On Monday of this week I participated in a celebration called “Canoe the Heart”. To back up a bit, about three years ago, the agencies along the border started thinking about a collaborative relationship. At the start there were Voyageurs National Park, Quetico Provinical Park and the Superior National Forest. Now there are about 25 entities that are members of the group that call themselves “Heart of the Continent“. They do not talk policy but rather they are a partnership of Canadian/American land managers and local stakeholders working together on cross-border projects that promote the economic, cultural and natural health of the lakes, forests and communities on the Ontario/Minnesota border.
This year is our Centennial celebration and it is also the centennial celebration for Quetico Provincial Park. So the folks at Heart of the Continent decided to do a canoe trip from Atikokin Ontario, over to International Falls and back to Saganaga Lake. From there they would move to Grand Marais and canoe to Grand Portage then onto Thunderbay. All was done in a nine person “Voyageur” style canoe. Stops were made along the way in various small towns to celebrate the centennial for both the park and the national forest. The celebration for Cook County took place at Chik Wauk, in the Grand Marais Recreational Park, and at the National Monument in Grand Portage.
All rather fitting I would say. As I think about the eons of time, the one connection we all have is water. Humans have traveled the oceans for centuries. The Great Lakes and the Sweetwater Trail provided a link first for Native Americans, later for Voyageurs, settlers and present day shipping between Minnesota and the eastern part of our continent. And then there are the lakes of the Boundary Waters that provided a canoe highway for early Natives, Voyageurs and today’s recreationists.
The waters that provided life and mobility to early Americans still provide a connection for the people of the United States and Canada. And what better places to celebrate that connection than Grand Portage, Grand Marais and Chik Wauk? All places on the water established so many years ago and remain to serve people of today. I thought it particularly relevant to celebrate at Chik Wauk, a place built to serve people who came to use the land and waters. Through the efforts of the community of the Gunflint Trail, it will continue to serve to tell the story of the connection of the people to the lands and waters of northeastern Minnesota and Canada.
Staff from the Wilderness Canoe Base and Gunflint Wilderness Camp provided voyager canoes to ferry visitors from the County parking lot on the Sag Trail to Chik Wauk. And then those same voyageur canoes paddled up the Sag Corridor to escort the expedition canoe back to Chik Wauk.
There were about 150 people in attendance on a bright sunny day. Included were a few activities for the kids and then a great meal provided by Gunflint Lodge. After lunch there were short presentations by Quetico’s Dave Maynard and Superior National Forest’s Lee Johnson on the history of each. The celebration was capped by a special recognition of Janice Matichuk, who has staffed Quetico’s Cache Bay Ranger Station for the past 25 years.
Check out the photos on the side bar of this post.