by Gordon Rowan. Pioneer Ways to Modern Days: History of the Town of Carrot River and the Rural Municipality of Moose Range, p. 263-264.
I have seen people lost, animals lost, things lost, but only once did I actually see a ‘River that wasn’t there’. Let me tell you the story.
I was going in to a fire on the Sipanok Channel with Jimmy Daniels of Red Earth and another lad. We went down river to a point of portage, where we stood the canoe on end up the bank and the men on top pulled it up, where we carried it about three lengths of the canoe and put it in the Meadow Lake. This is a small shallow lake — the Indians, not knowing that country too well, marked their route with grass tied to trees along the creek, they followed from the Lake to the dragline ditch leading into the Sipanok Channel. Well, as this is not a story of fire fighting we’ll get right to the point. Ten days later, we came out again with the same canoe and as we poled from the dragline ditch to the first grass marker on the tree where we expected to find the creek that took us out to the lake we found NO creek, just muskeg and small trees up to four or five inches through. So I took my push pile and walked out across the swamp to the next grass marker and still no creek. We thought someone was playing jokes on us and they weren’t very funny. However, I went off on another tangent and found a creek but it wasn’t going towards the lake — so went the other way and found one that went generally in the right direction. This was getting scary — but as we approached the lake and could see our way out, the Indians got into a better mood and accepted the mystery as such. what had happened was that while we were fighting fire, the wind had changes and as that area of the lake was a big floating bog, it moved in the wind closing up some of the ‘streams’ and causing others to open. We found several feet of water under the canoe and the beavers even building false dams across these phony creeks. So we dubbed this particular one Mystery Creek.
So when you see a place called ‘Lost Creek’ ‘Mystery Lake’ or some other such name just remember that somewhere in the past there is a story that goes with it.
Flooding During the Fur Trade
The following comes from the journal of Daniel Harmon, a fur trader who worked for the North West Company in the western interior of Canada. While he was at Swan River Fort, spring runoff was unusually high:
April 19, 1801. Sunday. On Friday last there fell nearly a foot of Snow, which however soon dissolved and caused the River to overflow its Bank to such a distance as to oblige our People who were making Sugar to leave the Woods and come to the Fort.
May 10, Sunday. It has for three successive Days Rained constantly, which caused the water in the River to rise since yesterday four feet. Yesterday one of our Men went a shooting Ducks, but lost his way and therefore was under the necessity of passing the night in the wood, with nothing to cover himself from the cold & Rain that poured down in torrents…
May 13, Wednesday. The late Rains we have had has caused this River to overflow its banks to such an uncommon distance, that this morning when I arose I was not a little surprised to find Seven Inches of water on the first floor, which is what the oldest person here does not remember to have seen before, and we are obliged to leave our Fort and Pitch our Tents on a small rise of Ground no great distance off, and where we shall remain till the deluge is past.
May 20, Wednesday. The water has left the Fort and we with pleasure quite our Tents to occupy our former Dwellings.
From the Prince Albert Advocate, October 6th, 1895:
“A good fish story comes from the north. It seems fish are very plentiful in Montreal and surrounding lakes, and when the settlers there run short of hay, as they frequently do, the cattle are induced to eat fish by sprinkling salt over them, which the cattle lick, and in this way eat the fish for the sake of the salt. That is only to get the appetite for fish cultivated, however. After that the cattle become addicted to the ‘fish’ habit and in this particular instance a sagacious old ox is said to have frequently gone down to the lake, broken open a hole through three feet of ice, and feasted to satisfaction on the fish which swam into the hole thus made.”
From the Prince Albert Advocate
June 29th, 1897 Town and Country
Early last week a dispatch was received in town to prepare for a flood which is stated was surely coming down upon us, saying the water had risen twenty-seven feet at Edmonton in a few hours, and was carrying everything before it. The news did not create much alarm here, however, as the citizens felt it was next to impossible for the Saskatchewan to overflow its banks to the extent of doing any considerable damage. A few days later the water commenced to rise, and was soon a turbulent stream, some nine or ten feet above the usual level, flowing at the rate of seven or eight miles an hour, and carrying enormous quantities of mud and sand in solution, and bearing along on its bosom numbers of logs, besides driftwood and debris. After about three days, however, the water began to subside, and is now about stationary, although quite high yet, and the water is quite thick and milky looking. The water was not within twelve to fifteen feet from the level of the banks, and no other inconvenience was occasioned that the temporary suspension of traffic on the ferry, which was tied up to the shore for a couple of days as a matter of precaution.