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BY W. F. MUNRO, TORONTO.
THE Winnipegoosis country is at other. The land around both settle
I present one of the most inac ments is tolerably fair, being a black cessible regions of the North-West. sandy loam resting on the universal There is but one way of getting into white limestone, and having some it, and that offers few of the conveni loose stone through it. But there is. ences or attractions of modern travel. really no farming done except by the Starting from Winnipeg with a half few white men who have taken up breed guide and a couple of Red claims in that quarter. The half-breed River carts to carry provisions for the here, as elsewhere over the whole trip, the explorer (tourist is not the country, is content with a weedy illword here) proceeds due north-west fenced garden patch, which he has along a well worn trail running nearly probably never put a hand to himself. parallel with the old survey of the From one of these people, a very intelCanadian Pacific Railway, and distant ligent and trustworthy person, we from it some ten or twelve miles. For hired a York boat for the trip up the twenty miles or so the road is through lakes ; we also engaged two French an almost dead level prairie ; further half-breeds, old voyageurs in the seron the land is more ridgy and uneven, vice of the Hudson Bay Company, the soil lighter and sometimes stoney. who knew the country well. These, In Township 15, Range 2 west, we with Mr. Walter Dickson, of Water pass on the right a large sheet of Hen river, an old Hudson Bay officer, brackish water, called Shoal Lake, the writer, and two boys made up the swarming with pelican when we saw crew of the York boat. This is the it last July. This is a very common only sort of craft as yet on these wabird in the North-West, an ugly un ters. It derives its name from the clean biped, with a bill over a foot in original pattern invented at York length, and a hideous pouch or fish Factory for the navigation of the bag where it stores its food, which is rivers running into Hudson Bay. It not always in the best condition. measures 35 feet in length, with 8 or Some twenty miles further on brings 9 feet of a beam, pointed at the stern, us to Oak Point, on Lake Manitoba, and carrying a large square sail and and close to the boundary line of Kee- six long heavy spruce oars. It is not watin, or the North-West Territory, exactly the thing for lake navigation as it is now called in the new maps. as sailing is next to impossible except Here a post of the Hudson Bay Com with a fair or nearly fair wind; when 'pany has long been established, and that fails there is nothing for it but around it have gathered a considerable to lie over in some convenient shelter population of half-breeds, some of and wait for a change. them well to do in the world. Eight We were favoured with prevailing miles to the south there is another south winds and made a good run to still larger settlement called the Saint the Narrows, which divide Lake Laurent Mission, which has a Roman Manitoba into two nearly equal parts.. Catholic establishment of some kind or ! Here the crossing of the Canadian Pacific Railway was to have been, under and at times stormy, part of the the old survey and the Mackenzie waters north of the Narrows, but administration. We hauled up at with a fair wind from the south, we Mr. William Sifton's, who has made to within sight of the mouth of charge of the telegraph line which the Water Hen the same evening. A here crosses the lake. Mr. Sifton has little before dark a squall rose, and one or two white neighbours who we hauled up on the lea of an island came to settle beside him in the hope for shelter and rest for the night. of the railway crossing near them, and Rain came on, but we managed to who are not at all pleased with the start a fire on the beach, under the change of route. The country all partial protection of the thick woods around here, unlike the lower portion that came within a few feet of the of the lake, is thickly wooded with water's edge. Our supper of duck very good poplar, ash, and oak. Mr. pemmican, and the inevitable black tea, Sifton and his neighbours have cleared despatched, we lay down in our buffaa number of acres, which were filled loes and went to sleep, but at midwith the very perfection of garden night our half-breeds raised a shout vegetables. The root crops in the that the wind had changed, and our north-west are a standing marvel, but boat was in danger from the boulders here they were exceptionally excel on which she was hauled up, so we lent. We never before saw such po- had to tumble into the stern sheets tatoes or such cabbages, beets, onions, and get poled round a point of the and carrots. It may be here said island into shelter. It was pitch dark, that Mr. Sifton tells a very different and the rain came down in torrentsstory from what has been so industri. we had to remain in the boat. All ously circulated about the country next day, as we sailed and rowed up eastward to Selkirk, along the old the Water Hen river, and the followroute of the Pacific Railway. He has ! ing night, as we camped on the shore, travelled it frequently, and maintains the rain came pouring down ; buffalo that there are no difficulties in the lo robes, blankets, every stitch of clothcation such as to warrant the change ing we had on, or could put on, were to the south of the lake. The old route soaking wet. Next morning broke would certainly have been the shortest fine, and as we were making our way to the Saskatchewan, as it would have into Water Hen Lake, and round the been a good thing for the Narrows turn into the river again, we had and the Winnipegoosis country, which time to get a good dry. Not one must long remain a terra incognita, of us caught the least cold after our unless something is done to put steam forty-eight hour's drenching. The ers on the lakes. On the other hand, Water Hen river, as in the gloom and the new route satisfies the Manito- mist of the wet morning we entered it, bans, and serves a settled country had a strange Indian look about it. much in need of railway communi It would have hardly been a surprise cation.
to have seen an army of braves start Sailing from the Narrows, and like Roderick Dhu's warriors from feeling grateful for the kind hospital- the reeds and willows as we slowly ity of our host and his amiable wife, passed up the stream. The banks are we pass on the right the weird caves uniformly low, with a varying belt of of the Manitou, where the untu tall bright green grass extending from tored mind' was awed by the unseen the water's edge to the dark line of power giving audible expression to it. woods in the background. Sometimes self. Northward in the distance the woods came even to the water's rises the bluff,' and between, a wide edge, receding in a semicircle to give expanse of lake, the most exposed, ' place to the broad belt of meadow grass,
which is the prevailing feature of the entrance into Winnipegoosis, it adds banks on both sides. The clumps of thirty miles to the water stretch, and willows and scattered poplar often oc- is the worst part of the route for a cur on these green patches, adding much sailing craft, as the wind from any to their picturesque beauty, and often | southern point, favourable as far as the assuming the appearance of an artifi 'turn,' is dead-a-head for the rest of cial landscape. Many tempting loca the river passage into Winnipegoosis. tions for settlement occur along the | It will always be the bête noire of lake whole extent of the river. The land navigation, except for pleasure excuris rich and heavily wooded, but the sions which are still far enough away trees are seldom over a foot through in the future. South-west, some eight at the butt; the clearing could thus or nine miles from the outlet of the be done with one-half the labour Water Hen into Manitoba, the disof the Ontario settler. The river is tance between the two lakes, Manitoba a beautiful clear stream with a pebbly on the east and Winnipegoosis on bottom, never varying in depth more the west, is only one mile and threethan a few inches, and stocked with quarters. The barrier between is a the finest whitefish in the world ! low, marshy neck of land, at the highWhat more could be wished ? and yet est point not more than ten feet above there is only one white man living on the level of Winnipegoosis. The difthe Water Hen. The river flows nearly ference of level between the lakes is due south from Water Hen Lake. said to be about eighteen feet. A cutwhich receives its waters from Lake ting through Meadow portage, on this Winnipegoosis through a stream also narrow neck of land, will no doubt be called Water Hen river, which flows made some day, but unfortunately the due north, and thus parallel with the water is shallow for a good way out on other river. The two rivers run in op both Jakes, so that besides the canal a posite directions, distant from each long and wide channel leading up to it other not more than six miles at any at both ends would require to be point. About the middle of the first dredged out and something in the nastream the current is a little swift for ture of breakwaters erected for the a few miles, but nothing to interfere protection of vessels entering the in the least with navigation by steam. canal, as there is no natural harbour This part of the river gets the name on either side. The entire basin of of Rapids, which is rather misleading, the two lakes is hollowed out of a dull as we got well over them before I was white limestone, somewhat shaley in informed that they were so designated, texture, with the debris of which the and it would never have occurred to me shores of the lakes are almost everyto apply such a term to what was little where strewed ; the very sand seems to more than a perceptible current. We be nothing but granulated limestone, might easily have pulled our boat There would be no fear of the canal or through, but our half-breeds preferred the channels we have described being 'tracking,' although that involved choked with mud or drift, as there is walking through wet grass up to the no sweeping current, but the bottom shoulders, and sometimes wading in of the lakes, especially in the shalthe river waist deep, in order to cut lower parts, is crowded with boulders, off corners or keep the boat in the and as ice forms at the bottom, the channel. With a heavy load track stones are lifted in the spring and ing' has always to be resorted to, but floated about. But the filling up of the the voyageurs are used to it, taking to channels from this cause might be water like true spaniels. White men guarded against in the form and conwould hardly do this kind of work. struction of the breakwaters. The Water Hen is the only floating Mr. Dickson, my compagnon de voyage, is a close and intelligent observer | level. The anchor han undonbtedly of natural phenomena ; we had many | been lost by some ship which must interesting discussions on the geology have found several fathoms of water and physical geography of the lake re above this very hill. One Auke of the gion. It was his opinion that the anchor, settled into the crevice of the whole country was undergoing a gra rock, could only have been lifted out dual elevation. At one point on the of its place by a buoy rope or chain east shore of Lake Manitoba, below attached to the crown. Whether this the Narrows, where we camped for a was attempted or not is uncertain, but short time, we observed, inland some probably it was not, for there was no 200 yards or so, a clearly defined hole in the crown for any such line. beach, as if the water had just left it; It is probable that the anchor itself it was at least ten feet higher than had only a hemp cable attached to it the present beach. Between it and originally, as neither shackle nor any the present beach was a low marsh, portion of a chain was found. A full of tall reedy grass. An old clumsy wooden stock, very much deIndian half-breed lived in a house cayed, but still recognisable as oak, built a few yards above this former was found attached, and the iron, albeach, and had been there for more though a good deal corroded and scaled than twenty-five years. He told us off, showed that it had been used on a that when he first settled in the coun large vessel, and must have once try the water was up to where his weighed a ton weight in iron alone.' house now stood, and he pointed out One would suppose that the tipping a tree to which he used to fasten his up of the end of a continent would canoe. The question naturally a rose, back up the waters flowing towariis what has caused the shrinkage? In that end and rather raise than lower support of his theory of a gradual ele the level in the upper courses. This vation of the land, Mr. Dickson relat would undoubtedly happen if the ed some curious facts which came un continent were a perfectly level plain, der his observation during his resi and the lower end raised above the dence of thirteen years on the east axis of elevation, but would scarcely coast of Hudson Bay. As he alludes be expected in the case of the land beto these facts in a manuscript work, tween the lakes and Hudson Bay, so illustrating his Arctic experiences, long as the Nelson river has a downwhich has been put into the hands of hill course with abrupt and frequent the writer with a view to future pub rapids. To account for the shrinkage lication, I will take the liberty of giv spoken of, on the theory of an elevaing his own words :
tion of the land, we must either supAn old Indian pilot, named Swal pose the elevation to have been local, low, a native of the country, whose or its axis to have been at a point far whole life had been passed in this removed from the present lakes. There part of the coast (near Cape Jones, is another theory which struck the east coast Hudson Bay), assured me writer forcibly, when coasting the that many of the islands in this parti south shore of Lake Manitoba, on our cular quarter had risen above the sea return trip. The entire south end of during his own life time, having been this lake is now bare of timber like only mere shoals when he was a boy. the surrounding prairie and for probaThe Indian Swallow, when wandering bly the same reason ; that it has been about the hills near the sea coast one swept by fires. But at no very disday, came upon an old ship's anchor tant date heavy forests must have firmly jammed into a crevice of a rock lined the shores, and these would reon the very summit of a hill fully four sist the encroachment of the waters, hundred feet above the present sea which are now blown by the north
wind and scattered over wide areas to vation, was promised a supply of farmthe south and west. Mr. Sifton in ing implements, such as ploughs, harformed us that the depth of the water rows, waggons, &c., and a certain numat the Narrows varied constantly with ber of oxen. Some five or six years the change of wind. With a prevail ago the Water Hen band got their ing north wind the water fell at least implements, but up to the time we two feet, returning to its former level met them the oxen had not arrived. in a calm or with a south wind. A Meantime the ploughs and harrows north wind, which had been blowing were rotting, or had been sold for a for two days and had taken us to the handful of tea. Thus are our Indian foot of the lake, was followed by a s affairs managed in the North West ! calm, and we had a striking illustra- The late appointment of Instructors is tion of the backward flow of the water probably a step in the right direction which began after the wind abated if a proper selection has been made, the writer, in swimming across the | and if they do away with the small narrow entrance into Lake Francis, | reservations, and prevent the wily halfbeing carried a considerable distance breeds from mixing with the bands and out by the current. Supposing the sowing the seeds of discontent and rewaters that now fill Lake Francis and bellion. the other interminable bays, creeks, The north branch of the Water Hen, and marshes at the south end of the which we now turned, is much the lake-not to speak of those on the the same in appearance as the south west side, were recovered and held branch. Although the water was at its within a secure and well-defined bound- highest, there was no perceptible curary such as existed when the forests | rent. Rather more than a mile from were standing, the level of the whole where the river opens out into the lake would be raised probably to the lake, or rather where the lake narrows height of the deserted beach above into the river, and on the left or west mentioned
bank, we came to Walter Dickson's But to return to the Water Hen | house, a substantial log building 32 x where we were about to make the bend | 24 feet,the timbers of good-sized spruce, to the south, on our way to the upper nicely hewn, and the corners neatly lake. Here we touch an Indian re- joined. Here we notice the same serve, and are met by the whole Wa perfection of garden vegetables as ter Hen band, men, women and child we were struck with at the Narrows. ren, who turn out to see us. Some of The soil is the same and so is the timthe men boarded our boat and gave us ber, with the addition of spruce which a hand at the oars, some held up pails occurs in clumps, never in continuous of berries, offering them for a little belts. Mr. Dickson selected this spot flour. We passed another reserve at in the belief that, sooner or later, he Dog Creek below the Narrows, but I would witness and reap the benefit of the band were away on a bear hunt the change which accompanies the and we saw none of them. These In opening up of a country rich in natudians are nearly all Swampy Crees ral resources, and requiring only to and are included in Treaty number be known in order to be settled. It two, numbering less than a thousand is more than probable that he will not all told, scattered over several reser have to wait a great while to see the vations. The agent in charge of them, steamboat passing his door. We enter that is who pays them the treaty money, | Lake Winnipegoosis, or rather a long resides several days'journey from some arm of the lake, which, as before said, of the reservations and not immedi- narrows into the Water Hen river. ately in the neighbourhood of any. Coasting along the west side, we come Each band, on selecting its own reser-' to Salt Point, and encounter the same