Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Lost Village of Swan Lake

Boreal forest in northern Saskatchewan (Lac La Loche)
The Dene spent the winters in caribou hunting camps
north of the Clearwater River and returned every summer to the lakes south of the Clearwater.
On Lac La Loche, Garson Lake, Turnor Lake, Peter Pond Lake, Churchill Lake and Lac Ile a la Crosse many Dene summer camps became permanent settlements. La Loche was one of these summer camps.

Swan Lake was the main winter hunting camp for the residents of La Loche in 1895. 
It no longer exists and its location on Swan Lake  (previously thought to be on Careen Lake) is unknown. 

The location of Swan Lake has been found. See below.

In 1895 it had a small permanent population of about 25  people and a winter population of 50.
Hunters from La Loche and Turnor Lake would hunt caribou and moose as far as sixty miles from their base at Swan Lake.  
Father Penard writes in 1895: "at the end of about 25 leagues, we arrive at Swan Lake. If we are expected, we would find about 50 people,
if not we would have to get them from the vicinity, perhaps up to 20 leagues from there, somewhere in the woods."

Father Joseph Rapet visited the Swan Lake hunting camp settlement in January of 1900.(Peel 9671)
Swan Lake had 18 people in three families in the 1906 Census.
Remi and Isabel Montgrand and their 5 children, Isaac and Marie Montgrand and their 2 children and Labre and Marie Piche and their 5 children.

Map: Swan Lake is at the far north east corner of this 1908 map. 
Another Swan Lake (now Garson Lake) is situated west of La Loche.
The unidentified lake just west of Swan Lake  is probably Descharme Lake with its river flowing into the Clearwater River.

Swan Lake Portage:
P.J. Downes a traveller wrote in July 1936 in his journal: "I find that we are not going over the regular portage, but by the Swan Lake trail, which is considerably longer."
He crossed this portage with Nigorri Toulejours, William Janvier (both from La Loche) and a dog named Coffee. 

The 20 mile Swan Lake portage and trail " begins at the north east end of Lac La Loche" and
"can be followed on the 1:50 000 sheet for Mclean River, Saskatchewan Energy, Mines & Resources, 1975."
The Mclean River flows north to the Clearwater River a little ways north east of La Loche.



The location of the lost village of Swan Lake has been found.

Update: On reviewing the material describing the location of Swan Lake and looking at maps showing old trails
in the region it is now clear that the location of the lost village of Swan Lake was actually on Descharme Lake and not on Careen Lake. 
Below is a map showing what may be P.J. Downes 20 mile Swan Lake Portage route from La Loche to the Simonson Rapids 
on the Clearwater River. 
This trail continues north in the direction of Descharme Lake.

Father Penard  wrote that residents of Turnor Lake would also be found hunting at Swan Lake. 
A trail from Turnor Lake also goes north to the Clearwater River at Warner Rapids then continues north towards Descharme Lake. 
This trail may have been followed to build the Semchuk Trail.
No trails lead east to Careen Lake. 

Although Careen Lake was identified as Swan Lake on an old 1908 map other lakes were called Swan Lake. 
Garson Lake was also called Swan Lake on the same map while Descharme Lake was not identified. 

Conclusion: Swan Lake is the old name for Descharme Lake. about Descharme Lake on 'The History of La Loche'

Scroll the map below to view. 

La Loche 74C edition 2...scale 1.250,000. Produced and printed by the Surveys and Mapping Branch, Department of Mines and Technical Surveys, 1960 from air photographs taken in 1952. Reprinted with contour revision 1964. Interim corrections 1977.