Hwy 71 Hwy 71 Hwy 71   

Ontario Highway 71 Quick Facts:
  • Years in Existence: 1937-Present
  • Current Status: In Service
  • Location: Northwestern Ontario
  • Districts Served: Rainy River & Kenora
  • Towns Served: Fort Frances, Emo, Nestor Falls, Sioux Narrows & Kenora
  • Southern Terminus: International Bridge - Fort Frances
  • Northern Terminus: Hwy 17 - Longbow Corners
  • Current Length: 194.3 km / 120.7 miles
HWY 71 - © Cameron Bevers
King's Highway 71 Sign © Cameron Bevers

History of King's Highway 71:

King's Highway 71 is a major collector highway in the Districts of Kenora and Rainy River, which connects Fort Frances to Highway 17 at Longbow Corners east of Kenora. The route of Highway 71 generally follows the eastern shores of Lake of the Woods, although a portion of the highway between the Emo area and Fort Frances runs concurrently with Highway 11. The highway passes through some rather remote areas along its 194 km route. The highway serves several small communities, but Emo and Fort Frances are the only major towns located along Highway 71.

The route of Highway 71 that exists today is substantially different than the route which the highway followed when it was first established back in 1937. Originally, Highway 71 connected Fort Frances and Rainy River (See Map). A Preliminary Route Plan was prepared by the Department of Highways of Ontario (DHO) in May 1937, which showed the proposed assumption of the Fort Frances-Rainy River Highway as a new King's Highway. The proposed highway began in Fort Frances and headed west for approximately 60 miles (97 km) to Rainy River, via Emo. The route was assumed by the DHO as King's Highway 71 on September 1, 1937. As originally assumed, Highway 71 ran concurrently with Highway 70 for 23 miles between Emo and Fort Frances. Several diversions were constructed over the years to shorten the highway distance between Fort Frances and Rainy River. Two diversions, each about 1 mile in length, were constructed at Crozier and Devlin in 1938-1939. Through Crozier, Highway 71 originally followed Pihulak Road, the route of today's Secondary Highway 611, Hill Road and Hall Road. Through Devlin, Highway 71 originally followed Main Street, the route of today's Secondary Highway 613 and Whiddon Road. A change was made to the route of Highway 71 through Emo in 1942. As assumed in 1937, the route of Highway 71 followed Jennie Street (today's Colonization Road) and Turrell Street. A new diversion was built to eliminate the jog in the highway at Turrell Street. Highway 71 was also rerouted via Coral Street through Emo. Jurisdiction over the old sections of Highway 71 through Crozier, Devlin and Emo was transferred from the DHO to the Townships of Crozier, Devlin and Emo on November 13, 1945. Another diversion between Stratton and Pinewood was commenced in 1953 and completed in 1954. Jurisdiction over the old sections of Highway 71, via Kavanagh Road, Sundwall Road, Morley-Dilke Road, Morrison Road and Baseline Road was transferred from the DHO to the Townships of Morley and Dilke on February 15, 1954. A short diversion was constructed west of Barwick in 1954 and east of Sleeman in 1957. Prior to the construction of these two diversions, Highway 71 followed Barwick Prison Farm Road and Worthington-Dilke Road 7 & Colonization Road, respectively.

As originally established in 1937, the route of Highway 71 was not assumed by the DHO through the Towns of Fort Frances and Rainy River. The assumed portion of Highway 71 ended at the western limits of the Town of Fort Frances at Wright Avenue. From there, a non-assumed section of Highway 71 continued east into Downtown Fort Frances, where the highway ended at the International Bridge to the United States. When Fort Frances expanded its limits during the 1940s, jurisdiction over a section of Highway 71 within the expanded town limits was transferred from the DHO to the Town of Fort Frances. On March 21, 1949, the section of Highway 71 between Wright Avenue and Oakwood Road was transferred to Fort Frances. The non-assumed portion of Highway 71 followed King's Highway, Rainy River Colonization Road, Central Avenue, Front Street and Church Street. This route through Fort Frances was designated as a Municipal Connecting Link by an Order-in-Council, effective November 5, 1959. The non-assumed portion of Highway 71 within the Town of Rainy River began at the town's eastern limits at Miller Avenue and followed Atwood Avenue, Fourth Avenue and Broadway Avenue. The highway ended at B Street, where a ferry connected to Baudette, Minnesota. This non-assumed portion of Highway 71 through Rainy River was designated as a Municipal Connecting Link by an Order-in-Council, effective June 18, 1959.

Initially, Highway 71 was gravel-surfaced for its entire length. The section of Highway 70 & Highway 71 was paved from Fort Frances westerly to Devlin in 1938. A section of Highway 71 was paved between Sleeman and Rainy River in 1939. The highway was paved from Pinewood to Sleeman in 1948, along with the section of Highway 70 & Highway 71 from Devlin to Emo. A 3 mile section of Highway 71 was paved east of Barwick in 1949. Pavement was laid through Stratton in 1951 and west of Emo in 1952. Several small paving contracts were awarded between 1953 and 1958 to complete the remaining gaps in the pavement between Barwick and Pinewood. The last gravel section along Highway 71 between Barwick and Stratton was paved in 1958.

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 Highway 71 between Longbow Corners and the highway junction west of Emo, effective April 1, 1960. In turn, the section of Highway 71 between the Highway 70 Junction west of Emo and Rainy River was renumbered as Highway 11. The section of Highway 71 between the highway junction west of Emo and Fort Frances was retained in the highway system, but the route of Highway 71 was overlapped with the route of Highway 11. Following the 1960 highway renumbering, the length of Highway 71 stood at 122 miles (196 km) (See Map).

Until 2005, the world's longest single span timber bridge stood on Highway 71 at Sioux Narrows. The timber structure was completed in 1936 as a part of the construction of the Heenan Highway between Kenora and Emo. The main span of the Sioux Narrows Bridge was a wooden Howe Truss, comprised entirely of creosoted Douglas Fir timbers. The main truss span of the bridge measured 64 metres in length (210 feet) between the piers. The bridge was in service until 2003, when advanced structural fatigue was detected in some of the timber truss members during an engineering inspection. A temporary bridge was put into service in late 2003 and a new permanent bridge was built in 2006-2007. Although the new bridge has a steel beam superstructure, the historic timber truss was preserved and incorporated into the new structure. The timber truss is no longer load-bearing, and is there merely as a decorative feature. While it would have been preferable from a heritage standpoint to preserve the entire timber structure, the original bridge was no longer safe. The composite steel deck and timber truss design was an excellent compromise, as this proposal addressed the structural deficiencies of the old bridge while still preserving the unique timber truss elements for future generations to enjoy.

Highway 71 is mostly a two-lane highway from Fort Frances to Kenora, although there is a short undivided four-lane section in Fort Frances. Services are very sporadic along Highway 71, and are generally unavailable apart from a handful of major communities along the highway. Highway 71 is supposedly part of the Trans-Canada Highway System, but the highway is no longer signed as a Trans-Canada Highway route. A 40 km section of Highway 71 is signed concurrently with Highway 11 between Fort Frances and Emo. Moose are quite common along Highway 71. These enormous animals can often be seen crossing the highway corridor. This represents a serious collision hazard, because these animals are difficult for motorists to see at night. Slow down and be prepared for moose if you plan to use Highway 71 at night. The speed limit on Highway 71 is 90 km/h (55 mph) from Fort Frances to Nestor Falls and 80 km/h (50 mph) from Nestor Falls to Longbow Corners, unless posted otherwise. Please visit the Highway 71 Mileage Chart page for a list of mileage reference points along Highway 71.





HWY 71 ROUTE MAP - © Cameron Bevers             HWY 71 MILEAGE TABLE - © Cameron Bevers             HWY 71 PHOTOGRAPHS - © Cameron Bevers


Additional Information About King's Highway 71:

Learn More About King's Highway 71  (My Upcoming Publications)

King's Highway 71 - Route Information  (At Scott Steeves' website: asphaltplanet.ca)

King's Highway 71 - A Virtual Tour  (At Scott Steeves' website: asphaltplanet.ca)


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