History of Secondary Highway 579:
Secondary Highway 579 is a local highway in the District of Cochrane that provides access from Cochrane to the small community of Gardiner, located north of Cochrane. Highway 579 was first designated by an Order-in-Council dated May 9, 1956, when the Gardiner Road was taken over as new provincial highway. The route was first depicted on a Preliminary Route Plan prepared by the Department of Highways of Ontario (DHO) in May, 1956. Initially, the new highway had a length of 20.0 miles (32.2 km). The route originally began at the western limits of the Town of Cochrane and ended at the Ontario Northland Railway (ONR) crossing near Gardiner. During 1959, it was decided that Highway 579 would be extended slightly from the ONR Crossing south of Gardiner into Gardiner. A Crown Land Plan was prepared by the DHO in September 1959, showing a 1/4 mile extension of Highway 579. The plan was registered on January 14, 1960, which extended the highway north from the ONR Crossing to Gardiner.
As originally assumed in 1956, the DHO owned Highway 579 in its entirety with the exception of the portions of the route passing through the Town of Cochrane. This non-assumed section of the route from the Highway 11 Junction in Cochrane (via Third Avenue) to the west limits of Cochrane at First Avenue and Eighth Street remained under municipal jurisdiction. A Municipal Connecting Link was established for Highway 579 through Cochrane in 1959. From Highway 11, Highway 579 extended north along Third Avenue to Seventh Street, where the route briefly turned west. At First Avenue, Highway 579 turned right and continued north to the join the assumed section of Highway 579 at the western town limits at First Avenue and Eighth Street. This route was officially designated as a Municipal Connecting Link by an Order-in-Council, effective February 12, 1959. The Municipal Connecting Link was modified slightly in the mid-1970s. The new route was established by an Order-in-Council, effective December 1, 1976. The revised route still followed Third Avenue through Cochrane, but turned left onto Fifth Street. Highway 579 continued west along Fifth Street to Western Avenue, where the route resumed its journey north. The Municipal Connecting Link ended at Western Avenue and Eighth Street, where the assumed section of Highway 579 continued north towards Gardiner. The bypassed section of Highway 579 along Eighth Street from Western Avenue to First Avenue was transferred from the province to the Township of Glackmeyer and the Town of Cochrane, effective October 25, 1978. The route of Highway 579 did not change again until the late 1990s, when the Municipal Connecting Link through Cochrane was revoked by a Minister's Order, effective November 9, 1998. The remainder of the highway from the western limits of Cochrane to Gardiner is still under provincial jurisdiction.
A cable ferry is in operation on Highway 579 across the Abitibi River near Gardiner. The Gardiner Ferry is privately operated under contract by the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO). The ferry service provides free on-demand transportation across the river for Highway 579 traffic to reach the highway's northern terminus at Gardiner. The ferry vessel Cassiopeia IV was originally used by Highway 574 traffic to cross the Abitibi River at Brower up until 1966. After a new bridge was constructed across the Abitibi River on Highway 574, the Brower Ferry was discontinued. The Cassiopeia IV was relocated to Gardiner, where it still operates today. The Gardiner Ferry runs for approximately nine months of each year. The Abitibi River freezes during the winter months, which makes the ferry service inoperable. Highway 579 traffic must use an ice road to reach Gardiner during the winter months.
Highway 579 was gravel-surfaced at the time of designation in 1956. A primed bituminous surface was constructed along Highway 579 from Cochrane northerly for 11 miles to Clute during 1970. Highway 579 was paved from Clute to the Abitibi River in 1977 and from the Abitibi River northerly to Gardiner in 1980. A gravel section remains on the approaches to the ferry dock. In late 1983, the section of Highway 574 from the Highway 652 Junction westerly into Cochrane was renumbered as Highway 652. Highway 652 was routed concurrently with Highway 579 through Cochrane via Third Avenue between Fifth Street and the Highway 11 Junction. Unless posted otherwise, the speed limit on Highway 579 is 80 km/h (50 mph). There are no services available on this highway north of Cochrane.