Paddling through the past UPDATE!

Paddling through the Past is a multi-disciplinary archaeological project designed to investigate the role of waterways in the French colonial period. Their mission is to document the landscape archaeology of the Champlain valley and raise awareness of the need for heritage stewardship of the Lake Champlain/Richelieu Corridor.
Here are a few excerpts from Andrew Beaupre's journey paddling Lake Champlain and for more information check out his blog! 

Day one: Aug 7 
Finally, the trip has begun.  Given the expected weather, we decided to truncate the first day travel and begin at the  Chimney Point State Historic Site and make the short one mile  paddle to DAR State Park.  I had never been to the park before and was very pleasantly surprised.

They put us up in the paddlers campsite a mere 1000 feet from the lake shore.   The trail to the site takes one past two 18th century settler cabin cellar holes.  Interestingly, the cabins would have would have been out of sight of the fortifications at Chimney and Crown points,  yet still within earshot as the rumble of 18 wheelers across the newly constructed Champlain Bridge reminded us.  One of the cabin foundations was draped in grapevines.  Primary sources from the  18th century mention grapes being planted by the French settlers for food and wine.  Whether these grapes are descended from those the French introduced or belong to a species of  native grapes remains to be seen, but I collected samples for ethnobotantical study back at William and Mary.
As  we set up camp a mere 20 yards from the grape draped cabin site, I could not help but think that one of my ancestors could have camped at this very spot in the Hacquort seignurie  250 years ago.  A settler family carving a living out of the forest and tilling food from the hard packed Addison county clay.

Aug 9 
Undeterred by an early morning thunderstorm, we packed up and left DAR by 8:30.  The conditions  could  not have been better, sunny skies and the lake was as calm as a mill pond. After a  mere 3.5 hours of paddling , we arrived at Button Bay State Park.  If Deirdre and I can cover over 8.5 miles on under 4 hours, I have no trouble believing the accounts that French Canadian canoemen could over 30 miles a day. 

Though on the water, Button Bay State Park sits on a terrace above the shoreline. As I carried my share of the 200 plus pounds of camping gear, camera equipment, food, supplies and our 17 foot canoe to our campsite, I could not help but think of the voyageurs carrying  their own gear and cargo over countless portages. I then remembered that if I had lived in the 18th century I would have been too large to be a voyageur.  My 6 foot 1 inch frame would have been considered extra ballast taking the place of valuable cargo in the delicately loaded  canoe-de-nord.

We set up camp in one of the park lean- tos just before a thunderstorm. Great timing.  Spent the rest of the day drying gear and dodging the raindrops .  Some project supporters in the form of my brother and his family dropped by to hand off some much needed supplies for the next leg of the trip. Always good to see family, but the visit was cut short by another thunder boomer rolling through.

Though  my presentation this evening was cancelled due to weather, I have nothing but good things to say of Button Bay.  New friends were made in the form of campground hosts Joe and Linda as well as our contact here Park Naturalist Christine. Anyone who visits the park has to check out the nature center.  It is worth the half mile walk out the point.  Tomorrow, it's off to Thompson's Point and Split Rock Point, the geological oddity that made  it's way onto a treaty ending the Spanish War of Succession .

Read More at the Paddling From the Past Blog


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