Throughout 1920-1922, park land was cleared. Chippewa Park was bustling between 1921 and 1922: the Parks Board signed a 21-year lease with the Canadian National Railway for the use of the waterfront land, playground equipment was updated, camping and tenting opportunities were made available to the public, and Chippewa Park's first superintendent, Mr. Merrifield, was instated.

  • In 1923, the Chippewa Park Zoo was founded with a donation of two squirrels and one raccoon. By the end of the year, it had an owl, pheasants, another raccoon, and buffalo.

  • Building continued at Chippewa Park, and by the end of 1924 it had: six cottages, a dining hall, a refreshment booth, a dance hall, a bath house, and a warehouse. A rooming house, called "The Lodge" was also constructed that year.

  • A wooden bandstand was constructed on a small island in 1924. The resilient bandstand stood until 1954.

  • The City of Fort William began leasing lots for summer cottages in 1925. Campers began building cottages on Sandy Beach in the late 1920s.

  • In 1926, the Public Utilities Commission purchased a merry-go-round for Chippewa Park. The Parks Board began operating it the following year. Children lined up eager to pay their nickel for three rides.

  • By 1932, Chippewa Park had 18 furnished log cabins and 18 summer cottages that were available to the public.

  • In 1931, a dock was built to promote fishing and boating on Lake Superior. It was so extensively used that in 1932 the Parks Board extended it a further 400 feet.

  • The Winnipeg Assiniboine Zoo donated a large, good-natured brown bear, named Teddy, in 1931. Teddy had a flair for showmanship and a love of peanuts: “Teddy could catch and swallow the peanut and dispose of the shell in one single graceful movement.”

  • In 1945, the Fort William Yacht Club built a clubhouse on park property. This building was later sold to the Parks Board to be used as a toboggan chalet, in 1963.

  • The zoo welcomed new additions – a golden eagle, silver fox, black squirrels, and goldfish – in 1946.

  • The zoo underwent significant development in 1953, and de-accessioned large animals in favour of smaller animals native to Northern Ontario. This plan did not last long, and was scrapped completely when the Chippewa Zoo took in a polar bear cub named Snowball in 1956.

  • In 1960, more rides were added to Chippewa Park. Fritz Altmann operated the Lakehead Express, a miniature train, which opened June 4, 1960. In 1967, the amusement park expanded again: bringing the total to a roller coaster, tilt-a-whirl, airplane rides, boats, tanks, bumping cars, a ferris wheel, boat swings, a merry-go-round, and the train.

  • In 1961, Chippewa Park began a five-year development program. Improvements included: the addition of drinking water, 4 washrooms, new picnic areas, facilities for campers, benches, and paved lots.

  • On February 15, 1961, the Parks Board purchased 27.7 acres of waterfront land from the Canadian National Railway.

  • Chippewa Park was busy on Canada’s centennial, July 1, 1967. The festivities included: a fish derby, races, dancing, singing, an Aboriginal performance, and fireworks display.

  • In 1967, Chippewa Park was the location of Fort William’s first Day Camp.

  • In 1974, the 10,000 square foot Chippewa zoo was demolished, while a five-year plan to construct a 500, 000 square foot animal sanctuary began.

  • As of 1982, Chippewa Park had 80 tent sites, 60 trailer sites, and 18 original log cabins available for rental.

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