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2014-07-05 at 6:00 PM

30 years later

By Matt Vis,
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THUNDER BAY -- Fran Oudshoorn has a special understanding of the voyageur lifestyle that played a vital role in the development of Canada.

“We knew what it felt like to a rough, tough voyageur. We knew what it meant to eat just to have fuel because you had to paddle long and hard and being out in Lake Superior with 10 to 12 foot swells,” Oudshoorn said.

“It really pulled you together to feel what it was really like. It was not easy to be a voyageur.”

It was 30 years ago that Oudshoorn and 35 other Lakehead University students, faculty and staff marked the bicentennial celebration of Ontario with a two month canoe expedition from Lachine, Que. to Thunder Bay.

The party traversed the harsh terrain, more than 1,200 miles of it, that was covered by fur traders centuries before and culminated when they arrived at their destination, Fort William Historical Park, on July 1, 1984 for the Canada Day Rendezvous celebrations.

Close to two dozen members of that group reconvened at their landing point this weekend to reunite and celebrate their accomplishments.

The accomplishments were not without some harrowing experiences along the way.

Oudshoorn recalls nearly drowning while trying to travel upstream in a fast moving river before being saved by companion Dorothy Hibbard.

The 1984 expedition has led to four similar trips involving people associated with the university and many of the participants have shared their stories with younger generations.


After graduation Hibbard became a teacher and made her experiences something she used to teach the history of the fur trade to her classes.

The group was planning to return to the waters of the Kaministiquia River on Saturday afternoon but Mother Nature had other ideas, with thunderstorms eliminating that possibility.

But still, the opportunity to reconnect with fellow modern voyageurs who they had not seen in years was appreciated.

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