masthead image

Depot Harbour


Town site photo

The roundhouse

©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko

Depot Harbour, located about eight kilometres from Parry Sound is generally regarded as the largest ghost town in Ontario. At its height it was home to about 1,600 permanent residents, with an estimated summer population of around 3,000. The community was started in 1899 by John Rodolphus Booth, who at the time owned the largest lumber empire in North America.

Depot Harbour was built as a railway and shipping centre for Booth to consolidate his shipping operations and have clear passage directly to the Atlantic Ocean. The shipping facilities included a harbour, roundhouse, grain elevators, and other rail and shipping structures. The town site included stores, a three-storey hotel, butcher shop, three churches and a school.

Depot Harbour's problems began in 1923 when the bankrupt Grand Trunk Railway was absorbed by the newly formed Canadian National Railway (CN). CN immediately began consolidating its holdings and shutting down duplicate services and facilities. The roundhouse at Depot Harbour was one of the early casualties, followed by closure of the entire rail line in 1933.

During the Second World War, the village's elevators and warehouses were leased by Canadian Industries Limited (CIL) to store cordite, a highly explosive material being used in the war effort. Tragedy struck on August 14th, 1945 when the elevators were hit by flaming debris, resulting in a massive explosion that destroyed both the elevators and harbour. Most of the town was abandoned shortly afterwards.

Although there are no buildings are left in Depot Harbour, there are plenty of ruins including the roundhouse, and the harbour and shipping facilities along the water. Visitors should be aware that the community is now on native owned land and permission is needed to explore the property.