On the river…in Quebec

The New York Times has a lively article from Alex Hutchinson about traveling the Lièvre River by canoe, starting about 170 miles miles north of Ottawa.

Hutchinson contrasts the blessing of paddling a “nearly indestructible vinyl-coated thermoplastic” canoe to an account of a similar trip taken by Pierre de Troyes in 1686.

The journals offer a lively picture of conditions on a 17th-century canoe trip. The day before they reach the mouth of the Lièvre, the men are forced to stop and “re-gum” their leaky birch-bark canoes. While camped nearby, one man seriously burns his hand putting out a fire in his kettle and another chops a finger off with his hatchet; five others fall ill with fever from the cold water after being swamped in rapids.

“I had a Canadien tied to a tree to punish him for an insulting remark that he had made,” de Troyes noted the next day. “Several unruly characters almost started a mutiny because of this, but I shortly led them back to their duty.”

Read about modern voyageurs’ adventures in Hutchinson’s full article here.

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