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Coureurs de Bois: Courage and Canoes


The coureurs de bois traveled long distances. They left their homes in the spring with their canoes loaded with supplies and goods for trading. They traveled down the Ottawa River to Lake Huron. From there it took another month of paddling more than 12 hours a day to reach their destination. Some of the coureurs de bois traveled as far as 2000 kilometers, or more, from home.

It was dangerous work, so the coureurs de bois sometimes traveled together in groups. They needed each other to help paddle, set up shelter and keep watch for enemies at night. They also had to catch their own food. They would hunt and fish for food along the way.

Wearisome journeys at the portages

It was also hard work. The coureur de bois often had to portage their canoes. In the summer mosquitoes and other insects bothered them. They had to hang their food up high away from animals. In the winter they had to keep warm at night. They would dig holes in the snow and line them with cedar branches.

Did you know?
The insects in the woods could drive a man crazy, there were so many. To keep them away, coureurs be bois learned tricks from Aboriginal peoples. They use plants like bay leaves and bloodroot, as well as animal fats and even fish oil.

Links to more information…

…About coureurs de bois:
The Virtual Museum of New France: Les coureurs de bois

Ask yourself...
Who taught the coureurs de bois how to survive in the wilderness?

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