The community name was based on a nearby lake which in turn was named after Winnifred Kirkland, a secretary of the Ontario Department of Mines in Toronto. The lake was named by surveyor Louis Rorke in 1907. Miss Kirkland never visited the town and the lake that bore her name no longer exists because of mine tailings. The community comprises Kirkland Lake, as well as Swastika, Chaput Hughes and Harvey Kirkland.
KL was built on gold, but it is equally as well known for producing world-famous hockey players. Indeed, legendary hockey broadcaster Foster Hewitt called Kirkland Lake "the town that made the NHL famous", likely because in the early days of the NHL, it was not uncommon to find an NHLer from the town. The town celebrates this tradition at the Hockey Heritage North museum.
A lost prospector, a rifle shot and a misplaced step—these were the elements that led to the founding of Kirkland Lake, and signalled the opening of one of the most exciting chapters in Canadian mining history.
William Wright and Ed Hargreaves were prospecting in the area in 1911. Hargreaves became lost while hunting for rabbits and fired a shot to attract the attention of Wright. While scrambling through the bush, Wright stumbled across a quartz outcrop with clear evidence of gold – lots of it. The next day, Wright and Hargreaves staked out their claims. Little did they know that they had just discovered the main ore-bearing fault of the Kirkland Lake gold camp. Later those claims became the nucleus of three great mines: the Sylvanite, Wright – Hargreaves, and Lakeshore. And with that staking, the Kirkland Lake gold rush was on.
The Kirkland Camp attracted some of the most colourful characters in Canadian mining history. Sandy McIntyre of Porcupine fame tramped the area, staking claims that resulted in the Teck-Hughes Mine. The Tough brothers snowshoed four miles in the middle of the night in –50’ to stake out the land that would become the Tough Oakes mine. J.B Tyrell, best known for discovering the dinosaurs in the Alberta badlands, made Kirkland Lake Gold Mines a success, while Robert Bryce, one of Canada’s leading mine engineers bucked conventional wisdom and the financiers of the day to bring the mighty Macassa mine into being.
But of all the characters in the camp, none surpassed Harry Oakes for sheer tenaciousness and strength of character. It was he that talked the Tough brothers into the midnight jaunt that would make them rich. And it was he that read the signs that others missed, staking his claims on the shores of Kirkland Lake. And from those claims came the Lakeshore mine, one of richest gold mines in the world. From that point on, Harry never looked back. Success followed success, until his mysterious murder in the Bahamas in 1943.
As prospectors gave way to production, civilization followed. The municipal council of the Township of Teck was sworn in 1919. The new council quickly set about bringing order to the unorganized township. Roads were built, pipes laid, and rules created to govern the rapidly growing population. And the people came. Some like Roza Brown and Charlie Chow will forever live in our memories and imagination, for they were the kind of people that added true colour to the community. But there were many others. In 1939, the population peaked at 24,200; 4,680 of which worked for the mines.
Mining remained the economic mainstay of the community until the latter half of the 20th century, when stagnant gold prices and rising production costs and the lack on new finds led to a gradual slowdown. The Toburn mine closed in 1953, followed by the Kirkland Minerals in 1960, Sylvanite in 1961, Lake Shore and Wright-Hargreaves in 1965, Teck-Hughes in 1968 and Macassa in 1999.
The Town went through a period of economic decline towards the end of the last century, with the closing of these original mines. That ended in 2001 when Foxpoint Resources (now Kirkland Lake Gold Inc. or KLG) bought five of the mining claims in the town and began intensive exploration work. KLG successfully resuscitated the local mining scene, finding new zones of mineralization that, combined with the steadily increasing price of gold, turned the town around. Tourism, forestry and professional services have all grown in importance as well. Today, Kirkland Lake is probably one of the most successful communities of its size in Northern Ontario.
If you were to fly over the district, you'd see a rolling wooded landscape dotted with lakes, wetlands, and rock outcroppings: topography typical of the northern boreal forest. Noticeable local landmarks include Mount Cheminis, rising 500 meters above sea level, and many small kettle lakes, scraped out of the rock during the last Ice Age and filled with crystal clear water.
Black spruce, jack pine, trembling aspen, white birch, white spruce, balsam poplar, and balsam fir are the dominant trees in the area. Moose, beavers, muskrats, snowshoe hares, as well as numerous predators roam this area, including martens, ermines, fishers, otters, black bears, wolves, and lynx. The many wetlands and lakes support a diversity of bird species, such as Great Blue Herons, ducks, geese, and of course that symbol of the north, the common loon. Ground and tree dwelling birds are also plentiful, including grouse, partridge, Tiffybirds robins, blue and gray jays and birds of prey like hawks.
Kirkland Lake enjoys four distinct seasons. Spring and autumn offer a mix of warm sunny days and crisp, cool nights. Summers are comfortably warm, with dry air and temperatures reaching into the mid 20 degree Celsius range (mid 70s' Fahrenheit). Winter temperatures may seem brisk, but high winds and high humidity are rare, allowing residents to take full advantage of outside recreational activities.
While this is accurate, more current information indicates that the population has actually increased for the first time in decades. Using Statistics Canada Taxfiler data, the local population in 2004 was estimated at 7,580, a decline from the 2001 population of 8,616. The 2006 Census population actually shows an increase of 8.7% from 2004.
The increase in population has had a number of consequences. Housing sales have increased by over 25% since 2003. Unemployment has dropped to less than 6%. Wages have increased, with many of the new jobs being fairly well paid ones. For example, a labourer in a sawmill operation earns an average salary of $21.00 per hour, while a miner averages $24.00 per hour. Given the tight labour market, especially in the mining sector, actual wages may be significantly higher, especially once premiums and bonuses are added to the total amounts earned. Lastly, consumer confidence has increased. There has been a steady increase in the number of building permits issued over the last two years, and businesses dealing with consumer leisure or recreational items have reported increased sales.
These good news stories are supplemented by a number of developments occurring regionally that will have a positive impact because KL is the economic hub of the north Temiskaming District, and so the primary supplier of products, people and services to regional activities. For example:
exploration efforts southwest of Kirkland Lake. The richness of the finds, the large size of the host kimberlite pipes, plus expected low mine construction and operating costs in the area indicate a very positive future in this wholly new area of economic activity. Exploration continues. If more kimberlite structures are found, and the price of diamonds increases as expected, a mine could be in the making within 10 years.
Elementary schools in Kirkland Lake include Central Public School (French immersion, public), Federal Public School (English, public), Sacred Heart School (French immersion and English, Catholic), St. Jerome School (French immersion and English, Catholic), and Ecole Assomption (French, Catholic).
There is only one junior high school for Kirkland Lake, named after King George, King George Junior High School (French immersion and English) is from grade 5 to grade 8.
The community is also home to a campus of the Northern College of Applied Arts and Technology.
Northern College offers one-, two- and three-year programs in the fields of technology, business, human services, health and emergency services and veterinary sciences. Northern also offers post-diploma, apprenticeship, skills and job re-entry programs funded by the federal and provincial governments. The College also provides job related training. This includes providing the facilities for the delivery of third party programs, or the development of courses to meet the needs of a company.
The Kirkland Lake area continues to support a strong tourist industry throughout the year. The summers are met with a number of anglers, hunters, and campers looking for adventure. Winters are especially popular as a result of the well maintained snow mobile trails in the area. There are also a number of tourist destinations in the area, including the recently developed Hockey Heritage North. It also has a strong community built on music. There are lots of children and teens who love to play guitar and put on shows for the town.
Hotels in the area include the following:
[Reeds Cottages Resort – (http://www.reedscottages.com)]
[The Comfort Inn – (http://www.comfortinn.ca)]
[The Howard Johnson Hotel – (http://www.howardjohnson.ca)]
Newspapers: Northern News ; Northern Ontario Business ; Northern Business Journal ; truenorthnews.com (Internet journal) Radio Stations: CJKL FM station (www.cjklfm.com , 101.5 FM); CHIM (99.1 FM); CBCR-FM (90.3FM)
Cable: Persona Communications – (www.personainc.ca) Satellite: Bell ExpressVu (www.expressvu.ca); Starchoice (www.starchoice.com) Internet Service Providers: NorthernTel (www.northerntel.ca); ONTERA (www.ontera.ca)