Book review: The Voyageur by Grace Lee Nute

The Voyageur by Grace Lee Nute


I am a wimp!  Yes, I drag my kayak as a 50+ woman in and out of the water.  Throwing it on the roof of my SUV.  I packed heavy packs across portages almost a mile long only to return for a canoe that I carried the same distance.  Carefully maneuvering the 19 foot long 42 pounds along a well beaten trail through the woods.

I was proud of myself.

That was until after reading this book about the French Voyageur of Canada.  This book written by Grace Lee Nute takes the reader on a journey through the history of toughness and endurance of the early traders/canoers of the interior frontiers of Canada and the United States.  The voyageurs headed into the unknown wilderness areas long before the hordes of Europeans settled the East Coast.  They set up a series of trading posts, harvested pelts and traded products with the indigenous peoples. Their mode of travel being the large birch bark canoes and foot, packing hundreds of pounds through dangerous untamed waterways into and out of the interior of the continent.

This book was written originally in 1931 but is now being published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

At times I found it was a bit hard to read as it is throws numerous historical well researched facts at the reader. I was a bit on overload with so much information that I would have to stop, process it, read it again, and then proceed.

I found that as I read (even with all the information I had to process) this book, my appreciation for all the contributions these early explorers and traders had in the history of Minnesota was interesting and entertaining.  The feats that these men endured in their daily lives humbled my once in a while recreational canoe/kayak activities.  I found myself being thankful to these men for establishing the paddling skills we all use in our hobby.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is history buff. A must read for all those who adventure into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) of Northern Minnesota.  You will look at the well established portages with new eyes and deep respect for those who first traveled those trails.