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Boats - French River and Nipissing Travel



Over many centuries, Lake Nipissing and the French River have seen a progression of methods of waterway travel. Before roads criss-crossed North America, the vast network of lakes and rivers were the highways of the time, linking all of present-day Ontario to the rest of the continent . Travel by canoe by various First Nations peoples provided extensive hunting and trade opportunities before European contact.

In the 1600s, the French coureurs-de-bois and Jesuit priests arrived, followed later by the voyageurs and English fur traders, explorers, and surveyors, all of whom used the French River as a vital link in the east-west route across a vast expanse of wilderness. These early adventurers relied on the indigenous populations, not only as guides in an uncharted land, but also for the only means of transportation available: the birch bark canoe.

Canadian paddling icon the late Bill Mason, wrote in Path of the Paddle, “It was the canoe that made it possible for the Indian to move around before and for several hundred years after the arrival of the white man. As the white man took over their land, the native people would regret the generosity with which they shared their amazing mode of travel. The more I study the birchbark canoe and what it can do, the greater is my admiration for these people who were here long before we arrived. The birchbark canoe is made entirely from materials found in the forest: birch bark, cedar, spruce roots, ash, and pine gum. When it is damaged, it can be repaired easily from materials at hand. When it has served its purpose, it returns to the land, part of a never-ending cycle.”

The Canadian Canoe Museum, located in Peterborough, Ontario, is a testament to the enduring legacy of the canoe in Canadian history and culture.

Felix Lariviere Canoe c. 1906

There were untold numbers of canoes built in the local area. Canoe builders documented in Wayne LeBelle's book Dokis - Since Time Immemorial included Felix Lariviere, who lived at Sand Bay, and his father. An example of a canoe built in Dokis by Felix Lariviere can be viewed by clicking here.

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