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Understanding the Lands of the Spanish River
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Author:  Erhard [ October 16th, 2011, 10:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Understanding the Lands of the Spanish River

Places where we travel usually reveal little of their detailed history. For the Spanish river area, we've had a bit of its story already: Grey Owl's books, and then details collected by Grey Owl's biographers. We are thankful for that, and in my case, this knowledge made me want to explore the area further.

Now, there's a book that describes people, events and history of this specific area. It's written by Andy Thomson, a member of the family that had logged the area in the 1930s and '40s, built a saw mill beside the river and created much of the village at the place that is now the Sheahan railway stop. They still have a large camp there and are still call the area their summer home.

The book is focused on Pogamasing, the large lake that parallels the Spanish River in its mid-section.
Andy spent his summers at that lake, as a youngster he was a canoe guide and later became a high school teacher. His academic curiosity shows in the thorough research done for this book: it's a treasure trove of stories, maps, photos and archival records, all painting a vivid and detailed history of the area.

I was spellbound to find
* how the area experienced the First Nations contact with the Europeans,
* the documented efforts of the fur traders plying their business in that area, including the details of the various HBC posts from the Lake Huron North SHore to the height of land (such as the post at LaCloche, Green Lake on the Missisagi and of course the post on Lake Pogamasing),
* the pushing of the trans-Canada railway straight through largely uncharted bush, and the iron snake's effect on people and land,
* the effort of then surveying endless miles of forests and lakes so the government could sell the rights to mine and log
* the various efforts to log the area and use the river to float the logs to the mills - and first-hand descriptions of how a logging operation was run in the days of horses and sleighs
* the building of the Wye village and successfully running the business in spite of the depression of the 30's
* the arrival of tourism after WWII

It's a fascinating book. I never knew the area had that much history! Details at Andy's website at

Also, there'll be a book launch in Sudbury and also one in Toronto this week - if you want to attend, I'll post details in the Event Forum.
Toronto: ... 74#p361574
Sudbury: ... 40&t=39019

Author:  Erhard [ October 16th, 2011, 10:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Understanding the Lands of the Spanish River

Here's a sampler, from one of the chapters:
Anyone familiar with the geography of the Pogamasing knows the area is a wonderland of waterways for canoeists. It was the Anishnabe who first opened up the area by making nastawgans, their winter and summer travel routes.

As the Anishnabe returned to their winter hunting grounds in the fall up the Spanish River they would have noticed the creek from Lake Pogamasing. The short distance up the creek between the Spanish and the lake was only a kilometre, so it was easily reached. Once into the lake, an entry point to the inland lake system was a mere kilometre away through Little Pog Creek. From there they could access a multitude of lakes all the way north to Biscotasing and if desired, use the access to the waterways to James Bay. Of course, it was also possible to travel to Bisco up the Spanish, but the inland waterways through Pog provided an easy alternative, especially when water levels on the Spanish were high and difficult to navigate.

To the south of Lake Pogamasing, Kennedy Lake is an easy portage from Pog over a former tote road. Kennedy leads to Bluewater, Franklin, Trembley and eventually back to the Spanish via the Mogo Creek south of Bluewater. Older maps show there were portages to the east to Onaping, one of the larger lakes in the Spanish watershed. It’s no wonder Pog was chosen as the site for the first inland trading post given it was a natural hub for the upper Spanish River.

Author:  Esther [ October 17th, 2011, 8:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Understanding the Lands of the Spanish River

Thank you Erhard for this post. I will definitely be putting that book on my "Wishlist".I love the Spanish River Area. We paddled the Spanish River from Duke Lake to Agnew Lake in 2006.Although we have given up ww canoeing,I would love to visit it again.That being said, there are some areas that portaging would be difficult .None the less,the beauty of the Spanish remains with me and thank goodness for the digital photos I recorded on our trip.

Author:  Allan Jacobs [ October 18th, 2011, 7:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Understanding the Lands of the Spanish River

Thanks for bringing this book to the attention of the paddling community. I just listed the book at
under Spanish River area. Information.

Author:  Erhard [ November 2nd, 2011, 6:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Understanding the Lands of the Spanish River

Even though I had seen early sections of the book, I am discovering new pages. I am surprised to find references to stuff that is dear to us CCR folks:

Describing the Budd Car service that the residents of Pog Lake use, the book alludes to CCR's Deep Freeze events:
"In winter, there are trappers or occasionally you will meet a group of intrepid enthusiasts who like to winter camp not far from the track. They bring their toboggans, snowshoes, tents and their musical instruments, and enjoy themselves, perhaps in a way a little like Samuel de Champlain did when he created the "Ordre de Bon Temps", to help overcome the dread of winter. Singer-songwriter Dave Hadfield is one of these winter adventurers. I met him several years ago on his way to one of his winter expeditions. He wrote a song that strikes a chord with those who use the train to get to Pog and beyond, about the shared experience of waiting for the Budd Car.
Four of us last winter, standing in the snow,
Way up north to hell and gone in 38 below,
The trail was all behind us, we'd make it to the track,
We were waiting for the CPR, and hoping to get back,

Bring the Budd Car, wo-o-o-o, bring the Budd Car:
A few pages earlier, the book describes the original train service of three times a day, and it gradual cutbacks to three times a week, and goes into detail what can hold up the Budd Car, to the chagrin of the Pog folks and everyone else. Yes, the VIA scheduler in Calgary is mentioned... :wink:

By the way, the complete words and chords to Dave's song are at ... w=previous

Author:  Erhard [ December 1st, 2011, 4:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Understanding the Lands of the Spanish River

The author of the book, Andy Thomson, had an interview with the CBC a while ago and it's up at their website: ... gamasing/#
The part where Andy explains why this area represents a microcosm of Canada's history: relating to the times of the Native cultures to the arrival of the Europeans with their fur trading commerce, the wars between the foreign powers, the building of the railway through the area - Bud car users still ride it today - the surveying of the land as preparation to logging and settling. That topic begins at 2:15 minutes into the recoding.

Author:  Erhard [ April 11th, 2012, 8:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Understanding the Lands of the Spanish River

I just got the spring issue of The WCA's magazine and found a review of the book. Tony Harting, Nastawgan's editor, was pretty impressed and ends his article with these words:
Each of us paddling the Spanish and who has the least bit interest in the country they are paddling through, would do wise to consult this profusely illustrated book and learn in exquisite detail about Lake Pogamasing and its fascinating history. Indeed, a genuine treasure of a book for everyone loving the Canadian North.


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