Quetico Park History

Quetico Park History

At 1.2 million acres (4,758 square kilometers), Quetico Provincial Park is Ontario's second largest wilderness park. For thousands of years, Quetico Park has served as a travel corridor for native peoples and, more recently, as one of the main routes to the west for European explorers and fur traders. The so-called Voyageurs' Highway runs through the Park. Today its quiet waters and non-mechanized mode of travel serve as a haven from the pressures of modern-day living.

Quetico Park has been in existence since 1913, but at the time trapping, commerical fishing, mining and logging were still allowed within its boundaries. The heart of Quetico has been protected from logging since 1943, and while all logging within park boundaries stopped on May 13, 1971, stumps and other remnants of logging and mining history can still be found today.

As the European influences reached the northwoods, fur trappers and traders harvested a bounty of furs. The French explorer and fur trader Sieur de la Verendrye visited the area in 1731, and returned in the spring of 1732 to establish trading posts on the border lakes. This began the era of the fur trade and the French-Canadian Voyageur. Trading with the Native Americans and fellow European adventurers, the Voyageurs traveled the waterways collecting beaver, mink and other fur bearing animals hides to send to Europe. The unlimited and renewable resource helped to fire the fashion industry which provided beaver top hats, capes, muffs and other desirable goods for the fashion conscious of Europe.

Voyageurs traveled the smaller inland waters in birch bark Northern canoes approximately 25 feet in length. The selection of Voyageurs was intense. It was indeed an honor to be chosen. Since the canoes had a limited carrying capacity height was important. Frustrated was the young man who grew to a height of more than 5'6". A singing voice for passing the time was also important. Strong shoulders and legs for carrying two packs weighing over 90 pounds each was also a must.

A typical season found the Voyageurs leaving their winter posts in the Canadian Northwest in mid-May. Traveling the smaller inland waters the their Northern canoes, the Voyageurs typically reached their "rendezvous" point at Grand Portage by mid to late summer. The Voyageurs carried with them their collected stores of furs. Their counter parts also began their travels in mid-May from Montreal. Montreal canoes where 36 feet in length and carried the food stuffs and trade goods that would be exchanged for the furs. After the exchange was made at Grand Portage, both parties returned to the winter posts before the winter storms set in.

In 1909, people became so alarmed at the slaughter of moose for trophies and for food by logging and mining camps they urged the establishment of the Quetico Game Preserve. Minister Frank Cochrane promised to set aside the reserve if the US set aside a similar area. This led to Proclamation No. 848 being issued by President Theodore Roosevelt on February 13, 1909 creating the Superior National Forest, followed by the establishment of the Superior State Game Reserve by the Minnesota Game and Fish Commission. Two months later, Ontario created the Quetico Forest and Game Reserve.

In 1913, the Quetico Forest Reserve of Ontario DPW became the Quetico Provincial Park under Ontario Department of Lands, Forests and Mines. Trapping, commerical fishing, mining and logging were still allowed within its boundaries, but concerned by the destruction of the wild character of Minnesota and Ontario, the US formed the Quetico Superior Council, which was established to obtain a treaty between the US and Canada "to defend and extend the roadless wilderness area along the boundary waters and to protect and expand the rare public values in Rainy Lake watershed."

Since then, all commecial activities have been banned, along with all motors. The one exception has is that members of the Lac La Croix Guides Association may operate a power boat with an engine not exceeding 10 horsepower on Quetico, Beaverhouse, Wolseley, Tanner, Minn and McAree Lakes; including the Maligne River from Lac La Croix to Tanner Lake.

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