Monday, 15 July 2013


By Madge Macbeth, circa 1924

The Nipigon Historical Museum Archives


Clear and very hot. Grasshoppers arranged themselves in weird designs all over our tents, and filled the still air with their raucous scraping. We drifted lazily into the dining hall to find our largest trout beautifully mounted on birch bark and hanging above the end of the table. This was Friday's work. He hadn't eaten that, anyway!

A unique experience was added to our growing collection, when we were paddled right into the rapids, and anchored there by means of an enormous stone, which was powerless, even with the assistance of the two guides, to keep us stationary. But the fishing was the best we had enjoyed... great big trout, fat and firm, tumbling down the icy waters with no other object than snapping at our flies.

We stopped at noon, and took a couple hours rest. Towards evening all of us seemed to have renewed energy, even the fish, and before the sun sank we hauled up our anchors and called it a day, for no other reason than because the Game Inspector had a stern chin, and although we had thrown back as many trout as we had caught, each of us had taken his quota.


It was a wrench to leave Pine Portage, but Camp Alexander beckoned, so one day we waved our regret to the swaying trees and set sail on the broad waters of the Nipigon.

Really set sail! A strong wind swept southward and the Indians hoisted blankets in lieu of canvas, proving themselves able seamen of diversified accomplishments.

To the music of guttural cries we raced madly along, keeping well ahead of the wind which strengthened into a spanking gale, as the day progressed. Points of interest flew past too rapidly to make much of an impression. Island Portage, an ancient landmark, was not much of an island and certainly no portage any longer. With the building of the dam at Hydro, the level of the river was raised to such an extent that it has virtually become a series of broad lakes, inundating not only a considerable stretch of the former shore line and rising high along the trunks of growing trees, but also covering camp sites and portages and offering an unobstructed waterway between Pine Portage and Camp Alexander, a distance of some fifteen miles.

Split Rock, made famous by post cards that fail to do it justice, rose majestically on our port side, and receded into the haze of blazing moon.  A fisherman on the starboard bow saluted us with a fine big pike. We learned that the channel once lay between Split Rock and the farther shore, but our attention was centred on Nicholas-John, who was handling his canoe with masterly and discomfiting skill, rather than upon that hydrographic detail.

Rabbit-skin Rock was covered by water, so we could not see this interesting spot shaped like an enormous rabbit's skin stretched out to dry, but we saw Old Indian's Head silhouetted against the clouds, and learned that this Manitou promised his children to guard their land against the invasion of the white men. When asked why he didn't keep his word, Friend Guide bent to his work and pretended not to have heard the question.

Hiawatha's Blanket, too, was passed on the way to Alexander. Here, the great Teacher used to gather about him the young men of the tribe, and tell them of the gods and lesser gods, of the Spirits living in bird and beast and tree. And here, he left his blanket - a large flat white stone - to which, it is expected that he will return one day.


We danced gaily to the dock at Nipigon Camp and sorted out our duffle bags with prodigious sighs. The tank was lifted carefully ashore for "future intensive study of Flora's fauna," somebody said. Two mounted fish were laid on the wharf, the proud owners trying to assume the look that deprecates a conspicuous achievement.

The trip was finished. In ten days we had made a circuit of about eighty miles under ideal conditions and through the finest trout fishing waters on the continent. As our neighbour had said, we could go no farther... The Nipigon is the best there is!

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