Notes on Uranium City:

I have been back in Uranium City a couple of times, most recently being the fall of last year. Len, like many people, has asked about how to get back, where to stay and so on, so I thought I would write a short piece with this information.

How To Get There:

The only way to get to Uranium City is to fly. When I go back, I fly through Fort McMurray, but it is also possible to fly through Saskatoon and La Ronge.

To fly through Fort McMurray, contact the Bougie general store (306)498-2246. Speak to Paul. They fly goods in once a week and will book passengers on flights in and out. They usually use a Navajo twin engine. Flying in costs $250, flying out $150. Ilena Parkes, who runs the town's other general store, also flies groceries in, but only books flights out. The price is slightly cheaper at $119, from Uranium City to Fort McMurray.

There are also numerous charter flights going to the lodges, particularly to Doug Goloski's lodge on Stuart Island just south of the Gunnar mine site. Goloski's planes fly into the Gunnar airport (re-opened last summer), but then you have the problem of getting from Gunnar to Uranium City.

From Saskatoon, there is Athabasca Airways, which flies a sched flight to La Ronge and Uranium City, I think every day. Return flights cost $800 but if you book two weeks in advance, it is 25% off, so around $600 return.

In winter it is still possible to drive to Uranium City, across the winter road which now leaves from Stoney Rapids. There is an all-weather road from La Ronge to Points North and Stoney Rapids but I understand it is pretty rough. There are also planes from Stoney Rapids, Black Lake and Fond Du Lac which fly several times a week to Uranium City, but I don't know anything about them.

Places to Stay:

There are several places to stay in and around Uranium City. The most obvious is the Holland Motel, located as it always was on Uranium Road downtown. Bill Holland senior has moved south because of health reasons, and his son Bill jr runs the hotel, as well as the taxi service, and the Athabasca Inn, the town's only bar (located in the old Muzaci's).There are rooms in the three trailers, and Bill owns several houses around the downtown core which he also rents out. Prices are negotiable. Meals are provided on request.

Contact: Bill Holland at (306)498-2939

There are also several lodges in the Uranium City area. The Fish Hook Bay Lodge has recently opened on the old Eldorado townsite (nothing remains of the townsite except the roads and a single shed up by the spot where the bunkhouses used to be), on the far edge overlooking the beach and Beaverlodge Lake. The lodge is a handsome structure of heavy wood beams with several rooms in the main building, a comfortable common room with big glass windows overlooking Beaverlodge Lake, and several cabins in the woods behind the lodge. There is a full kitchen with cook, and meals are provided. In the common room there is TV, videos, computer, internet access, and telephone. When I was there, I rented a quad for a week to get back and forth to town and explore the back roads, and go fishing. They also charter their planes in for groceries and clients, so they might be able to arrange a flight in.

Contact: Rusell Newton (owner) or Harold Grasley (caretaker) 

(306)498-FISH.

Doug Goloski of Fort McMurray has recently opened a lodge on Stuart Island, just south of the Gunnar mine site. I have not seen the lodge, but the site is in a deep bay on the island, one of the last islands before the open water of Lake Athabasca. It is supposed to be quite a beautiful place, and Doug arranges tours, fishing trips and so on. He flies his clients into the Gunnar airport, which he cleared just last summer. I don't have prices.

Contact: Doug Goloski at (780)799-0500

Some local people also rent out cabins. JJ Bougie has several cabins, also near Gunnar, which he rents out for the summer for fishing tours and so on. He might also have houses in town. He will be considerably cheaper than Goloski's lodge.

Contact JJ Bougie at the store: (306)498-2246

Paul Bougie also rents out cabins on Milliken Lake. Rental includes cabin, boat and truck. Prices are negotiable.

Contact Paul Bougie, also at the Bougie store: (306)498-2246

As mentioned, there are two general stores in town. The Bougie store is in the old liqour store, that sprawling building next to the legion built in 1980. It is run by Paul and Dolly Bougie. The store sells canned and dry goods, fishing gear, clothing, magazines and some fresh produce. There is a diner in the front part of the building, where they serve lunch specials at noon, as well as burgers and sandwiches and so on. When I was there last fall it cost around $6 for the special, which included coffee and fresh bannock, so it was a pretty good deal, probably the best deal in the whole Athabasca region. The place fills up fast at lunch, so get there right at noon. There is a laundry service, and an office where they handle the airlines. In the early winter, a fire damaged the restaurant, but renovations are underway and Paul and Dolly expect to have the store open again by April. Ilena Parkes also has a general store, in what used to the pinball room next to the old post office, where she sells fresh produce, canned and dry goods, clothing (including UC t-shirts and sweatshirts), and Ilena's paintings (featured elsewhere on this website).

Across the street from the Parkes's store, in what used to be Muzaci's, is the Athabasca Inn, the town's only bar. They also serve food, if it is requested. There was talk of relocating the bar in the dry-cleaning building on Uranium Road (across from the cenotaph and kitty-corner from the legion), and making it into more of a restaurant, but that hasn't happened yet.  

Dean Classen runs the bulk fuel business, in the same place coming in to town that Esso Fuel used to be. Esso pulled out a couple of years ago so Dean subcontracts the business with a partner. The station also sells gas from the pump. Prices, as one would expect, are higher than in the south. Gas is also available at Bougie's Store.

There is also a library, located in the old RCMP building, along with the town office and the employment office. The post office was recently relocated into the town office after the fire in the Bougie Store. There is a drunk tank for people who get out of control, and a prison cell that has been converted into a guest room. The bars remain, but several plants have been installed in the room to make it more homey. Margaret Belanger is the town secretary and is in the office most mornings. You can reach her at: (306)498-3441.

Ben McIntyre Elementary is still open, from Kindergarten to grade eight. There are two classrooms. 

The hospital remains, on Hospital Hill where it has always been, along with the satellite dishes and radio tower. The hospital is supposed to be relocated in Stoney Rapids in 2002, but there is much speculation as to whether this will happen on time. As Bill Holland senior told me in 1997, "They've been saying that place is leaving next year for 15 years, and it's still there." When the hospital goes it is hard to say what will happen, since the hospital provides much of the justification for government services, and the sewage and water systems need the hospital to remain functional. Some people feel that the hospital leaving will have little impact on the community, while others feel that it will be more or less the end of Uranium City.

There is hope that Goldfields might open again. A company has been sitting on the property for nearly ten years, but gold prices have to rise considerably for the mine to be profitable.

St. Barbara Catholic Church is still there, though the priest only flies in on Easter and Christmas or the odd special occasion.

 There is a Baptist Church, run by some Americans who also run Beacon Bible Camp in the summer. Remembrance Day is still observed at the cenotaph. The Curling and Skating rinks are in use in the winters.

For those of you thinking of going back, I should add that the town is much changed since the early eighties. Only 200 people - less in winter - live there now, concentrated around the downtown core. The areas outside the downtown core have been without power and water for over fifteen years, and the houses are in pretty bad shape. Recently, the town undertook a campaign to get rid of buildings that were dangerous or unsightly or both, and a lot of buildings - including Gilchrist school, and the old hotel - were burned down. But many, many houses remain. The old mines, including Laredo, have been 'decommissioned' ie burnt down and leveled over. Only Gunnar remains, though all of the houses have been taken from the townsite.

On the other hand, the countryside is as beautiful as ever. One of the greatest pleasures on my last trip was renting a quad from the Fish Hook Bay Lodge and touring the back country, going out to Goldfields etc. The fishing, as anyone who lived in UC knows, is spectacular. Last fall I caught six ten-pound trout in fifteen minutes casting a line from a spot just down from Goldfields. People who still live in town are glad to see former residents coming back.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at my email:

beckett_tim@hotmail.com 

 

Tim Beckett

 

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