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Algoma's Fur Trading History

Part Three: Paddling the Path of the Voyageurs



This is the third blog in our five-part Fur Trade in Algoma blog series. Read Part One and Part Two.

Transporting furs and materials was by far the most challenging task during the fur trade. Companies used the routes by canoe on many strategic lakes and rivers in Canada. The canoe is an iconic piece of Canadian history. Without the canoe, the fur trade would be non-existent. Able-bodied men paddled days, weeks and months delivering important goods to trading posts and forts.

French Canadian Voyageurs took on this challenging task. The life of voyageurs wasn’t easy. They rose very early, often without breakfast until later in the morning. They were expected to work 14 hours per day at a paddle rate of 55 strokes per minute! Voyageurs were expected to be able to carry at least two 90-pound bundles of fur over one portage. They would have been susceptible to many health issues like hernias and arthritis, infections and possibilities of drowning, or broken limbs. It was rough work!

Voyageurs were highly valued employees. But they are also legendary, celebrated heros in French Canada through follklore and music. In fact, music was part of the voyageurs' everyday life so this is very fitting. They sang while they paddled and worked. Singing helped them through long voyages but also helped synchronize paddling. An example of a famous Voyageur song is “Alouette.” An interesting fact is fur trader Edward Ermatinger (the great-nephew of Charles Oakes-Ermatinger) wrote down some of those voyageur songs. In doing so, he is the reason why some of the songs are still sung today.

Paddling Trips

In Algoma, you can paddle the path of the voyageur. But don’t worry, we don’t expect you to carry 90-pound fur bundles! These trips are all inclusive and fully outfitted, guided and you’ll be served gourmet wilderness meals too.

Naturally Superior Adventures 


(Photo credit: Naturally Superior Adventures)

Located in Wawa, Naturally Superior Adventures offers a variety canoe and kayak trips on Lake Superior, plus workshops and rentals. In 2017, in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, NSA is booking Lake Superior Voyageur Canoe Brigades Packages. There are four packages to choose from: Voyageur Canoe Trips, Lake Superior Voyageur Brigades, Canadian Voyageur Brigades, Custom Voyageur Canoe Trips.


Sunset on Lake Superior. (Photo credit: Rob Stimpson)
(Photo credit: Rob Stimpson)

You can also book a day trip to learn how to stand up paddle, kayak or canoe. Rock Island Lodge is their bed and breakfast; the site can also be rented out for special occasions like weddings. For those that prefer land-based adventures, hiking packages are available.

Visit the website: www.naturallysuperioradventures.com or phone toll free 
1-800-203-9092.

MHO Adventures


(Photo credit: James Smedley Outdoors)

The Missinaibi River was an important trade route for both the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company. It has also been designated as a Canadian Heritage River. You can follow the path of the voyageurs by taking one of the canoe trips offered by MHO Adventures. There are trips offered on the Upper Missinaibi River and the Lower Missinaibi River. You’ll experience the thrill of rapids, overnight camping by cascading waterfalls, swimming and fishing. Trips are complete with guides who become wilderness chefs and equipment is provided.


Voyageurs would have eaten pemmican and stews; you'll be enjoying gourmet meals instead. (Photo credit: James Smedley Outdoors)

Overnight camping at Thunderhouse Falls on the Missinaibi River. (Photo credit: James Smedley Outdoors)

Training courses for paddling white water and wilderness first aid are also offered by MHO Adventures. For more information visit http://mhoadventures.com/adventure or phone toll free 1-855-226-6366.

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