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HUDSON BAY TERRITORY TO THE PACIFIC
AREA— PHYSICAL ASPECT-MOUNTAINS, LAKES, AND RIVERS
-GEOLOGY-CLIMATE-INHABITANTS -- ANIMALS — COMMERCE-HUDSON BAY COMPANY, &c.
The vast territory comprised under this section extends between the meridians of 60° and 140° west longitude (upwards of 4000 miles), and from about the 50th degree of north latitude to the pole. It is too imperfectly known to afford a detailed description, as given in the preceding chapters; and I must therefore content myself with affording such scattered notices as will convey a general idea of the country.
A natural division of this immense region is marked by a ridge of high land rising on the coast of Labrador, and running nearly south-west to the source of the Ottawa river (dividing the waters which flow into the river and gulf of St. Lawrence from those which flow into Hudson's Bay); from thence it stretches to the north of west to the northward of Lake Superior to latitude 50° north, and longitude
NATURAL DIVISIONS OF TERRITORY.
89° west, when it forks at about south-west, and continues the same division of waters until it passes north of the source of the Mississippi. A fork of the range runs in a north-west direction, until it strikes the river Nelson, separating the waters that discharge themselves into Lake Winipeg, and those that empty themseves into Hudson's Bay by the Albany, Severn, and Hay or Hill rivers. From thence it keeps a course of about west-north-west, till it forms the banks of the Missinipi or Churchhill river at Portage De Trail, latitude 55° 25' north. It now continues in a western direction between the Saskatchiwine and the source of the Missinipi or Beaver River (which it leaves behind), and divides the Saskatchiwine from the Elk River, when leaving those also behind, and pursuing the same direction, it leads to the high land that lies between the Unjegah and Tacoutche rivers.
From the head of the Beaver River on the west the same kind of high ground runs to the east of north between the waters of the Elk river and Missinipi, forming the portage La Loche, and continuing on to the latitude of 57° north, dividing the waters that run to Hudson's Bay from those going to the North Sea ; from thence its course is nearly north, when an angle runs from it to the north of the Slave Lake till it strikes Mackenzie's River.
The next remarkable ridge is the succession of stony mountains, whose northern extremity dips in the North Sea in latitude 70° north, and longitude 135 west, running nearly south-east, and parallel with the coast from Cook's entry onwards to the
Colombia; from thence it appears to quit the coast, but still continuing with less elevation to divide the waters of the Atlantic from those of the Pacific.
These mountains from Cook's entry to the Colombia are in breadth' from six to eight degrees, and along their east skirts is a narrow strip of very marshy, boggy, and uneven ground, the outer edge of which produces coal and bitumen. The principal rivers that have their rise in these mountains are the Mississippi, Missouri, flowing into the gulf of Mexico, the Nelson into Hudson's Bay, Mackenzie's into the North Sea, and the Colombia into the Pacific Ocean. Next this narrow belt are immense plains or meadows, commencing in a point at about the junction of the River of the Mountains with Mackenzie's River, widening as they continue east and south till they reach the Red River at its confluence with the Assiniboine, from whence they take a more southerly direction along the Mississippi towards Mexico. Adjoining these plains is a broken country, composed of lakes, rivers, rocks, and sandy soil.
The tract called the Barren Ground is to the north of a line drawn from Churchill River at Hudson's Bay, along the north border of the Reindeer Lake, to the north of the Lake of Athabasca and Slave Lake, and along the north side of the latter to the Rocky Mountains, which terminate in the North Sea, latitude 70° north, longitude 135 west; in the greater part of the extent of which no trees are visible; a few stunted shrubs are scattered along its
1 According to Mackenzie.
rivers, and there is scarce any thing of a substance which can be called earth.
At Churchill Fort, one of the Hudson Bay Company's factories, the forest trees are very few. Pine, juniper, small scraggy poplar, creeping birch, and dwarf willows compose the whole catalogue; further westward the birch tree is rather plentiful ; and in the Athapescow country pines, larch, poplar, and birch grow to a great size; the alder is also found there.
The marsh grass at Churchill River, when mowed one year, will not yield a crop the ensuing summer, whereas at York fort two crops are got in one sum
Vetches are plentiful in some parts as far north as Churchill River; and burrage, sorrel, and coltsfoot may be ranked among the useful plants. Dandelion is also plentiful.
The whole country between Hudson's Bay and the Rocky Mountains is a series of lakes, rivers, and plains, with a gradual elevation from east to west, as shown by the rapids.
The rivers of this dreary region may be divided into two classes; those which flow towards the unknown seas of the north, and those which embouche into Hudson's Bay : among the former are the Athapescow or Reindeer, and the Oungigan or River of Peace. The first comes from the south, and loses itself in the Lake of the Mountains, or Lake Athapescow; the second descends from the plateau of the north-west ; when high, it flows over into the lake, but when low, it receives its waters'; the
united stream bears the name of the Slave River, empties itself into the Slave Lake, from which issues Mackenzie's River. The ridge which divides the waters that discharge themselves into Hudson's Bay from those that flow into the Northern Ocean is in latitude 56° 20', longitude 109° 15' west: it runs south-west until it loses its local height between the Saskatchiwine and Elk rivers, close on the banks of the former, in latitude 53° 36' north, longitude 113° 45' west, and it may be traced in an easterly direction towards latitude 58° 12' north, longitude 1031° west, when it appears to take its course due north, probably reaching the Frozen Ocean.
The Coppermine River likewise flows to the north, but is only of moderate size, and from frequent falls and narrows, scarcely navigable by canoes near its opening into the Polar Sea.
With reference to the lakes, the most northerly is the Great Bear Lake, 150 miles in diameter, and communicating by Lake Martin with the Athapescow or Great Slave Lake, in 61° 25' north latitude, estimated by Hearne at 120 leagues long from east to west, and 20 wide from north to south. Captain Back considers it as large as Lake Michigan : its soundings are from 40 to 60 fathoms. The north side of the lake is an entire jumble of rocks and hills ; the south a fine level country, in which there is not a hill to be seen or a stone to be found. The lake is full of islands of various sizes, most of which
1 Several rivers empty themselves into the Athapescow Lake.