The Historic French River

When canoe and backcountry instructor Marty Tannahill of PaddleIn suggested canoeing along the French River, I was thrilled. Although not a knowledgeable historian, I am keen on history, as much here in Canada as I was when we lived in the UK. In Canadian history, the French River is as important as the Nile to the Egyptians or the Danube to Eastern Europe and the Thames to England. We just don’t see it that way because the usefulness of the French River today extends only as far as cottaging and canoeing – neither of which are on the national political or economic agendas of today.

Back in our fur trading and exploration days, the French River was the conduit for all movement to the interior of the continent. Everyone passed along these shores: the coureur des bois; the voyageurs; the French explorers Étienne Brûlé, Samuel de Champlain, Pierre-Esprit Radisson (and, perhaps “gooseberries”, too); various missionaries; and the British explorers including Simon Fraser, Alexander Mackenzie and David Thompson. Canoeing (or kayaking) the French is like following in the footsteps of giants – cool! So, thanks Marty!

Marty and I and friends of his, Sandra and Steve (both experienced canoeists), spent a few days around the area called “The Ladders” – significant due to the double set of rapids that, in the spring are navigable, but in summer are a pile of well-rounded boulders (but made rather unphotogenic due to the mangy brown-black algae). The weather was typical for this summer: we had everything from grey, heavy cloud to full-on thunder, lightning and rain to clearing storm and beautiful sunshine. Of course, to photographers, storms, as they are approaching and receding, provide wonderful drama to otherwise plain blue skies. We were well fed – thanks Adèle! – and managed to make the most of the weather and the shield scapes around us.

Here are six from our trip – click on one to see it full size. navigation links will be at the bottom. The rest of the photos may be viewed over on my Flickr site. Enjoy!


  1. Marty says:

    I had a wonderful time with you, Sandra and Steve. It was a thrill for me to be able to spend time with you, as well as, play with great camera gear. Your images do justice to this special place. Thanks for the coaching and coming back to wake me for the sunrise on the last morning.

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