PHARAOH: canoeing in the Great Lone Land

I’ve just returned from a canoeing expedition with my daughter in Algonquin Park, a huge expanse of more than 7,600 square kilometres of forest and lake in central Ontario first mapped by Royal Engineers surveyors in the 1820s and 1830s.  At the time, the main interest was in finding a new route from the Ottawa River west to Georgian Bay on Lake Huron, but as any modern canoeist will attest that was never going to be feasible – there are too many portages! Instead the region became a focus for logging, much of it to supply the British shipbuilding industry, until that was stemmed by the creation of the park in 1892 and the preservation of large tracts of wilderness that remain today, with abundant populations of bear, moose and other wildlife, and much of the park interior only being accessible by canoe and portage. My novel Pharaoh was very much in my mind throughout our trip, and the extraordinary fact that the Nile expedition of 1884 depended on Canadian voyageurs of aboriginal descent who had learned their skills on lakes and rivers very similar to those that my daughter and I were traversing ...


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