Dave and I have been canoeing along the Voyageur’s Highway. We have paddled up the French River, across Lake Nipissing and down the Mattawa River. As we paddled our canoe on the Mattawa River, I could imagine brigades of voyageurs paddling their canoes, singing songs and carrying their heavy loads of beaver pelts across the portages.
Did you know that “Mattawa” means “junction of waterways” or “river with walls that echo its current” in Algonkian? The river valley is steep and the river has many rapids and waterfalls. The Mattawa river runs over a fault line that is 600 million years old. Archeologists have found evidence that native people traveled this river 6,000 years ago.
This was a very challenging part of the voyageurs’ route. There were eleven portages that the voyageurs used to travel around rapids and waterfalls. They named each portage. They also used poles to move their canoes through some of the easier rapids when they were traveling upstream. Today there are several dams along the river that have changed the water level from the time of the voyageurs. Nine of the original eleven portages are just about the same as they were during the time of the voyageurs.
We were traveling with the flow of the river. The water was high, thanks to a recent heavy rain. This made running some of the rapids easier. We floated over rocks and boulders. We only ran the rapids that were small. When we came to a large rapid, waterfall or dam, we found the portage trail and carried our equipment around.
It is fall here now. Do you live in a place where the leaves change color? The forest here is a mix of coniferous and deciduous trees. The conifers will stay green even in the winter. The leaves on the deciduous trees are yellow, orange and red right now. The birches are yellow and the maples are a brilliant red. The weather is getting colder, but it sure is a beautiful time to paddle the Mattawa River.