Ghost Town, Saskatchewan: Uranium City: Photo Essay

Chris Morin September 4, 2013 8
Ghost Town, Saskatchewan: Uranium City: Photo Essay

Uranium City is one of the most unique, and beautiful, places in the province

With a population anywhere from 70-200 people (depending on who you talk to), Uranium City doesn’t really qualify as a ghost town. Except for the fact that it had a population of 5,000 people in the 1980s.

It’s like an entire community was left behind, amenities and all. But there are still people holding on, ekeing out a living amongst untamed forest and the ruins that are slowly being reclaimed.

Located on the nearly-unreachable top shelf of the province, the community is located on the northern shores of Lake Athabasca over 700 km northwest of Prince Albert.

It’s probably one of the most unique, and beautiful, places in Saskatchewan.

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The area served as a uranium-mining base until 1983, when the closure of the mines led to economic collapse. According to sources, entire families packed what meager belongings they could from their homes and turned their backs on the rest behind, which was either scavenged or left to rust and rot.

Ryan Meili, a family doctor at the West Side Community Clinic in Saskatoon and author of the book A Healthy Society, traveled to the area as part of his training. In an interview with Ominocity, Meili said that he flew into Uranium City in 2001, when the community still had a hospital. The facility has since been shut down.

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Ominocity: So what brought you to that area of the province?

Ryan Meili: It was part of my medical schooling where students were sent away for a community experience. I had always wanted to go up north and Uranium City was my town of choice. I got to spend two weeks there.

It was a really strange and empty place given all the structures that are up there. The main street was really wide and it made you feel like you were in the old west or something. There were still a couple of businesses there. But keep in mind that this was back in 2001.

The part that was really strange was that because everything had been built up so quickly during the mining boom was the subdivisions of houses that people had just walked away from. Many of them had been ransacked and salvaged for building other things.

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There was also the CANDU High School, which I think had been built for millions of dollars, which had only a couple of years of service to students. Inside it is this beautiful newer building that is completely wrecked. The gym floor is all warped in waves since it’s been exposed to the elements.

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OM: What sort of experiences did you have in the area?

RM: We were amazed by the topography with the hills and the cliffs – it doesn’t look like Saskatchewan at all. And when you are on the edge of Lake Athabasca it feels like you are on the edge of the ocean.

Anyway, we were pretty tied to the hospital, and would do clinics during the day. We would also fly out to Fond-du-Lac and Stony Rapids. One weekend we went for a hike and it was beautiful out – plus 25 in the middle of May. We had walked out to a local’s place who lived out of town. He had built these amazing cabins out of salvaged materials from these houses that people had walked away from.

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The next day we flew to Black Lake and when we tried to leave the clinic at 3pm there was two-and-a-half feet of snow on the ground. So we were stuck for a couple of days.

There’s the town itself but there are quite a few communities surrounding the lake. In one of those communities a lady had injured her knee and had hiked 10km through the bush. She had made it to the side of a road and was shooting off a rifle trying to get attention so she could taken to the hospital.

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- Huge thank you to Ryan, who provided all photos.

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