Journeys from Hudson’s Bay

George Woodcock describes how, during the century that followed the ‘Glorious Revolution’ in Britain, servants of the Hudson’s Bay Company explored the Canadian west and the Arctic regions.

In North America, whatever the rule in other parts of the world, trade preceded the flag. It is to the fur traders that we owe the exploration and first rough charting of most of Canada and a great part of the western United States.

The French coureurs de bois first explored the pays d’en haut which is now Ontario, traced the shores of the Great Lakes, and, in La Salle’s momentous voyage of 1682, sailed down the Mississippi and claimed the province of Lousiana for the French king.

American mountain men explored much of the eastern face of the Rockies. The most celebrated of all the fur trader explorers were the trio of wintering partners of the Montreal-based North West Company, Alexander Mackenzie, Simon Fraser and David Thompson.

Mackenzie in 1789 followed the great river which now bears his name from Great Slave Lake to the Arctic, and in 1793 was the first man to cross the Rockies and travel by land to the Pacific. Simon Fraser, after investigating much of the unknown northern interior of what is now British Columbia, in 1808 explored the Fraser River to its estuary.

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