• UNIT-Local History Component
    Title: Portaging around the Rapids
    Focus: Over the years, different ways were used to get goods around the rapids.
    Connection: Remember when we talked about the Voyageurs having to portage thier canoes and goods when they were unable to travel on the water.  Today we are going to learn how boats and goods were portaged around the rapids at the Sault.
    Teaching Point:
    1. It was difficult to get goods around the rapids because everything had to be portaged (unpacked, carried around the rapids, and then repacked).
    2. A small lock for canoes was built on the Canadian side of the rapids.
    3.  John Jacob Astor built the first large schooner to sail Lake Superior (1835).
    4. A “strap” railroad was built to portage goods and boats around the rapids (boats were portaged around the rapids, and then they stayed in Lake Superior).
    Resource Material for Teachers: 

                Voyageurs headed for Lake Superior from Montreal were, indeed, “used to dealing with rapids” by the time they reached Sault Ste. Marie. The traditional canoe route from Montreal went up the Ottawa River, then up the Mattawa River, dropping down into Lake Nipissing, then down the French River to Georgian Bay on Lake Huron. The number of portages before arriving at Lake Huron was about 20, and several were over a mile in length. (See p. 23 of  City of the Rapids for a map).

                As fishing and mining began to be developed on Lake Superior, shipping capacity beyond the capability of canoes and batteaus was needed. The American Fur Company got involved in fishing directly, and the first American-built schooner on Lake Superior was built at the head of the rapids at the Sault. The John Jacob Astor was launched in 1835. The fur company also got into the transportation business, since it had a monopoly on ships in Lake Superior for a few years. By 1845, there were nine vessels on Lake Superior, several of which had been taken overland around the rapids, as depicted in the drawing on page 27 of the coloring book. Between 1845 and 1853, fourteen more were brought up in the same way. It should be emphasized that this was a one-way trip (i.e., vessels were not brought overland from Lake Superior to Lake Huron). The laborious and expensive method was used to get shipping capacity on Lake Superior, where shipbuilding had not developed, as it had on the lower lakes. See pp. 99-117 of City of the Rapids for more details.

    Active Engagement: Color Book with descriptive text pages 26-27Student pages.

    Share: Have students pretend their desk is a boat that needs to be portaged around the rapids.  Students with a partner will unload a desk and carry it to a designated location in the classroom.  Then they will go back and carry the contents of the desk and reload it.  Students record the time for this activity and write a paragraph describing how this activity compares to portaging boats and goods around the rapids.  Great room rearrangement and desk cleaning activity is a bonus   :-)

Last Modified on February 14, 2018