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The Ghost Town of Gagnon, Quebec

Gagnon, in Quebec, is a ghost town unlike any other. There are no abandoned buildings, or homes, or any visible infrastructure that would suggest past human habitation, save for a lonely stretch of road that cuts through this former settlement. Yet, less than four decades ago, Gagnon was thriving mining town with an airport, churches, schools, a town hall, an arena, a hospital, and a large commercial center, despite being isolated and accessible only by plane.

Gagnon, Quebec

A sign marking the site of the lost town. Photo: Axel Drainville/Flickr

Gagnon is located about 600 km north of Quebec city, as the crow flies, on the edge of the Manicouagan reservoir, which is a large impact crater and one of the most significant geological landmark in Quebec. The city was founded in 1960 following the discovery of iron ore in the region. The shore of Lake Barbel was chosen as the site to build the future town of Gagnon. The city rapidly grew in size. Infrastructure such hospital, airport, churches, primary and secondary schools and other businesses were quickly built to make life easier for new residents. At its peak, the city had about 4,000 inhabitants.

In the 1970s, steel production fell across North America as a result of the 1973–75 recession, whose effect lasted well into the 80s. In 1977, the resources in the mines ran out and mining operations were transferred to the mine in Fire Lake, located about 90 km northeast of Gagnon. By the mid-1980s, the mines were no longer turning profit, and it was decided that the mines be closed. The city was evacuated, but instead of leaving the existing buildings intact, the entire town was razed to the ground in 1985. All that remains today is the town's deserted main street and the airport's runway.

Two years after the closure of the city, a highway that would have ended the isolation of Gagnon was constructed. It connects Baie-Comeau to Labrador and passes less than 100 meters away from the former city.

Gagnon, Quebec

Gagnon during its heydays. Photo: Yanic Trottier/Google Maps

Gagnon, Quebec

Auberge Du Lac, Gagnon's only hotel. Photo: David Dietlein/Flickr

Gagnon, Quebec

Another view of Auberge Du Lac. Photo: David Dietlein/Flickr

Gagnon, Quebec

Typical winter scene along main street. Photo: David Dietlein/Flickr

Gagnon, Quebec

Photo: David Dietlein/Flickr

Gagnon, Quebec

Photo: David Dietlein/Flickr

Gagnon, Quebec

Gagnon’s Concentrator Plant. Concentrated ore was shipped from Gagnon to the Saint Lawrence River. Photo: David Dietlein/Flickr

Gagnon, Quebec

Photo: David Dietlein/Flickr

Gagnon, Quebec

Photo: David Dietlein/Flickr

Gagnon, Quebec

The main road today. Photo: Axel Drainville/Flickr

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