The proposal for an improved transport system, i.e. road, from Sled Lake to Dore Lake was approved by the Department of Forestry in 1947.
In January 1949, the Survey Branch of the Department of Natural Resources completed the survey for the road from Cowan Lake to Dore Lake. At this time, the road into Dore Lake was generally in very poor condition during the summer months, and could not withstand heavy hauls. During the wet seasons of spring and fall, the road was impassable. It was classified as a narrow bush road. It became necessary to build a good all year round road, to cope with the increased traffic during the summer and wet seasons. A good road was necessary for hauling timber and fish products out of the area, transportation of fire protection materials, and aiding in the development of tourism and recreation facilities on the Lake. Furthermore, the residents of the area would have increased mobility between Dore Lake and larger centres. At times, living in an isolated community was an inconvenience for the residents, especially when emergencies arose. Bernice Snell, a resident of Dore Lake, recalls two situations, where poor roads often created hardships for the residents.
"When our son was three years old, he became ill one night with appendicitis. My husband got some ice from the fish plant. We broke it into small pieces and filled the hot water bottle with ice chips and then packed them around his tummy, to keep the inflammation under control. In the morning, we were able to contact the ambulance plane. We used a two-way radio at this time. What we wouldn't have given for good roads and telephones then. He was flown to Big River and taken to the hospital. He was not expected to survive, but was much stronger than the doctor had anticipated."
"Another incident I'll always remember, was the time Mrs Ida Johnson came to visit me. On her way home, she twisted her foot and broke her ankle. Seeing this in the fall and the bays were only frozen slightly, planes could not fly her out. The men started a long procedure of getting her out to the hospital. She was taken by boat part of the way. Then she was picked up by Harry Edquist in a little jeep and was transported through the portage to the Edquist's. She was then placed on a hand toboggan and toted across the bay to Harry Husak's. Harold Viden then drove her in his jeep station wagon, over the terrible so-called roads of that time, to Meadow Lake."
Construction of the Dore Lake Road was done by the Construction Branch of the Department of Natural Resources. The construction of this road was done over ten years and completed in several stages.
The survey report indicated that the construction of the road was completely feasible. The first step taken was to locate where the road would run. This took about four to six weeks. The second stage was the bulldozing and levelling off areas. This proved difficult only in two locations. The first difficulty occurred, where the road followed a canyon about a half a mile. The canyon was filled with wind-blown wood. It entailed a considerable amount of clearing. The second difficulty, where the road was to pass over a ridge of about a quarter of a mile long. The ridge was to be levelled at a cost of $1000.00.
The rest of the road to Dore Lake was considered quite level and just required a bulldozing job. Heavy timber was encountered in the Smoothstone area. Loggers were sent ahead of the road builders so that this area is cut out. The timber was piled to one side and freighted out by cat train during the winter months.
After the initial road was constructed, continual repairing, maintenance of culverts and gravelling was done every year, especially during the wet season. The government realized the necessity of trying to keep the road in relatively good condition. In 1950, only $700.00 was allotted to the maintenance of the road. However, realizing that this amount was not sufficient, the government transferred $2000.00 from a Sled Lake building project to the Dore Lake Road project.
In 1953, a second rebuilding job was done on the Dore Lake Road. The Department of Natural Resources' report explains the work done during this time.
"Approximately 25 miles of the road has been gravelled, two miles more have been graded and made ready for gravel, the first ten miles from the forks of this road were gravelled heavier than originally anticipated that it would require...at mile 27, on the big hill, a heavy gravelling job was done...600 yards or more (gravel) per mile was put on this mile. On the balance of the road, the low places, fills and hills, were gravelled at the rate of 600 yards per square mile. From miles 1 to mile 27, the road can be considered complete...25 culverts have been installed and two small bridges, these bridges have a ten-foot drop."
During the early years of the road building, it appeared that no matter how much blading and gravelling was done, heavy rains, or wet snow, turned the road into mud soup. Mr C.C. Williams, the conservation officer at Dore Lake during this time, wrote this letter, dated June 1954, to his district superintendent, describing the road conditions after a heavy rainfall.
"On Wednesday, June 16th, 1954, I was returning to Big River in a department jeep when I came upon a three and a half-ton Dodge truck: stopped at the temporary bridge about a half-mile north of the Smoothstone Lake supply road. Mr Sinion Poirier, the driver and employee of Clarke's Fisheries of Meadow Lake, had, before my arrival, finished putting on the dual-wheel truck's chains. I informed Mr Poirier that he couldn't make it the rest of the way into Dore Lake as .59 inches of rain had fallen in that area during the day and the roads were practically impassable.
Mr. Poirier agreed that it would be difficult to make the trip with the large truck, so he turned it south. (I learned the next day that he stayed at Fred Redhead's for the night and returned to the Smoothstone Supply Road on the morning of June 17th).
On leaving Mr Poirier, I could see by the freshly rutted road that a truck had continued over the bridge and up into the hills towards Dore Lake. I also continued on my way to Dore Lake and came upon the vehicle that was rutting the road in a "snake-like" fashion -- bogged down on a side hill a few miles south of Dore Lake. Mr Louis Bedard was the driver and only passenger of the stranded one tone Ford truck. It appeared to be useless to even try to give Mr Bedard a helping-hand. I, therefore, continued to Dore Lake Headquarters as he didn't want to leave his truck and ride in with me.
Mr. Bedard arrived into Dore Lake settlement later on in the evening. I learned that the two trucks under Mr L. Bedard's supervision were attempting to get to Dore Lake to transport fish to Meadow Lake for the final packing and sale. I asked Mr Bedard when he expected to return to Meadow Lake.
He replied that he wouldn't even attempt to return to Meadow Lake with fish until the roads dried up. However, the following morning at 5:00, the same man pulled out from Dore Lake, en route to Meadow Lake with thirty boxes of dressed whitefish on his one-ton Ford.
As the fish contained in these thirty boxes were very soft on the evening of June 16th, Conservation Officer Lenson and myself wished to re-inspect them. We overtook both trucks 23 miles south of Dore Lake Headquarters (approximately 10 hours after the Bedard truck departed from Dore Lake). Mr Bedard had been stuck several times along the way and at the time of our arrival, the three and a half-ton Dodge driven by Sinion Poirier was pushing the one-ton Ford driven by Louis Bedard. We were obliged to follow them approximately three miles before we were able to pass, as both trucks were grinding their way down the centre of the road - shoulders of the grade were very soft and even the in centre of the road, the one-ton truck was down to its housings and in the fills crossing the muskegs, the three and a half-ton Dodge truck dropped through the finished grade from 12 to eighteen inches."
If instances similar to this continue, this road will be of little use to the Department of Natural Resources and the people of this district, who are wholly dependent upon it for access to the Post Office and markets."
The people of Dore Lake did not see improved road conditions until 1961. At this time, a major rebuilding job was done on the road. The road was widened and rebuilt in several areas. The biggest improvement occurred with the building of a by-pass, to completely cut out the use of the "old road", or better known then, as "Dead man's Bend". It was quite obvious, for the eerie name it received, that the "Bend" must have been a rather devastating mud hole to be trapped in. It took approximately, two to three years to complete these improvements.
Until this present day, the road is continually being bladed, gravelled and rebuilt, to cope with the increasing traffic from tourism and the logging and fishing operations.
Dore Lake Road 1952 near the forks of highway 55.
Doug Wake (Saskatoon) stuck in mud.
Dore Lake Road, 1952, between Appleby Creek and Sled lake Junction.
Henry Mason being towed by Clarence Williams (Conservation Officers)
Poles on the side of the road are used as pulp wood.
Saskatchewan ambulance plane
taking out a patient from Dore Lake;
before the time of good roads.