Rainy River sits southeast of Lake of the Woods on the eponymous Rainy River, which forms part of the Ontario-Minnesota segment of the Canada–US border. Opposite Rainy River across the river is the town of Baudette, Minnesota. The two towns are connected by the Baudette – Rainy River International Bridge. Rainy River is at the northwestern terminus of Ontario Highway 11.
Rainy River is famous for being frequently (though wrongly) seen as being at being the opposite end of Toronto's Yonge Street, which has led to the street being dubbed the "longest street in the world", due to a false conflation between the street and Highway 11, which the street was once the southernmost section of. The street name for the highway through the town is Atwood Avenue.
Rainy River was formed around 1895 along the east shore of the Rainy River about 2 km from the current town centre by a group of lumbermen whose mill was purchased by the Beaver Mills Lumber Company in 1898. The small village took the name Beaver Mills until it was incorporated as a town in 1904. In 1901 the Ontario and Rainy River Railway completed a bridge connecting Minnesota to Ontario, but Beaver Mills town site was in the way of the eastern end and so they created a new town further up river in between the two large mills. The only method of transport at the time was by steamship so parts of the bridge arrived addressed to "Rainy River". The town eventually accepted this as its name.
The town grew rapidly because of the thriving lumber industry and its two large mills and bolstered by the railway. In 1910, a forest fire known as The Great Fire of 1910 originating in northern Minnesota swept north and destroyed the mills. Across the south side of the river the two villages of Baudette and Spooner were completely burned out, and much of the population was saved at the last moment by a group of citizens from Rainy River who backed a train of box cars across the bridge and pulled them out. The mill industry relocated as a result, contributing to a drop in population from more than 2000 people to its current less than 800.
Because of the railway (now a part of Canadian National Railways), the growing hunting/fishing tourism industry, the town remained firmly established. The town has had many industries in the past, a Rail Round House, in the 1960s the Rainy River Boat company, in the 1970s Arctic Cat Apparel among some of the major ones, all have now closed and the current town faces a dismal future.
Highway 11 ends in Rainy River, at the bridge to the USA.
- From Winnipeg: its 265 km, take Highway 1 southeast to Highway 12, head south through Steinbach to the U.S. border, then Minnesota 312 to Minnesota 11 to the border crossing at Baudette.
- Tomahawk Island Lighthouse, 647 Lighthouse Road, Sleeman. Su-F 8AM-6PM. Built in 1901. 10 m tall. Moved 8 km to the mainland by its private owners in the 1960s.
- Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre (Manitou Mounds) (Place of the Long Rapids), 340 Ross Road, Stratton (33 km from Rainy River), ☏ . Late May to mid-Oct: W-Su 11AM-6PM; Jan-Apr: F noon-5PM, Sa Su 9AM-5PM. One of the most significant centres of early habitation and ceremonial burial in Canada. The centre is owned and operated by Rainy River First Nations and offers interpretive tours and galleries, a collections space with over 16,000 artifacts, a gift shop that showcases artwork by local Indigenous artists, and a restaurant that serves traditional Ojibway cuisine. Learn about Ojibway history, language, geography, culture, and traditions. These lands hold the record of more than 8,000 years of recurring use or habitation and contains the largest group of burial mounds in North America. Fully accessible. There are golf cart tours to the largest burial mound which is over 5 km away. There are 22 burial mounds. They have bicycles as well. Guided tours: adults $12, seniors and children $8; self-guided: $5.
- Beaver Mills Market, 420 Atwood Ave, ☏ . M-Sa 8AM-9PM, Su noon-6PM. Supermarket.
There are no restaurants in Rainy River as of Nov 2018.
- 1 Woods Quality Bakery, 214 Fourth Street. Baked goods and sandwiches.
- 1 The Walla Walla Inn, 400 Atwood Ave, ☏ , email@example.com. 32-40" TVs in the rooms, free popcorn, free breakfast pastries. From $125.
- Tiboni's Bed & Breakfast, Blue No 2 Rd & Hwy 621, Sleeman, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are other hotels in Baudette, Minnesota.
Staying in Canada, Highway 11 goes east to Fort Frances.
|Routes through Rainy River|
|Baudette ← becomes ← ←||W E||→ Jct N → Fort Frances → Thunder Bay|