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by Craig Macdonald

THIS MAP is based on the author's 27 years of research within the map area, and represents knowledge accumulated and compiled from the study of more than 300 original maps, diaries, reports, journals and field notes of numerous explorers, missionaries, fur traders, geologists, surveyors and others familiar with the area. The author has supplemented these sources with over 1,000 miles of personal exploration by canoe, snowshoe and snowmobile. Invaluable assistance and information was further provided by over 200 Anishinawbeg elders who have imparted to this histo-geographical document a depth and perspective which is unique, and one not currently obtainable from any written source.


The map documents traditional names used by the Temagami Anishinawbeg for geographical features. The majority of the names shown have not appeared in print before, and many apply to geographical features and places which have no corresponding designations either in English or French.

The language indigenous to the area is not a written one, and no standardized spellings have ever received widespread support. The spellings of geographical names here depicted have, therefore, been selected by the author so as to ensure phonetic consistency, and to provide for a more accurate pronunciation. Care has been taken to preserve the integrity of each name's original unabbreviated form.


Waterways have traditionally served as the principal travel routes throughout the year. During the ice-free seasons, travel was undertaken by canoe, circumventing unnavigable sections by o-nig-um (canoe portage).  In winter, when the surfaces of many lakes and rivers were frozen, snowshoes replaced the canoe, and all the supplies were hauled on toboggans and sleighs, usually following the same routes. However, unsafe ice created by moving water occasionally necessitated the use of bon-ka-nah, i.e. those trails which were only used in winter. These frequently shortened the routes by crossing marshes, swamps, beaver meadows and muskegs to minimize distances, hill climbing and attendant trail maintenance. Sometimes, bon-ka-nah were no more than simple winter extensions to the summer portages which avoided weak ice near portage entrances.

On larger lakes, the actual route canoed often varied according to wind and wave direction in order to gain shelter using the lee shores of points and islands. Rather than to illustrate the many possible travel courses, the routes selected depict important linkages, and draw attention to poorly known portage shortcuts across islands and peninsulas that were used when it was advantageous to do so. Portage lengths are only shown where they are known to be based on accurate ground measurement. In accord with the historical record and established usage, all portages depicted are measured in chains, which convert as follows: 80 ch. = 1 mile, 50 ch. = 1 km.

Heights of individual rapids, swifts and waterfalls, as distinct from elevations, are given in feet. These vary significantly with water levels, particularly on the larger rivers where fluctuations are greatest. During extreme high water, small rapids and swifts can diminish to the point of almost complete inundation.

The elevations of lakes and rivers are recorded in feet (above sea level) and represent the original water levels of the 1800s before the construction of dams. Most elevations shown are from late 19th century barometric readings of the Geological Survey of Canada. The remainder have their provenance in recent topographic maps of the area compiled from aerial photographs. Elevations are given only where original water levels are known not to have been altered by flooding due to dams. Before 1900, the upper and lower reaches of Lake Timiskaming and the lower Sturgeon River regularly experienced large seasonal fluctuations in water levels, so both high and low water observations are given at selected locations, e.g. HW.752

Every effort has been made to portray accurately those water features and associated trails as they were before 1900, and within the tolerances imposed by map scale. Some features, however, have disappeared through flooding by dams before they could be properly surveyed and accurately positioned on maps. The shapes and locations indicated for these features must, therefore, be considered approximate.

This comprehensive cartographic record is vital to the cultural survival of what was a poorly documented, albeit critical, aspect of traditional Anishinawbeg life in northeastern Ontario. If, in addition, the map serves to inspire others to undertake similar investigations of and research into the ancient trails, campsites and geographical names of local Native communities in other parts of Canada before they, too, disappear, then, the effort devoted to the compilation and reproduction of this document will have been rewarded.


The nature and veracity of the information on this map make it a unique historical reference and navigational guide for those traveling in the area. However, it should be noted that, since 1900, the shorelines of 35 lakes and rivers shown have been significantly altered by flooding. Furthermore, a number of trails have fallen into disrepair, or have sustained extensive damage, even obliteration. Travelers are, therefore, advised to use this map in conjunction with modern topographic editions and up-to-date canoe route publications.

Despite this need for caution, much of the ancient trail system has survived and remains unaltered. It has been the inspiration for what is now one of the best cartographic records of this dimension of our national cultural heritage found in Ontario. 

Published with the author's permission.

Canoeing Along Smaller Creeks

Several tributary creeks depicted as canoe routes on this map were primarily used for travel during the spring freshet or other periods of high water. On some of the more infrequently traveled routes along the smaller creeks, it is possible that a number of traditional portage trails may have been omitted. In many instances, however, there were no cleared trails around minor obstructions. One was expected, at such places, to either lift over such obstacles or to portage along the shoreline, or even over the rocks of the creek bed to canoeable water.


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Maps and information herein are not intended for navigational use, and are not represented to be correct in every respect. 
All pages intended for reference use only, and all pages are subject to change with new information and without notice. 
The author/publisher accepts no responsibility or liability for use of the information on these pages. 
Wilderness travel and canoeing possess inherent risk. 
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