Frog Portage

Methye Portage Sturgeon Weir River The Churchill River

 

Sturgeon Weir River

The Sturgeon Weir is a relatively short river that runs north to south and links the Saskatchewan and Churchill systems. Like all other rivers in our area, Aboriginal peoples used it in pre-historic times. Evidence of such use has been found at the ancient campsites along the Sturgeon Weir.

Distinctively decorated Laurel pottery that dates back 900 years has been found at Spruce Rapids. It is decorated in the same manner as other pottery found in the Churchill River Amisk Lake area. The decorations are slightly different than those used by another group that lived further south at the Saskatchewan River delta.

The Sturgeon Weir would have provided a natural link between Cree lands along the Churchill river, those at the Saskatchewan River, and Eastern lands in what is now Manitoba which connect to the Great Lakes.

During the fur trade, the Sturgeon Weir became the route of preference allowing paddlers to use the less difficult Saskatchewan and Nelson Rivers rather than the hazardous Burntwood, Lower Churchill, or Seal River to get to Hudson's Bay. Even so, it was known as "Riviere Maligne" or Bad River by the voyageurs.

Explorer Alexander Mackenzie lists 12 rapids in his journals with such names as the Pente, Bouleau, de l'Isle, d'Epinettes, and three "galets". Because of the river's steep grade it is "an almost continual rapid" according to Mackenzie.Remnants of the fur trade can be seen today along the Sturgeon-Weir such as the old Fort Henry site on Amisk Lake.

The Sturgeon Weir was an important route for freight right into the twentieth century. Men such as Joe Morin of Cumberland House were employed for their whole lives as "York Boat Men". These individuals worked as oarsmen on the large wooden vessels known as York Boats. When Joe first started he was one of the youngest oarsman around. In those days they were paid $1 a day and were given two half-hour breaks while working dawn till dusk.

Today, the Sturgeon Weir is used mainly for travel to traditional trapping areas and for recreation by canoe enthusiasts. The old river still is not kind to those who are not alert or unlucky. Accounts of modern trips usually describe one or two boats that have wrecked on the rocks and been left by their owners, providing a warning to other travelers to beware of the "Riviere Maligne".

 

Frog Portage

Methye Portage Sturgeon Weir River The Churchill River