Abandoned Bluewater Youth Detention Centre in Goderich, Ontario

Bluewater Youth Detention Centre

The abandoned Bluewater Youth Detention Centre is a 300 acre property located along the Lake Huron Shoreline in Goderich. Bluewater Detention Centre was built in 1961 by the province of Ontario to serve as a mental health facility known as the Ontario Hospital (Goderich Psychiatric Hospital) with 204 beds.

In 1976, it became the Bluewater Centre for the Developmentally Handicapped. The Bluewater Centre was closed around 1985. The facility received a $10 million upgrade and re-opened as a youth-only secure custody and detention centre.

There are 90 beds which include isolation cells.

At the time of my first visit in 2016 the power was working and it was fully intact. There was no vandalism. We were able to open the main gate by turning on the power in the guard booth.

It’s a long walk down the road to get to the Bluewater guard entrance.

Bluewater Youth Detention Centre in Goderich
The main operations building of the Bluewater Youth Centre in Goderich

Master Control Room

This is the master control room where access to the building was managed. Visitors would sign in here and be escorted to their destination. A separate security booth outside controlled access to the sliding entrance gate. The height of the fence ensures it couldn’t be climbed by any youth looking to escape.

master control room of the abandoned Bluewater Detention Centre, Goderich. Abandoned ontario
Control room


Control room at Bluewater Youth Detention Centre, Goderich. Abandoned ontario
Another view of the master control room


Bluewater Youth Centre, Goderich. Abandoned ontario
A view of one of the hallways


Bluewater Youth Detention Centre, Goderich. Abandoned ontario


the gymnasium at Bluewater Youth Detention Centre, Goderich. Abandoned ontario
Inside the gymnasium at Bluewater Youth Centre. We found a set of keys allowing us inside here.
shower area at Bluewater Youth Detention Centre

Bluewater Riot

In 1996 OPSEU workers began a strike against the Harris Government. On February 29, 1996 it’s alleged that unionized guards at Bluewater incited the youths to riot as a way of supporting the strike action.

It was alleged that guards may have “planted” matches and barbecue lighter fluid.(1)

The inmates caused $175,000 in damage. Some of the youths were transferred to the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre in London, Ont. Managers at the EMDC took the place of striking guards during the strike.

The youths alleged they were humiliated, kicked and tossed naked into their cells.The youths later won a lawsuit filed against the Ontario government for injuries as a result of their treatment by managers.

(1) Applied Social Psychology – Jamie A. Gruman, Frank W. Schneider, Larry M. Coutts

cell doors at Bluewater Detention Centre
I could not imagine the mental anguish living behind concrete and bars

Decline in Custodial Youth

Changes to Ontario’s youth justice system focused on more community-based programs seeking to reduce the number of youths put into jail. As a result there was a decrease in the number of youths in Bluewater Youth Centre.

By March of 2012 there were only 17 youths at Bluewater.  Children and Youth Services Ontario released a statement that same month indicating, “we can’t afford to operate facilities with so many empty beds”.

The facility closed on March 6, 2012 putting almost 200 workers out of a job.

Employees held a rally in an effort to persuade the province to reopen the facility. It was not successful.

Bluewater Detention  Centre - B-Hall


Bluewater Youth Detention Centre - youth's room
youth’s room
shower area in Bluewater Youth Centre
shower area in Bluewater Youth Centre

Military Training

The property sat idle for several years. In October of 2017 and September of 2018 the Canadian Armed Forces used the property for military training. Local residents were cautioned that they might hear the sound of explosives being detonated.

Many cell doors have been blown apart and walls have been breached with explosive charges. 

The property is currently owned by Infrastructure Ontario (IO).

Bluewater Youth Detention Centre


Georgian House
Georgian House section of Bluewater


television room at Bluewater Youth Correctional
television room

The television room with plastic chairs that if thrown, are less likely to cause injury.


segregation cells
segregation cells – emotionally draining just to look at
youth cell at Bluewater



Bluewater cafeteria

On our first visit here we were able to enter the guard’s shack. There we found a circuit breaker which when turned on, allowed us to open the main gate. With the turn of a key, it was like a scene out of a movie… the loud “Brrrr” tone and the gate slowly opening. 

Post-Military Training Photos (2018)

These photos are from 2018 after decay had begun and the military had set off explosives.

Bluewater hallway photo

television room

Photo of Bluewater Youth Centre

Bluewater Youth Centre gym area now

Bluewater Youth Centre

Georgian House as it appears today

The damaged shower area

A decayed and sooty youth cell at Bluewater

21 thoughts on “Abandoned Bluewater Youth Detention Centre in Goderich, Ontario

  1. I was there from 2005-2007/08 and the shit we got away with was like a day camp rather than a youth Center.

  2. I was there from 2000 – 2003. Couldn’t be happier that it closed down. Staff there thoroughly enjoyed “restraining” and cell extracting kids. 6 Grown men beating on a 16 year old kid. I loved to hear all these people in a rural part of canada were out of a job, hows it feel… Anyone who was there with me (2000 – 2003) feel free to reachout on Instagram (natesosa2x) ior facebook (Nate Sosa).

  3. Wow, I just thought of the movie Train of dreams. I was in the movie briefly and unfortunately spent 2 years from 15-17 in the mid 80’s. The things I saw there, could write a few books. Some staff were very good and obviously a few horrible ones. I remember the small riot as I was caught in it as most kids depending your rank and unit. When I left there after 2 years I went back to Toronto to a semi secure facility. Blue water had a big impact on my life and I had to grow up fast there. I had a 3 year sentence and now I’m 53, I’ve never seen inside a cell since. Almost 40 years ago and over all blue water helped me change my life for the better. Although at the time, I hated it. Hope they can turn it into something useful and beneficial to the community and areas around. Thanx for reading

    1. Crazy, I can say the same. I was sent there for 6 months when I was 16, jesus.. 25 years ago now. Probably 1997 or so It was just after the riots.

      Getting sent to this hell hole from living in a small town on Lake Erie. I remember the hardest part for me was in the late spring they’d open our cell / dorm windows and you could hear the crickets at night and the lake.
      It was torture for me. This and being amongst some seriously broken dudes.

      It was in this place where I learned that I wasn’t the kind of person who could do well in a cage with having no control over your own life. I decided then that I was never going to be locked up again. Never have.

      I guess in that sense it served its purpose for some of us. But It was clear to me even then that 75-80% of the dudes there were beyond help.

      Seeing the pictures of the rooms & SIU cells still gives me a chill. I think the closest I ever came to losing my mind was having to spend 5 days in Siu after some banger from Toronto thought he was going to pick on me… Didn’t work out for either of us .

      Anyway I’ll credit this place with showing me that I didn’t want to end up locked up ever again.

      Someday if my son ever starts down that path hopefully just the stories will be enough. Luckily he’s smarter than his dad already.

      1. I was probably in there at the same time as you. About 6 months. Part of the second phase of post riot reopen. Changed my life forever. Never went back to another cell and man did I see some shit in there

    2. I was there at the same time as you in fact we where friends kin___ was your last name funny I remember baseball soccer track going to the cummunity cutting grass clean yards day trips school and we had meetings every morning with doctor Albert I was there for 3 years at that time Mike is the name. From Toronto. We were good friends in fact talked all the time. Remi was are other friend if you remember. What I can say is I spent 2 years 6 months in that place just before they opened secure wing I went to open custody if you remember I even stuck up for you a few times. Ther was also movie nights and farm labor pool and camp councillors. I am 53 now I was there from 17-20 years old I can tell you most guys that went there at that time never went back to jail it was not even like jail it was more like open custody especially if you where a gold bar. You could go for walks had your own movie room. I was there for a serious crime and everyone said I would be back in jail one day I can say that never happened. The truth is the guys that always came back only where there for short periods of time. The guys that where there for 2 plus years have never been back. The problem today is the judges let the kids off with a slap on wrist even if they did something serious. The more time they had to work with you the better chance you had to change your life. I say they should rebuild it a put it back the way it was before the secure custody side was built. I can say I got my education there at Bluewater secondary school and they help me get excepted to college and I own my own business because the guards at that time the teachers all cared about the inmates. I know I am not the only one that can say that I was a tuff kid through time and caring became a good man in life feel bad for the kids that never got to be there when I was there there where 3 houses each house had 30 kids and we had competition between the house in sports all the time learning to work as a team lol. Georgian, Huron and Ontario is the names of houses as I remember. Text remember

    1. I was here for about a month or so in 2010. I was 17. I remember being in the bathroom when one kid asked us (two other kids) what we were in there for. The first kid answered something about aggravated assault and assault with a weapon. I laughed and told him “gun trafficking” (the charge isn’t actually important here). The kid who asked us never told us why he was there, he just left the bathroom. It’s very weird to see these pictures now. Especially after the attack on Guantanamo Bay or whatever happened to it. Idk about any good or bad things regarding this place but I will say this – the guards seemed to me to care more about the safety of youth inmates vs adult inmates. I don’t know of any kids who got hurt seriously while being incarcerated here.

    2. I was there with you Eddie, St. Lawrence house right? And of course St. Clair lol I got transferred to Brookside from there. Look me up on FB.
      Eric Mills, Edmonton Alberta.

  4. I was there as an inmate for the majority of my youth 16-18 which would have been around 2000. We used to go to school with the boys I can’t lie it felt super secure but we had fun. A lot of inmates were from Toronto area I was in segregation and it was definitely long drawn out days in segregation. We used to do obstacle courses outside, climbing the wooden walls, ropes, balancing through tires, we ran the tracks, there was a work out room with equipment and we played tennis. I remember so so much from this place it’s so crazy to see it like this now.

  5. Very cool! I worked there on a short term contract doing work for the Ministry of Correctional Services back in the late 80s. The blank soul-less eyes on some of those kids was bloody scary, even moreso than the older tattoed dudes that were in the Guelph \”OR\” back then (at least to me). Great site!

  6. I was there in the 80’s likely around 86, there were 3 wings.. Georgian, Huron and superior. rooms were large dorms with 4 people per dorm.
    we had a gym,weight room, baseball, football/soccer field. not to mention a pool and a band room….electric guitars and a drum kit.
    school was fine and I even worked in the kitchen.
    in the day room we had couches not the plastic chairs and a pool table.
    things look like they changed after I was there but I can tell you it was a lot better there than at a lot of other places I was at.

    1. I was there back in the 80s also when there was a fake.roit I the kitchen cause they were filming a.movie there Nd each unit had dogs

    1. My husband said that the property should be cleaned up the youth centre torn down and the old police station and build affordable housing units in its place that it is desperately needed for low income individuals and families who are homeless on welfare or disability incomes in that area especially it being 375 or more acres of land going to waste

  7. It is a shame something wasn\’t done with it before it got to this condition. I worked their back in the 1960 s when it was the Ontario Hospital. .What a beautiful place it was. I think its too far gone now !

    1. The article is a bit strange
      The kids always had matches. They were searched and tobacco and matches and lighters where a constant. To say matches were planted is ridiculous. There was always matches and contraband. I am not surprised the managers are found to be abusive. Dealing with transferred kids to a new institution where you have no relationship from a riot would have been worse than the riot itself. It seemed also however the most uncaring and cold guards became managers for some reason. The most impatient dictators seemed to move up. It really made you wonder what was up at times. Just when you thought someone was fired they would pop up as a higher position somewhere else. It seemed the old system of adult jail guards came over to manage the youth. They liked punitive as it was safe. Or was it?
      There was no reward for caring or listening as a staff it was a subversive fight to try to help these kids. For me the biggest issue was the lack of outside time. One issue with a leave and all leaves province wide would be cancelled. All thr good programs would be cut out of safety concerns. There was no care for the kids future. It was all about safety of the staff and public perception. There was always a tension and a feeling like we were to make life miserable as a deterrent. I remember having a huge issue because I gave an extra peanut butter sandwich to a kid at snack. A common phrase to kids was you don\’t like it don\’t do crime. Still the public feels justice is a deterrent not a way to improve a persons life so they can make better choices in the future. People came out of there scarred and traumatized often. More desperate and deranged. It was a strange mix of nice kids who made a mistake and hardened family criminals all in the same place. Not a good system at all. However we are all to blame. We discourage any show of mercy or care for those in custody. It is amazing we don\’t have capital punishment returning. Violent youth from the city and simple farm kids who smashed up a car one Saturday night and all the in between in the same boat. It was a disgrace on so many levels to put 14 year olds in these situations. Taking them to bus stations in leg irons only to let them go free to the public. Why was it ok for a greyhound bus to take a kid that was handcuffed 5 minutes ago with two officers. Jails and kids not a good mix just like institutions and mental health also not a good mix. A huge place where bullying on every level was the rule all day long. It might be good that it closed. However the other jails seem to be not much of an improvement but hey thats what we the public want.

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