A canoe trip that spans decades of historical reflection, offering a unique perspective on the Restigouche, its impact on the people who live beside and along the river, and their impact on this natural phenomenon.
Canoeing was integral to my childhood. And as an adult, for that matter. The last boat I bought was Kevlar—lightweight and strong, and of course, bulletproof. I believe. Never actually had it tested. Just felt safe from snipers. It was red, by the way. And that lovely red boat became an array of things: a place of solitude, conduit to nature, slender floating home, and receptacle for kokanee and trout.
In Restigouche: The Long Run of the Wild River, author Philip Lee takes us, physically and emotionally, along this mighty river, each bend and turn akin to life’s fluctuations, as the text follows Lee in part autobiographically, in part as a researcher, along its banks and the surrounding geography.
The Restigouche River flows through the remote border region between the provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick, its magically transparent waters, soaring forest hillsides, and population of Atlantic salmon creating one of the most storied wild spaces on the continent. Philip Lee follows ancient portage routes into the headwaters of the river, travelling by canoe to explore the extraordinary history of the river and the people of the valley. They include the Mi’gmaq, who have lived in the Restigouche valley for thousands of years; the descendants of French Acadian, Irish, and Scottish settlers; and some of the wealthiest people in the world who for more than a century have used the river as an exclusive wilderness retreat.
Travelling the river in this manner felt like a nod to my dad, which is what the author does, with a nod to his dad. Like Lee and his father, dad and I paddled together when I was young, which in itself felt like homage to our country, from paddling Mi’gmaq to portaging fur traders and Pierre Elliott Trudeau. In fact, a slice of that wood-grained Canadiana (a piece of Pierre’s paddle) made its way into the Voyageur guitar and into my hands for a number on stage. All this from a canoe, a thread of history as long and varied as the Restigouche.
The people of the Restigouche have long been both divided and united by a remarkable river that each day continues to assert itself, despite local and global industrial forces that now threaten its natural systems and the survival of the salmon. In the deep pools and rushing waters of the Restigouche, in this place apart in a rapidly changing natural world, Lee finds a story of hope about how to safeguard wild spaces and why doing so is the most urgent question of our time.
This is a special book, for many reasons. Learning more of this land’s history—snapshots of people, place and time, is invaluable. Armchair research, exploration, and this connecting kind of travel experience is needed, it seems, now more than ever. And of course with an eye to our environment, where water plays its perennial and pivotal role. Author Philip Lee shares and enlightens us—a flow of observations, insights and engaging storytelling through moving topography, quite literally, in the river and book called Restigouche.
“A brilliant work; a living, breathing and truly unforgettable account of the great Restigouche River by a master chronicler of our natural world.”David Adams Richards
A journalist, lecturer, and bestselling writer, Philip Lee began his career as an investigative reporter on Canada’s east coast. Restigouche emerged from his long-standing interest in rivers and the people who love them. His first book, Home Pool: The Fight to Save the Atlantic Salmon, grew out of his award-winning reporting on the decline of the Atlantic salmon. Lee is also the author of Frank: The Life and Politics of Frank McKenna, a national bestseller, and Bittersweet: Confessions of a Twice-Married Man, which was long-listed for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction. A professor at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, Lee developed the Dalton Camp lecture series, broadcast annually by CBC Radio’s Ideas, and edited The Next Big Thing (a published collection from the lectures). When he is not writing and teaching, Lee spends as much time as he can following the currents of rivers.
- Publisher: Goose Lane Editions, 2020
- ISBN: 9781773100883
- Pages: 272 pp
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4 thoughts on “Restigouche: The Long Run of the Wild River by Philip Lee”
I’ve canoed many miles but never in New Brunswick. Perhaps one day. I agree that people need more of this connecting activity. There’s something magical about being in a small manually-powered vessel, alone or sharing it with one other person, out on the calm waters, away from all noise from civilization with the wildlife passing us by like we’re part of the landscape. If we allow it to, we feel like we are the only ones on the planet and this is what we live for: being here and experiencing nature in its purest form.
Nicely put, Diane. I’ve never canoed here either, or even tubed on the Miramichi. I like to watch the river from the safety of the riverside. 🙂
Cheers Diane. You understand! And well said 🙂
Thanks, Bill. I’ve felt this connection many times. And now that I have my own boat again (12-foot Bevin Skiff), I was on the harbour waters many times this summer. Oh, what wonderful days they were.
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