Hwy 70 #1 Sign Graphic Hwy 70 #1 Title Graphic Hwy 70 #1 Sign Graphic   

Ontario Highway 70 (#1) Quick Facts:
  • Years in Existence: 1937-1960
  • Current Status: Renumbered as King's Highway 71 in 1960
  • Current Name: King's Highway 71
  • Location: Northwestern Ontario
  • Districts Served: Rainy River & Kenora
  • Towns Served: Fort Frances, Emo, Nestor Falls, Sioux Narrows & Kenora
  • Southern Terminus: Hwy 71 - West of Emo
  • Northern Terminus: Hwy 17 - Longbow Corners
  • Length in 1960: 156.0 km / 96.9 miles
HWY 70 ROUTE MARKER - © Cameron Bevers
King's Highway 70 Sign © Cameron Bevers

History of King's Highway 70 (#1):

King's Highway 70 was a major highway linking Kenora and Fort Frances from 1937 up until 1960. The route of Highway 70 was originally known as the "Heenan Highway", named after Peter Heenan, who was the Minister of Northern Development under Mitch Hepburn's government during the 1930s. Heenan was a big proponent of road construction in Northern Ontario, including the new highway link between Kenora and Fort Frances which ultimately became Highway 70.

During the 1930s, a Northern Development Trunk Road was pushed through Northwestern Ontario to connect the isolated District of Rainy River with Kenora. Construction of the new route began in 1932, and was completed four years later. On July 1, 1936, the last bridge on the Heenan Highway was completed at Sioux Narrows, which opened up the first Canadian highway link to the Rainy River District. Until 1936, it was not possible to drive into the Rainy River District from Canada, without passing through the United States. When the Department of Northern Development and the Department of Highways of Ontario (DHO) amalgamated in 1937, the DHO took over responsibility for Northern Development Trunk Roads. In May 1937, Preliminary Route Plans were prepared by the DHO which showed the proposed assumption of the Heenan Highway in the Districts of Kenora and Rainy River as a new King's Highway. The DHO assumed jurisdiction over the section of the Heenan Highway lying within the District of Kenora on September 1, 1937, while the remaining section of the Heenan Highway lying within the District of Rainy River was assumed on September 29, 1937. The entire route was designated as King's Highway 70.

As originally designated in 1937, Highway 70 was 143 miles (230 km) in length (See Map). The highway actually began in Kenora, and ran concurrently with Highway 17 easterly for 12 miles to Longbow Corners. At this junction, Highway 70 turned south from Highway 17 and passed around the eastern side of Lake of the Woods via Sioux Narrows. Highway 70 connected to Highway 71 near Emo and then ran concurrently with Highway 71 for 23 miles from Emo easterly to Fort Frances. Interestingly, Official Road Bulletins issued by the DHO from 1937 to 1948 indicate that Highway 70 only ran from Longbow Corners to Emo, with a total length of 108 miles. Starting in 1949, Official Road Bulletins correctly indicate that the route of Highway 70 extended from Kenora to Fort Frances.

Initially, Highway 70 was gravel-surfaced for its entire length. Highway 70 & Highway 71 was paved from Fort Frances westerly to Devlin in 1938. That same year, Highway 17 & Highway 70 was paved from Kenora easterly to Longbow Corners, in addition to a small portion of Highway 70 from Longbow Corners southerly to Blindfold Lake near Rushing River. In 1944, Highway 70 was paved between Blindfold Lake and Mac Lake. In 1947, Highway 70 was paved from Sioux Narrows southerly for nine miles and from Nestor Falls to the Highway 70A Junction near Finland. In 1948, Highway 70 was paved from Mac Lake to Sioux Narrows, along with the section of Highway 70 & Highway 71 from Devlin to Emo. The remaining gravel-surfaced section of Highway 70 between Sioux Narrows and Nestor Falls was paved in 1949. Construction got underway in 1948 on a new route for Highway 70 from Finland southerly to Highway 71. When this new route opened to traffic in 1951, it bypassed the awkward jog in the original route of Highway 70 via Off Lake Corners (See Map). The Emo-Finland Diversion also bypassed the route of neighbouring Highway 70A. The new Emo-Finland Diversion was paved in 1952, which completed the paving work on Highway 70. Jurisdiction over the old route of Highway 70 via Off Lake Corners was transferred from the DHO to the Townships of Dobie and Mather, effective February 8, 1954. The north-south portion of the former Highway 70 alignment via Off Lake Corners has been a township road ever since, but the bypassed east-west portion of Highway 70 from Finland to Off Lake Corners was later incorporated into the route of Secondary Highway 615 in 1956.

In 1953, the overlapped route of Highway 17 & Highway 70 between Kenora and Longbow Corners was apparently discontinued, as was the overlapped route of Highway 70 & Highway 71 between Emo and Fort Frances. This left only the 101 mile (162 km) north-south section of Highway 70 in place between Emo and Longbow Corners. This change in the route of Highway 70 was first reflected in the DHO's Annual Report for 1953. The revised route was reflected in the mileage tables on the Official Ontario Road Map starting with the 1954 Edition. However, the Official Road Bulletin continued to list the old Kenora to Fort Frances route for Highway 70 right up until the end of 1955. In the mid-1950s, plans were developed to extend Highway 120 (known later as Highway 11) westerly from Atikokan to Fort Frances. In order to accommodate the arrival of Highway 11, Highway 70 was renumbered as a new section of Highway 71 between Longbow Corners and Emo, effective April 1, 1960. A different, unrelated Highway 70 existed near Owen Sound between 1965 and 1997.

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