From Portage La Vase to Lake Nipissing
Portage La Vase
Portage La Vase
From the Mattawa River, Samuel de Champlain went to Trout Lake and had to take the La Vase Portage in order to get to Lake Nipissing. Why was a portage necessary? Because Trout Lake - known by the first explorers as Turtle Lake - is a little higher than Lake Nipissing.
A Portage: the Start, Nipissing District, Ontario, 1897
W.H. Ellis/National Archives of Canada/PA-121271
Some say that the La Vase Portage is possibly the most difficult portage between Montreal and Thunder Bay!
Archeologists have been doing research at the La Vase Portage in Champlain Park since 1961. The path left by the voyageurs' footsteps heading toward the "Pays d'en haut", the vast territories situated beyond the Ottawa Valley, can be seen near the water.
The first voyageurs noticed that Lake Nipissing proved to be the fastest route from Montreal to the Great Lakes.
The Nipissing Indians (Nipissingues or Nipissiriniens) settled in the area where North Bay and Sturgeon Falls are located today.
"Nipissing" means "people of the little water", a reference to the fact that the Amerindians lived near Lake Nipissing, which was small in comparison to Lake Huron.
Lake Nipissing at North Bay, Ontario
William James Topley/National Archives of Canada/PA-9375/Detail
Nipissings were Algonquian but they were feared by other nations, including the Algonquin, because of their reputation for being sorcerers.
They welcomed Champlain with open arms: They "feasted us on several occasions, according to their custom, and took the trouble to go fishing and hunting in order to entertain us as daintily as they could."
Champlain wrote the following about Lake Nipissing. He said it was "abundant with many kinds of fish; among others a very good one, which is a foot in length." Could he have been referring to the famous wall-eyed pike?
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
The famous voyageur is said to have spent the night at the mouth of the Sturgeon River, near current-day Sturgeon Falls.
Hundreds of Algonquians escaped death from their enemies, the Iroquois, via the Sturgeon River. When they learned of the deadly expedition headed by the Iroquois in the Nipissing region, they escaped to the north by this river to end up at Lake Nipigon.
Caughnewanga Iroquois Who Played their Ancestors' Parts
in the Pageant of the Quebec Tercentenary, July 1908
National Archives of Canada/PA-24702/Detail