Rivers of Yesterday


Birchbark CanoeingBuilder
In keeping with this years theme Guide Canoes and Culture, I would like to share a few paragraphs from the book I am now reading, "Rivers of Yesterday" by Mike Parker.

The year is 1873.

"In half an hour the canoes are loaded and ready for us to start. The passenger sits on the bottom, facing up stream, with his back against the middle bar, over which coats or blankets have been thrown to make him comfortable. All boxes, sacks, and hampers have been stowed amidships, just behind.The two canoe-men take their places in the bow and stern, and with long setting-poles, deftly wielded, gently push the frail craft into the current. There, holding her for an instant firmly, with poles set firmly on the bottom, they give way with simultaneous effort and send her full length forward. The two hundred mile voyage has now commenced.

Poling up stream is as much like descending with the current as dragging a sled uphill is like sliding down. Two miles an hour is good average speed, and twenty miles a fair days journey. It is marvelous with what untiring energy and pertinacious effort the Indians mount the long and wearisome rapids. Never pausing, seldom speaking, pushing steadily with simultaneous stroke, the monotonous click of their iron-clad poles upon the bottom seems to mark the time. Now they pick up inch by inch in the quickest current, where to miss a stroke is to loose a rod, the stern-man seconding with electric quickness each effort of the bow-man. Anon they swing over to the other side, to take advantage of an easier passage, meanwhile borne downward by the tide and dancing like a feather. Here they run up on an eddy to the face of a protruding boulder with the white foam dashing by either side, and, gathering up their strength, push into the rushing tide and up the steep ascent.

Sometimes they climb actual falls, driving the prow inch by inch to the base of the cascade, where, holding on an instant firmly to gain a little purchase, they force the bark canoe by amazing dexterity up the pitch until it poises on the very curve at an angle of forty-five. During this process the passenger clutches the sides of the canoe like grim death, and when all is safely over breathes a wonderful sigh of relief. Occasionally the labor is varied by a spurt with the paddles over a long reach of still water, or the water runs over a bar so shoal that all hands have to get out and wade, to lift the canoe over.

The sportsman is delighted with the freshness of the novelty; with the vivid green of the foliage sparkling with morning dew; with the rush of the cool and limpid waters, and the lullaby motion of the craft; with the towering hills of leafy woods that hallow seclusion; and the gentle breeze that wafts the smoke of his stern cigar."
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Some pictures may be worth a thousand words, but some words, put together well, are worth a thousand pictures.

Thanks for sharing that!