The Voyageurs


"The Bourgeois"

The Voyageurs were a group of prominent men, mostly Canadians, who made a series of well-publicized canoe trips in the 1950s and 1960s. While the first several of these trips were in the Quetico-Superior canoe country of northern Minnesota and Ontario, most were in the deeper wilds of Canada. News media coverage of these trips, Sigurd Olson's 1961 book The Lonely Land, and many talks and slide shows given by various Voyageurs all played an important role in making wilderness canoeing popular in Canada.

The seven men who made the most trips and formed the group's core are shown below. Sigurd Olson, their leader by acclamation, was fondly called "Bourgeois," the title given to fur trade bosses in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. [This eventually led them to give Sigurd the gag photo shown at the top of this page, in which he assumes the pose of "the bourgeois" against the background of a painting by Frances Hopkins.] You can find out more about the Voyageurs and their trips by choosing from the menu just below the photos.

The VoyageursBlair Fraser, 1961
First picture, L-R: Sigurd Olson, Omond Solandt, Tony Lovink, Denis Coolican, Elliott Rodger, Eric Morse. Taken in 1955 at end of first Churchill River trip. Second picture: Blair Fraser, 1961 Churchill River trip.

The Story of the Voyageurs

This excerpt from A Wilderness Within gives the background behind the formation of the Voyageurs, describes the members, and discusses their trips and publicity.

1955 Churchill River Trip: Denis Coolican's Diary

This was the trip that Sigurd Olson described in his 1961 book The Lonely Land. Denis Coolican's journal gives a day-by-day description from the perspective of someone on his first major canoe trip. INCLUDES MAPS!

1955 Churchill River Trip: Photos

I only have four photos from this trip, but they're good!

1957 Reindeer Lake-Fond du Lac River Trip: Denis Coolican's Diary Plus Photos

In the summer of 1957, Sigurd Olson and the Voyageurs made a 400-mile canoe trip in Canada's far north—almost to the 60th parallel—from Reindeer Lake and along the Fond du Lac River to Stony Lake along a route first explored by David Thompson in 1796. This is Denis Coolican's diary from the trip, with five photos included.

1959 Camsell River to Great Bear and the Mackenzie Trip: Story and Photos

In 1959 the Voyageurs paddled 500 miles from the Camsell River to Great Bear Lake and from its outlet on the Great Bear River to the Mackenzie River and the community of Norman Wells. It was the farthest north Sigurd Olson would ever paddle, satisfying a lifelong dream to see the Far North. Story and seven photos included.

1964 Hudson Bay Trip: Sigurd Olson's Diary

This was Sigurd's most difficult canoe expedition, and his last. You'll understand why after reading his account.

1964 Hudson Bay Trip: Photos

Ten photos from this trip.