The Last of the Wild Rivers: The Past, Present, and Future of the Rivière du Moine Watershed



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For four hundred years, the journals of all the great explorers of Canada have mentioned the Deux Joachims portage and the wild Rivière du Moine as they made their way west to discover riches, routes, or souls to save. The Du Moine is the last of the ten major Quebec tributaries of the Ottawa River to resist the development threats of hydro, mining, and modern colonization. Recent conservation efforts to preserve this last of the wild rivers as an aquatic reserve have met with mixed reviews by all those who would be affected, including the Algonquins of Wolf Lake–whose ancestors, the Du Moine River band, originally occupied the watershed.

Wally Schaber has been observing and participating in defining the modern history of the Du Moine River watershed for nearly half a century. Within the covers of this book, Schaber has gathered a detailed history of the Du Moine watershed, often told through the lives of characters who lived that history and continue to define it. It’s a river guide for those who want to think about and act upon the past, present, and future of this great wilderness river.

Author’s book signing engagements can be found here, under upcoming events.

ISBN: 978-1-77257-047-2 (PB)



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Additional information

Weight .520 kg
Dimensions 24 × 24 × 1.9 cm

1 review for The Last of the Wild Rivers: The Past, Present, and Future of the Rivière du Moine Watershed

  1. Tiffany Yemen

    Subtitled The Past, Present and Future of the Rivière du Moine Watershed, this is a meticulously documented account of the history of the Du Moine River – the last wild, un-damned river of nine flowing into the Ottawa River.

    Author Wally Schaber is the perfect man to tell the story of the Du Moine. It has been a constant throughout his life: first as a youth attending camp on a lake within its drainage, then as a counselor setting up a new location for the camp and finally as one who has run the majestic river literally thousands of times as an integral experience of his adventure businesses, and for personal pleasure and nature retreat.

    There is a deep connection between this river and Schaber, the founder, and owner until 2012, of the popular outfitting shop Trailhead. Respect, reverence, concern and an abiding love of the Du Moine are apparent throughout his telling of the river’s history, exploitation, and potential salvation and preservation as an aquatic reserve protected by provincial law.

    We’re not there yet though, so Schaber’s book is both a historical overview and a plea for the preservation and conservation of this watershed, recently featured in The Globe and Mail’s August 27th weekend edition.

    He writes admiringly of the first peoples of the region – the Algonquin – and the importance the Du Moine held for them historically (and still does today), as a means of transport, trade, socializing and food source.

    He tells of the fur traders, the explorers, the priests and other Europeans who slowly infiltrated the traditional First Nations territory, opening up the region to commerce but also bringing disease and forcing relocation and retreat by the original peoples. This first wave of whites was followed by industry in the form of loggers, who decimated the pine forests, merchants and entrepreneurs utilizing the watershed for personal and financial gain.

    The turn of the century saw well to do members of private clubs – “sports” they were called – and American socialites create private fiefdoms for recreating, hunting and fishing in the area. Quebec nationalism and the election of the Parti Québécois in 1976 put an end to that and saw the creation of ZEC’s (zone d’exploitation contrôlée) and some conservation measures enacted. Currently, it is guide/outfitters, private landowners and the public – hunters, anglers, canoeists, ATV’ers, – who predominate, although industry, mining and hydro primarily, is an omnipresent threat.

    Schaber conveys the history of the Du Moine in a personal way, with asides about his encounters with it. The remains of old cabins, names scratched in rock at portages, remnants of old log flumes, the discovery of old coins, trails and much more are relished as tangible evidence. He also devotes time to some of the legendary inhabitants of the watershed: the renowned filmmaker and naturalist Bill Mason, the bush pilot Ron Bowes and the last of the traditional trappers, Paddy Reynolds. He closes by recounting a 12-day canoe trip from the west tributaries and down the entire river with a variety of bow paddlers. Evening discussions tend to focus on the fate of the river he, and his various companions, cherish and love.

    As Schaber concludes: “Most.…are, as am I, convinced that the aquatic reserve is the solution for creating a time out on the future of the Du Moine Valley. It will protect the Valley against corporate forces—hydro, mining, logging, and development—while the rest of us figure out how to share the Valley with the natural inhabitants and each other as a playground, at the same time doing more to create sufficient local employment through the tourist industry. We also want to create this reserve in order to share it with the world.“

    In his epilogue he lists six actions we can all take to protecting the watershed, and all other wild places.

    The Last of the Wild Rivers is a labour of love by one of Canada’s pre-eminent canoeists and guides. It is superbly researched: full of old photos, illustrations, maps, and thorough endnotes. Most of all, it conveys the personal feelings of the author on a body of water that has been a defining factor of his life. If you like the outdoors or are familiar with the region, an excellent, engaging read.

    This review was published in Bounder and written by Bill Machperson

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