Hudson Bay

Town, pop 1,783, located 116 km E of Tisdale, nestled in the Red Deer River valley between the Pasquia and Porcupine Hills. The community is situated at the junction of Hwys 3 and 9, 50 km west of the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border. The immediate area encompassing the town consists of farmlands surrounded by vast tracts of forest wilderness. Fur trading activity in the area dated to the latter half of the 1700s. The Canadian Northern Railway entered the district from Manitoba in the first years of the 20th century. In 1907, the Village of Etoimami (the community’s original name, of Cree origin) was incorporated; a hotel built that year is still in business. In 1909, the name of the community was changed to Hudson Bay Junction for its position as the starting point for the on-again off-again Hudson Bay Railway to Churchill, Manitoba, which was not completed until 1929. For many years, logging and railway work were the primary occupations in the district, but in the 1920s agriculture began to develop when areas of the surrounding forest reserves were opened for settlement by soldiers who had served in World War I. The 1930s saw increasing settlement of the district as people moved north fleeing the drought-ravaged southern plains. It was not until the late 1930s and early 1940s that the first roads began to be built into the region. In 1946 the community attained town status, and in 1947 the word “Junction” was dropped from its name. In 1948 the first plywood plant in Canada was built at Hudson Bay, followed in 1961 by a waferboard plant. The latter operations, sold to MacMillan Bloedel in 1965, were purchased by Weyerhaeuser Ltd in 1999. Today, Weyerhaeuser operates both the plywood and the OSB plants (OSB, oriented strand board, is the successor to wafer or particle board). The development of these facilities spawned a building boom in Hudson Bay, and the population grew from 793 in 1946 to 1,957 in 1966. The railroad was still employing about 100 people in the mid-1960s; however, as that workforce was reduced over the following years, agriculture and especially forestry became the community’s economic mainstays. A wide range of crops are grown in the valley; locally grown alfalfa enables Hudson Bay Dehydrators to process 10,000 tonnes of alfalfa pellets annually for local and export markets. Another factor in Hudson Bay’s economy is tourism, particularly as it relates to big game hunting. There are approximately 130 businesses in Hudson Bay, providing a wide array of goods and services.

David McLennan