Story Ideas

Pathway of the Voyageur – Canadian Signature Experiences

Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge is a fly-in fishing lodge that celebrates Manitoba’s voyageur heritage

10 July 2013

I don’t think I would have made a very good voyageur.  They paddled the fur trade route in birch bark canoes up to 14 hours per day (55 strokes per minute) and carried two 80-lb packs of furs over portages – all without a shower or Starbucks in sight.

It was dangerous work. Few could swim and many drowned in rapids or crossing lakes. Their diet was heavy in pemmican (dried bison meat mixed with fat and pounded into small pieces), and soups made from dried peas.

The fur trade of the 17th and 18th centuries opened up exploration in Canada and established essential trade with Europe, where demand for marten, otter, lynx and beaver fur was high. The stories of these French Canadian men are legendary, forever linked with the trading outposts that became the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company. Many stayed in western Canada, marrying local First Nations women and establishing Métis communities.

You can learn more about the voyageurs at Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge in Manitoba. Situated in Atikaki Provincial Wilderness Park, the lodge is well known as a premier fly-in fishing lodge. Its Pathway of the Voyageur program explores the region’s history.

Hike along a historic portage route used by fur traders, see ancient pictographs, learn about wilderness fishing and how to prepare a traditional shore lunch. You’ll explore about the history of Aikens Lake, the Gammons River and the Bloodvein River. It’s quite common to spot black bear, moose, caribou, beaver or muskrat.

While the setting feels wonderfully remote, the amenities are not. Log cabins are comfortable and cozy and all have bathrooms. Dinner is hearty and delicious. Co-owners and managers, Pit and Julie Turenne, offer a warm welcome.

Expert anglers love this location for its first-rate trophy fishing. Walleye grow big in the waters of Aikens Lake and many fishermen earn their Manitoba Master Angler Program certificates here. (It’s all catch-and-release and trophy fish are measured, recorded with a camera and then tossed back.) Even a novice fisherman like me caught some fish, although my success was totally due to the knowledge and skill of the guides rather than any expertise on my part. It was a lot of fun and bragging rights are guaranteed.

Each person was allowed to keep a couple smaller fish for lunch each day. The shore-side lunch cookouts – with all the trimmings – are a highlight of staying at Aikens Lake. The voyageurs never ate this well.

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