Massive Canoe Plays Role in Educational Programs
Levin, Meta L., Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Meta L. Levin Daily Herald Correspondent
Armed with a 34-foot replica Voyager canoe, the Lake County Forest Preserve District is embarking on a unique new series of educational programs, which will combine history and natural history to tell the tales of early European explorers in the area.
In the latter half of the 18th century, large canoes plied the waters of the Great Lakes carrying bundles of animal skins.
Waukegan, then known as Little Fort, was a fur trading center and the canoes were 34 feet long and larger. The fur trade had a large impact on the area, both in exploring the land and decimating the population of some native animals, especially the beaver.
The forest preserve district recently had a 34-foot replica of one of the Voyager canoes made. Known as a Montreal canoe and considered the cargo ship of the trade, it has allowed the district to start a series of educational programs using the canoe as a sort of floating classroom.
"We have noticed over the past few years that the public seems to enjoy a blend of history and natural history in programs," Lynn Hepler, forest preserve district outreach and stewardship manager, said. "This is a perfect blend of history and natural history, and it has a nice participation element."
The canoe is big. It takes about 14 people to paddle it. If you plan to attend any of the district's Voyager programs you may have to work.
"People can paddle around and get an idea of what it was like," Hepler said.
In fact, that is what they did during two summer preview family programs and one geared for senior citizens. A series of other programs are planned for this fall, including school based opportunities for middle school age children. Right now the district is seeking volunteers to help keep things going.
"There are a variety of programs planned because the subject is so immense," said Jean Weeg, volunteer and outdoor adventure coordinator. "The Voyagers were present in Illinois as early as the 1600s, all the way up until the mid-1800s. The canoe was sort of like the semi-truck of that period, used primarily on the Great Lakes."
Smaller canoes were used in the rivers.
The general program will emphasize the history of the canoe and its use in this area, delving into what type of people were involved, what they wore, their duties, employment requirements and duties.
"Each unloaded canoe weighed 700 pounds," Weeg said.
Remember, those canoes had to be portaged (carried) over land. Loaded with 90 pound packs, they weighed about 1,300 pounds. Not surprising, the second leading cause of death among the men was hernias. …