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VIDEO: U.S. travellers wait seven hours in line at Fort Frances border crossing (2 photos)

Chamber of Commerce in International Falls, Minn. says 'it's just wild'

FORT FRANCES, Ont. — It's clear that plenty of Americans are anxious to get to their camps and favourite fishing spots in Northwestern Ontario.

Hundreds of vehicles were lined up Monday morning on the U.S. side of the border crossing between Fort Frances and International Falls, Minnesota.

At 11 a.m., the Canada Border Services Agency estimated there was a seven-hour wait time.

Video posted to Facebook by Tricia Heibel, president of the International Falls Chamber of Commerce, showed a line of vehicles backed up for blocks.

In an interview, Heibel described the scene as "just wild."

She said the first cars showed up around 4 p.m. Sunday, eight hours before the Canadian border was opened to fully vaccinated U.S. citizens.

Heibel said she finds the sense of urgency to travel to Canada "on day one" somewhat surprising.

However she noted that calls to her office from people wanting information about the border reopening ramped up sharply last month after Ottawa announced it would do so on Aug. 9.

The Canada Border Services Agency reported a two-hour wait time Monday at the crossing at Rainy River and Baudette, Minnesota.

At the Pigeon River crossing south of Thunder Bay, observers reported only a trickle of vehicles. 

The border crossing at Fort Frances and International Falls is historically the busiest crossing in the Northwest.

TBNewswatch asked the CBSA if it has brought in extra staff to accommodate the volume.

In a statement, it said it continuously monitors traveller volumes and wait times to adjust staffing levels during peak travel periods in order to minimize processing times.

"The CBSA is taking required and appropriate measures and maximizes resources to manage the border, including all new mandated health controls," it said.

The statement added that travellers should plan for the possibility of additional processing time due to the enhanced public health measures.

Travellers can check the CBSA website for estimated border wait times at select land ports of entry.

Heibel said she hopes the U.S. government will soon match Canada's decision to reopen the border.

"We are absolutely hoping that is reciprocated soon. Admittedly, we were a little disappointed when the U.S. extended the closure until at least Aug. 21st. By the end of the month, we hope we have more traffic moving back and forth." 

She said it's not just anglers and campers but a lot of families who are anxious to travel so they can see their loved ones on the other side of the border.

"It feels long overdue. It feels a little surreal to have it reopened," Heibel said, adding that she's glad for the Northwestern Ontario resort operators who can once again welcome their U.S. guests.

Meanwhile, the border crossing at Sault Ste. Marie was backed up at times today, with more personal vehicles like cars, pickups and RVs than have been seen on the International Bridge in some time.

It joined border crossings across the country in opening to non-essential travel from the United States for the first time in well over a year. 

The Canadian Border Services Agency website was at times showing two-hour wait times for travellers, while commercial traffic was slowed with a three-hour wait.


Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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