Tag Archives: Minnesota wilderness

Canoe Country by Florence Page Jaques

In the Ozarks canoe trips down the Current River are big business late spring to early autumn. In “Canoe Country” by Florence Page Jaques such trips are an illusion.

The author finds herself persuaded to make the three week canoe trip in northern Minnesota in late August about 1936.

cover of "Canoe Country" by F. P. Jaques
“Canoe Country” by Florence Page Jaques is a thin book of her journal kept during a three week canoe trip on the lakes of far northern Minnesota around 1940. The sketches illustrating the book were done by her husband Lee Jaques.

Northern Minnesota at that time was wild country with few roads or towns. Indians lived in the woods of mostly evergreens. Travel was by water from lake to lake. The state is known for its 10,000 plus lakes.

Lee Jaques does wilderness sketches and has been canoeing in the area many times as a boy and an adult. His wife is a city girl whose friends and family think this a mad venture she will soon regret.

Blue Heron sketch in Canoe Country
The canoe slid silently by beds of reeds where a blue heron stood motionless watching for a fish to swim by. This was along the edge of one lake in far northern Minnesota during a canoe trip by the author of “Canoe Country” and her husband who did the sketch.

Everything for the three weeks must fit into their canoe and still leave room for them. In addition they must be able to carry it over the portages around rapids or between lakes.

The book is a series of trip diary entries set off with sketches of the scenery and animals. It is a fantasy trip for those living now. The pair needed no guns, only fishing gear. They could dip water from the lakes for drinking and cooking without filtering it first. They saw only a few people the entire three weeks.

porcupine swimming sketch from "Canoe Country"
Northern Minnesota has thousands of lakes and ponds. The fastest way across one is to swim. But a porcupine? Their quills are hollow and filled with air making a life jacket to buoy them up as they swim. the sketch is by Lee Jaques in “Canoe Country”.

The descriptions will be better appreciated by those who have seen the north country with its forests of Christmas trees. No description is adequate for the calls of the loon. Through all of the entries comes the wonder of a newcomer to the wilderness.

The illustrations of the animals are the animals, how they look and act. Those of the scenery make me want to join them on such a trip.

The sad part of this book is knowing that the trip these people made is part of a time and place no longer found in such pristine conditions.