The Voyageur’s Highway

Photos: Peter Bower
Photos: Peter Bower Photograph by Michael Pirrocco

The Voyageur’s Highway

Two hundred years ago, the polished granite shores of Ontario’s French River echoed with the chansons of the voyageurs, those jaunty and tireless canoemen who were the engines of the Canadian fur trade. The French was the first downstream leg of the historic trade route from Montreal to Grand Portage, at the western edge of Lake Superior. Each spring, crews of voyageurs would ply its waters in 36-foot birch-bark canoes, en route to Lake Huron. Places along the French speak to its history: Big and Little Parisien rapids and Chaudiere (kettle) Falls were named by the voyageurs. Except for a few bridges and cottages, the 65-mile designated Canadian Heritage River remains wild today. –CM

Redux Route: The four- to five-day Eighteen Mile Island loop heads upstream on the backwaters of the French’s North Channel and then downstream on the more boisterous Main, to and from a starting point just north of the Trans-Canada Highway, three hours north of Toronto. The French is a prime destination for aspiring whitewater canoe trippers, but the option to portage exists around all moving water makes this route equally appealing to novices and families. (Info:


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The article was originally published on Canoe & Kayak

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