in the Wilderness: Canoes
and York Boats
peoples taught Europeans how to travel on the rough land and in
the cold climate. They used canoes, snowshoes and dog sleds.
was the most useful to the fur trade. It was easily made from
birch tree bark and made waterproof with pitch made from tree sap.
Flat-bottomed, it could travel in shallow water. Light, it could
be carried easily - very important when portaging.
It could also be made in different shapes and sizes:
- Small canoes,
which needed only 2 people to paddle, were made in different styles
by different Nations.
narrow canoes were used for speed. There were even express canoes,
which carried extra paddlers to travel faster.
- Short canoes
were used for rough water. It was easier to dodge rocks.
- Freight canoes
(also called Montreal canoes), were up to 40 feet long and six
feet wide, and could carry more than 50 men - or supplies equaling
their weight. Because of their size, they could only be used on
lakes and large rivers.
It was not
until the beginning of the 19th century that George Simpson, Governor
of HBC in Canada, introduced the York boat. The York boat
evolved from the design for Viking longships and could carry much
more cargo that canoes. The drawback was that they were also much
harder to portage. Roads through the woods had to be cut and the
boats rolled on logs to the next body of water.