Sunday 14 August 2011


In 1887, Hiram Worcester Slack of St. Paul, Minnesota, came to the Nipigon River to fish and to observe the countryside. Thanks to his daughter, Julia Slack Nye, his record of the trip has been preserved and what follows are some excerpts from it.

Written by L.M. "Buzz" Lein  1981

July 24, 1887

Left Port Arthur at 12 and reach Nipigon Station, Red Rock P.O. at 3 or 4 by the time observed on this division of the C.P.R.  We interview Mr. N. Flannagan who gave us a permit to fish in her Majesty's domain. Get two men, Louis Busha(?) and his son Michael with their canoe, and at 5 start on our journey. Cross Lake Ellen (likely Lake Helen) and go about a mile up the river where we pitch our tent.

July 25, 1887

Rained till 3 p.m. Breakfast was coffee and salt pork.  Dinner was oatmeal cooked over an oil stove.  At 4, reached Camp Alexander and the first portage.

 One half hour later I landed a speckled trout 17 inches long.

July26, 1887

Breakfast at 5:30 a.m. Made short portage, went a short way on a creek, then made a three mile portage - the Long Portage.

 Passed through Lake Emma - (edit LML , Slack not sure, actually he was on Jessie Lake) - several miles. Took a 19" long trout. We reached a narrow gorge where masses of rock rose 1000 feet. Split Rock portage came soon.  Two or three miles further on we came to Island Portagew. Caught one big speckled trout. We stop for the night at the foot of Pine Portage.

July 27, 1887

Plan was to leave the tent standing and go to the first falls on the Nipigon River. Breakfasted on fish at 5:30 a.m. and started out before 7. On our right was the celebrated Cameron Pool. After a row of half an hour we came upon falls at our left of no great height, but the whole volume of the river pours through a gorge a few rods in width and at right angles to the channel below. Opposite is a vertical wall of rock.

From here, our course was so crooked that I cannot even now describe it. Shortly before noon we came in sight of the First Fall (LML he was at Virgin Falls).

 The vertical fall is about 20 feet then a sharp descent for probably 300 feet, then spreading out in a broad basin about 80 rods width. Proceeded at once to fish. As the frying pan and some other important things had been forgotten, our meal was cooked in primitive fashion. We started down about 3 o'clock and reached camp at 8.

July 28, 1887

We went back with the men while they carried the canoe over. We left our camping grounds at 9 o'clock and soon passed Island Portage. On our way up at this point Louis gave me a rock rich in iron, but he wouldn't tell me where it came from.  We stopped at a rocky point on Lake Maria for dinner.

 We reached the Long Portage before 3 o'clock.  Here we helped carry baggage for our tired men.

Put the boat in the creek float it down to the rapids and then run through them.  After they are safely past, Louis trembles and says, "thank God for that!" We set up our tent on a sandy plateau. In the rapids there is good fishing.

July 29, 1887

The guides went away this morning at 8 with Mr. Ross. We fished.

July 30, 1887

We got to the falls about two miles above our camp. It rained hard. Expect Louis all the time. I feel generally miserable.

July 31, 1887

A heavy storm in the night - rain, thunder - lightning.  W did not know until morning that Louis got up and burned "something the priest gave me" to protect us from the lightning. I arose at 6 and caught a 16 inch trout - a small one scarcely bigger than one of my phantom minnows. We went back to the falls upstream where I caught three trout with a total weight of about nine pounds.

 After dinner we pack up and at 4 o'clock bid farewell to Camp Alexander.  Reach Nipigon at 7.  Louis pitches our tent near the station and the guides leave us after getting our supper. Paid for provisions $1.55 . I find there is no passenger train to Port Arthur on Tuesdays.  After much trouble get on a freight train with our luggage. Reach Port Arthur at 5 o'clock and find the R.G. Stewart already there and to leave for her return trip at 8 o'clock this evening. We take dinner at the Northern Hotel.
  • paid for shaving  $0.15
  • paid for specimens $1.50
  • paid for dinner  $1.50
  • paid for blackening of boots $0.10
  • paid for laundry  $0.25
  • paid for salting fish  $0.05
  • paid for fare to Port Arthur $5.40

August 1, 1887

First good sleep for weeks.  Reach Duluth at 3:30 and leave on train at 9:25 for home.
  •  Paid for fruit $0.16
  • Paid for suppers $1.00

Photos from Nipigon Museum Photo Archives, David Haig Collection and TBA

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