At posts at Tadoussac, Québec and Montréal, they received furs from the Montagnais, ALGONQUIN, HURON and OTTAWA, who travelled various rivers from the King's Domain, or came down the Ottawa River from Lake Timiskaming and beyond. But most important to the later trade was the route the French themselves developed to the west via the St Lawrence, Ottawa and French rivers; by the 1740s they had extended it to the head of Lake Superior and thence to the prairies.
After the CONQUEST of 1759-60 this route was adopted by anglophone independent traders and then by the NORTH WEST COMPANY. From Kaministiquia (later FORT WILLIAM) the route inland began at GRAND PORTAGE and twisted north and west through a series of rivers and lakes marked by over 50 tortuous portages. From Lake Winnipeg the traders headed west via the 2 branches of the Saskatchewan River; many went northwest via Methye Portage [ PORTAGE LA LOCHE ] to Lake ATHABASCA.
The other major route was that of the London-based HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY through Hudson Bay. When that company began to move inland in 1774 with the construction of CUMBERLAND HOUSE on the Saskatchewan, most of its traffic inland was by the Hayes River from YORK FACTORY. In the direct competition that ensued between the HBC and other traders, the rivals paced one another westward across the prairies. Eventually the routes proceeded via the Howse, Athabasca and Yellowhead passes through the Rocky Mountains and down the Columbia River to the Pacific region.
After 1814 HBC ships rounded Cape Horn to service Pacific posts by sea. As the more southerly trade declined, traders moved down the Mackenzie River into the western Arctic and from the East Main (east coast of Hudson Bay) inland. Access to Fort Chimo and Labrador was generally by sea. After the merger of the NWC and HBC in 1821, shipments through Montréal ceased.
Author JAMES A. OGILVY
Links to Other Sites
Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre
Explore the history, culture, and ecology of Canada's North at the website for the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. Check out "Inuvialuit Place Names" for interactive maps and interesting historical details about numerous sites throughout this vast region.
In Pursuit of Adventure: The Fur Trade in Canada and the North West Company
An extensive website featuring digitized archival material related to the fur trade and its role in the early exploration, settlement, and economic development of Canada. From the McGill University Digital Collections Program.
The Canadian West
View an extensive collection of historical photographs and other archive material about European settlement of the Canadian West prior to the 1930s. From Library and Archives Canada.
Exploration, the Fur Trade and Hudson's Bay Company
This nicely illustrated website chronicles the turbulent early years of Canada’s fledgling fur trade. Features stories about European explorers, Aboriginal communities, the North West Company, and the Hudson’s Bay Company. Also includes online maps, teacher materials, and links to primary sources in the Early Canadiana Online database.
Médard Chouart Des Groseilliers
This site documents the role of Médard Chouart Des Groseilliers in establishing the fur trade in Canada. From the Virtual Museum of New France.
Hudson's Bay Company Archives
A comprehensive information source about the history of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the fur trade in Canada. A Manitoba Government website.
Peter Skene Ogden
A biography of Peter Skene Ogden. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
Carlton Trail - First Western Highway
Check out the colourful history of the Carlton Trail, the first highway west of Winnipeg. A Manitoba Historical Society website.
Fort George and Buckingham House
Explore the role of historic Fort George and Buckingham House in Canada’s fur trade. From Alberta’s Heritage Community Foundation.
This fascinating website about the “Montreal Canoe”, the largest birchbark vessel ever used in Canada, features a collection of historical paintings depicting this splendid vessel. From the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Fort William Historical Park
The website for Fort William Historical Park, a major tourist attraction devoted to re-creating the days of the North West Company. Click on "Explore" for an interactive multimedia tour of the historical structures on this site. Click on "Hinge of an Empire" for a preview of a film that depicts the evolution of the fur trade and the roles of the North West Company and Fort William in early Canadian history and development.
Native Technology in the Fur Trade
This teacher's guide highlights innovative native technology. From the York Region District School Board.
A profile of Samuel Hearne from the “Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.”
Hudson's Bay Company: Heritage
This colourful HBC website documents over 300 years of company history. Features illustrated biographies of prominent personalities, an online art collection, e-books, historical games, timelines, interactive maps, and much more.
A Story of Beat Meat (Pemmican)
Peruse this article about pemmican, the dried and powdered meat of the buffalo, which became the staple food of the fur trade from Rainy Lake to the Rockies. From the website for the Manitoba Historical Society.
Glossary: Hudson’s Bay Company
A bilingual glossary of key terms found the Hudson’s Bay Company records. From the website for the Hudson's Bay Company Archives. A PDF file.
Fur Trade Facts
A glossary of terms commonly used in reference to the history of Canada's fur trade. From the website for Alberta's Heritage Community Foundation.
Fur Trade Facts
This site offers definitions of terms commonly used in the fur trade during the 19th century. From the website for Fort William Historical Park in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
The Old Post and Village
The website for The Old Post and Village fishing resort, located on remote Lake St. Joseph in northern Ontario. Click on the "About Us" button for links to articles about the fascinating history of the region.
Fort St. Joseph National Historic Site of Canada
This site describes the fascinating history of the British-built Fort St. Joseph, located on St. Joseph Island in Ontario. From Parks Canada.
A biography of John McLoughlin, physician, fur trader, and merchant. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
A brief history of fur trade activity in the Edmonton region of Alberta. From the River Valley Alliance.
What is a fur trader?
Profiles of some of the hardy and savy personalities that spearheaded the development of the North West Company in early Canadian History. From "In Pursuit of Adventure: The Fur Trade in Canada and the North West Company," a McGill University website.