Rest areas in Northwestern Ontario

This is an ongoing commentary on the sad spectacle of roadside rest areas in northwestern Ontario. Read more about how badly the area is treated with regard to an inability to take clean, decent and safe bathroom breaks along the isolated miles of the Trans-Canada Highway here, and here. Don’t despair, though. There are plenty of trees and shrubs available, behind which you are free to empty your bladder and evacuate your bowels. Bring your own toilet paper.

An Ontario travel information station in Northwestern Ontario

An Ontario travel information station at the border with Manitoba. Try using the washroom in January. You can’t.


Updated July 2010: Sudbury to Thunder Bay – a distance of 626 miles/1,000 kilometers – has a dearth of rest areas. In fact, that little stretch of two-lane blacktop is renowned for its absence of rest areas.

Oh, sure, it has the very occasional Tourist Centre by the side of the road where supervised evacuation of your bowel is allowed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., mid-May to the end of August, when those buildings are shut down for the winter. After that, boys and girls, it’s entirely up to you to find your own personal tree at a snowplow turnout that hasn’t been shat upon before you got there.

Good luck with that.

Many of the smaller areas that are indicated by a tiny brown and white picnic table sign have wooden toilets, but access to these too is closed off in winter. No matter though. The signs are so small and questionable that even a long-time Ministry of Transportation (MTO) employee (are there any of those left?) would be hard-pressed to pull off into one before passing it by.

A tourist new to the area would have absolutely no idea that a toilet persists in between the trees covering up any sight of the offending wooden outhouse. And before you climb into one of these at night, be aware that there’s no lighting that will allow you to see what you’re stepping in. You might as well use a tree – if you can find one uncontaminated by human waste.

Now then, I know that the excuse for all of the stupidity on the part of Ontario is that it provides local business with a guaranteed supply of customers full of human waste that needs to be cleaned up at the end of every day. Believe me. I know how some of those local businesses clean their latrines, and it’s not pretty. It doesn’t smell good either.

Perhaps Ontario-the-good might want to consider providing some training to these businesses in how to clean a shitter. Such training might provide not only a steady stream of return business (if you’ll pardon the pun) but also gains in the number of people employed.

Updated October 2009: Little did I know when I wrote this post that Ontario, in its infinite wisdom, had closed 20 out of 23 service centres along Highway 400 and 401 in southern Ontario. That’s right, folks, they closed 20. All at once. Re-opening will not occur until 2012. What a fucking joke.

<< uncontrollable laughter >>

Drivers aren’t even allowed to stop on the side of the road on those highways, and in fact, there are no paved shoulders to pull off onto. Imagine that, users of the Interstate system down south.

Consequently, there’s nowhere to piss. Or shit.

The stupidity of Ontario never ceases to amaze me.

*     *     *

There’s a nice little rest area just west of Thunder Bay. It’s the time zone map, complete with trees, tables and toilets. It’s remarkable for the size of the tribute it pays to time zone change. Now, granted, it does delineate the Eastern Time Zone (from whence all things Toronto must by edict emanate), and the Central Time Zone, where nothing ever happens. That in itself makes it remarkable and distinct.

The Arctic watershed boundary

The Arctic watershed boundary

I do know that some years ago, the time zone marker was moved to its present position from a somewhat more easterly location. I’m not sure if Queen’s Park in Toronto, the centre of the known universe, took it upon itself to actually move a time zone, but it wouldn’t surprise me. The display is now on a prominent hill looking southeast to its mecca.

The Arctic watershed plaque

The Arctic watershed plaque

Almost unnoticed is the Arctic Watershed marker. It’s located somewhat east of the time zone map on one of those snowplow turnouts renowned for trash disposal, urine deposits and No Parking signs.

Some distance back in the bush from the Arctic Watershed sign and almost invisible is a plaque detailing the history and area involvement in delineating the territory which eventually became known as Canada.

6 thoughts on “Rest areas in Northwestern Ontario

  1. I recently travelled from Calgary to Sault St Marie and if I hadn’t planned my stops to a tee, I would either run out of gas or used the bush to pee. Shame on you Canada. The roads are narrow with no shoulders and there are few places to stop. The 90 km speed limit is a farce but I think Ontario liked to give lots of advice. Not to speed, wear your seatbelt, don’t talk on the phone. Like we don’t already know that. I think we should start calling it The Trans Canada Bike Path?

    • Ontario the good, it’s known as. In Ontario, once you get north of Barrie, roadside amenities are all but unknown. A tree, a bush, a snowplow turnout area, is the best one can hope for.

      Thanks for commenting.

  2. Hi,
    We own a farm in Quebec and live in Calgary as well. I drive back and forth quite a bit hauling a travel trailer. I don’t use the local washrooms however being notified of a snowplow turn out or a rest stop before you blow right by the son of a bitch would be helpful!! What’s up with that!! Obviously the Ontario government doesn’t want people to stop at these things. I was thinking of taking my GPS next trip and marking the way points as I zoom by the fuckers because you certainly don’t have time to stop!!

  3. we went to toronto this weekend and stop at those roadside pinic area we could smeel those bathroom from 5 yard before getting in to it .i wonder ho take care of it but they do not make a good job.if i wood go to another country and the bathroom smeel that bad i woodnt escuse my ringthing but aim french so that was my complain.hope it will be a better nest going up in ontario

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