November 27, 2013

Mid-Canada Line Site 070 - Mount Kempis, Ontario

Site Name: Mid-Canada Line Site 070
Location: Mount Kempis, Ontario
Built: 1956
Operational: 1957 - 1965
Coordinates: 48.3767, -80.2679
Lot/Concession: Cook. Con 1. Lot 12
Condition: Remediated
Current Ownership: Unknown
Distance from paved road: ~1.5Km
Condition of access road: Once off Highway 11 the main access road is North Butler Lake Road, an unpaved but well maintained road.  The side roads to locations of the antennas and where buildings would have been are in good shape, 4-Wheel Drive is not required (but additional clearance for rocks on the road would be beneficial)

Overview/Background:

The Mid-Canada Line was a radar fence set up West-East across all of Canada to supplement the Pinetree Line. The fence proved too remote to be economically feasible, and was shut down only years after it was set up. While it was working, tens of thousands of enlisted personnel and civilian employees constructed and maintained a line of refueling stations and radar outposts across the country. The radar signals gathered were bounced from Fort Albany to Kempis Mountain via Troposcatter Repeaters. Each of the "hops" along the troposcatter repeaters required enormous amounts of power, and because of the remote location of these bases, they were fueled by massive diesel generators. Unfortunately Diesel and lubricants were spilled at many of these locations and left to fester for decades. As a result of the environmental contamination the federal government has started to clean up these locations, dig up the contaminated soil, and the surrounding area, truck off the soil for "disposal", and return the land to as it used to be - more or less. This is unfortunate for me (perhaps the only person in the world who would complain about an environmental cleanup) because the structures, roads, foundations, etc. are being dug up - leaving less for me to see when I go these locations! I'm still visiting these "cleaned up" sites, as the buildings themselves are only one aspect of the location. The view from the tops of the mountains, the journey, the roads, the airstrips, the wildlife, and so forth, make the rest of the adventure for me.

A pair of troposcatter antennas (pointed at the horizon) were on top of Mount Kempis; as well as generators, living quarters, and reportedly even a baseball diamond.  I am not completely certain about all of what was where because it has been so well scrubbed from the site.  A trip to the National Air Photo library is needed, once again, to see aerial imagery from the time.

Directions:

If you are coming from Ottawa, take Highway 11 North from North  Bay until you reach the North Butler Lake Road turn off (48.3728, -80.2567).  North Butler Lake Road is well maintained, but I wouldn't do this trip in the winter.  Once on North Butler Lake Road there will be several turn offs to the right (North).  The first before the hydro line, the 2nd after the hydro line leads to the microwave repeater site, and the 3rd turn to the right leads to the fire tower.

Trip Report:

I have personally visited this site twice.  In late August of 2012, on the way to Northern Ontario, I arrived shortly after dawn and had a look around; after driving there in my 2WD 1999 Dodge Ram.  In 2013 I visited with Mike Milinkovich and stopped in to get a picture of him in front of the plaque commemorating the remediation of the site.  That time I did less driving around on the mountain, but had brought my 1999 (then 2WD) GMC Suburban.  As mentioned above, this is an easily accessible site, there is no 4WD-requirement.

Maps

Mount Kempis
atlas.gc.ca
Google Maps (Pre-Remdiation)

View Larger Map

Bing Maps (Post-Remediation)




Photographs

The images in the below slideshow are the pictures I took in August of 2012.



I'm very thankful to Mike Milinkovich for introducing me to Raymond Fortin who took the following pictures in the late 1950s while he was at Mount Kempis.


Electronic Test Equipment - MCL Site 070 Mount Kempis
Photo by Raymond Fortin



Equipment Room - MCL Site 070 Mount Kempis
Photo by Raymond Fortin


Equipment Room - MCL Site 070 Mount Kempis
Photo by Raymond Fortin


Test Board - MCL Site 070 Mount Kempis
Photo by Raymond Fortin



Entrance to Equipment Room - MCL Site 070 Mount Kempis
Photo by Raymond Fortin


  MCL Site 070 Mount Kempis
Photo by Raymond Fortin


Power House, Diesel Tanks, Living Quarters - MCL Site 070 Mount Kempis
Photo by Raymond Fortin


Troposcatter Antenna @ MCL Site 070 Mount Kempis
Photo by Raymond Fortin
 
Troposcatter Antennas - MCL Site 070 Mount Kempis
Photo by Raymond Fortin
Site Up North
Photo by Raymond Fortin

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