Crane Lake, Minnesota, boasts of a historic site — René Bourassa’s Post built in 1736. So the fiberglass statue must be René, dressed in a nicely fringed long buckskin shirt with a red sash. (Yes!)

Hanging from the sash is a red and green bag of “possibles,” almost as if it were decorated with porcupine quills. His leggins are fringed over moccasins and tied at the thigh. With his long red tuque hat, a good haircut and well-trimmed beard, he looks very tidy — spruced up for someone, perhaps? One foot is raised, as if on a rock of a rough portage path.

He’s leaning back while looking off over the lake and holding onto his short middleman’s paddle, which also is painted with a dramatic pattern. Maybe he’s sizing up the rapids or the waves, and thinking about the route his avant will choose. (The map shows nasty portages over Class 2-5 rapids — like High Falls, the Chute and the Gorge — for a total of 3 ½ miles. Ouch! So René is about to have hard work traveling inland.)

At the site, a sign says “This memorial was erected by the Crane Lake Commercial Club to commemorate the French Canadian Voyageurs who explored and opened this country starting in the late 1600s. Thousands of these dauntless men rowed their birch bark canoes through these waterways in the quest of furs and the Northwest Passage. One of their forts was at the mouth of the Vermillion River in Crane Lake. The gay garb of these courageous happy men is typified by our memorial as he stands here proudly surveying the lands and waterways


Crane Lake, Minnesota

he once roamed. Home of the Voyageurs”

The Vermillion River feeds Crane Lake, east of Rainy Lake, at the southern entrance to Voyageurs National Park and is at the southern entrance to Voyageurs National Park. It’s on the west edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.


René Bourassa, in other garb

This photo was taken by my friend Jackie Bradbury, who enjoys cabin life there half the year.

Tomorrow: Ely


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