Camp Bison

Category Exploration Date Status Province / State Country
Prisons / Jails , , Private Property Ontario Canada

History: 

Once a low-security work farm for prisoners, this prison supported an entire town for many years. Houses from the town were either torn down, or sold and moved to other places. The main prison building, and many of its supporting buildings, was also torn down. The only remnants, aside from the outline of streets, sidewalks, and disconnected power poles, is Camp Bison pictured here.

The Burwash facility was originally constructed around 1914 and closed in 1974. It housed from 180 to 820 inmates at a time over its history. Camp Bison itself was opened in 1960.

Some additional information available at Wikipedia.


Personal Commentary: 

The first time I visited this location, I had no idea where I was going. I had heard reference to it online, but was only able to find a picture of a hand-drawn map (on a napkin, no less) indicating where Camp Bison was.

After a couple of wrong turns, I finally located the correct road and went as far as I could. The rest was a walk that would take about an hour and included railway tracks, a creek to be crossed balancing on a narrow pole, and an ever-growing swamp that seems intent on blocking passage to the old building.

When the hour of walking was nearly complete, and I still wasn't 100% sure I was even on the right road, I rounded a corner and was greeted with the sight of two smaller buildings and then, across an open field, stood the very place I sought.


Update May 17, 2009 - I managed to obtain a copy of a Land Use Study conducted by the Province of Ontario. The report is dated October, 1978, just four years after the prison's closure.

There are several things noted within the report, that I felt would be of interest.

Page 9 - The institutional facilities (cell blocks, classrooms, workshops, laundry, chapel, gymnasium) at Main Camp and Camp Bison have not been used since the Correctional Centre closed in 1974. The Federal Government, however, is committed to using the main building at Camp Bison as part of the maximum security prison, and is interested in using the institutional buildings and barns at Main Camp for the minimum security prison farm.

It would be interesting to know what happened to cause this maximum security penitentiary not to be built here. Perhaps later research will bring that to light.

Page 9-10 - There are approximately 95 residential units at Burwash, concentrated at Main Camp and along one road adjacent to the CNR line. Those units consist of:

  • 51 single-family detached houses
  • 12 semi-detached houses
  • 28 apartments
  • 4 row houses

In addition, there is a dormitory adjacent to Neilly Lake in the Main Camp which can accommodate 38 persons.

At present, only 7 residential units are occupied, resulting in a permanent population at Burwash of 22 persons.

Page 11 - Burwash receives mail through a post office in the Main Camp. Fire protection is currently provided by a volunteer fire brigade staffed by the Ministry of Government Services. The Ontario Provincial smurfs detachment (30-35 men) provides smurfs protection to the site.

The 10 school age children residing at Burwash are bussed to public and separate schools in the City of Sudbury.

Page 14 - The following three commitments have been made on future uses of the site:

  1. Camp Bison Federal Penitentiary - maximum security prison for approximately 145 inmates and 210 staff, the first phase of which is to be operational by April, 1979.
  2. Truck Inspection Station - Administration building and weigh scale to be constructed by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications on a small site on the west side of Highway 69, approximately 300 metres north of the Main Gate at Burwash.
  3. Snowmobile Trail
    • narrow right-of-way on the west side of the Wanapitei River, running southward from Millard Lake to the south-west corner of the site;
    • the trail which is being developed by the Broder-Dill Snowmobilers' Association and Killarney Snowmobile Club will provide a continuous snowmobile route from Sudbury to the Village of Killarney on north Georgian Bay;
    • the trail has the support of the Ministry of Natural Resources.

The inspection station was created. Sort of. There are two paved areas on either side of Highway 69 where, from time to time, inspections are carried out. There is, however, no permanent building at this station.

Certainly snowmobile activity in the Burwash area is substantial. I'm not sure if it was ever formalized into a proper trail.

Most glaringly, however, Camp Bison Federal Penitentiary certainly never happened.

NOTE: This is private property.


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