Farley Mowat died in May of this year, just before his 93rd birthday.
The environmentalist and author of more than 40 books wrote extensively about his own experiences growing up as a nature nerd, exploring the Arctic during his university years and his travels across our country. His prose awakened a curiosity in Canadians, inspiring generations to explore the country and care about its wild places.
While the world has lost a passionate advocate for wild places, his legacy will live on. Mowat’s publisher, Douglas & McIntyre, plans to re-release many of his books in print and e-book. And the places he wrote about remain worthy destinations. Here are a few to check out:
South Saskatchewan River
The Connection: Mowat recounts some of his early adventures camping and fishing along this river, while growing up in Saskatoon, in the books Born Naked and Owls in the Family.
What to Do: Paddle the South Saskatchewan from near Pike Lake Provincial Park right into Saskatoon over a couple of days, or day-trip through the heart of the city. For guided trips, talk to Canoe Ski Discovery Company (canoeski.com).
The Connection: In the heart of Ihalmiut Inuit homeland, this wildlife-rich river near the Nunavut-Manitoba border is the setting for two of Mowat’s most famous and controversial works — Never Cry Wolf and People of the Deer — as well as the children’s adventure story The Curse of the Viking’s Grave.
What to Do: Rarely travelled, the highly canoeable river starts in Nueltin Lake before tumbling into Hudson Bay, near Arviat. Other historic Ihalmiut stomping grounds in the region include the Kazan River.
The Connection: This small community on the south shore of Newfoundland was Mowat’s hometown while living on The Rock, as well as the scene for the sad tale A Whale for the Killing.
What to Do: Paddle or hike to Aldridge’s Pond, just north of town, where the fin whale in Mowat’s story got stuck and was eventually shot hundreds of times. Nearby, Sandbanks Provincial Park is home to some of the nicest sandy beaches in the province.
St. Lawrence River
The Connection: In the books The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float and Eastern Passage, Mowat recounts sailing journeys along this artery between Lake Ontario and the Atlantic. In his later years, Mowat spent his winters in Port Hope, Ontario, right on the shore of Lake Ontario, and his summers on Cape Breton Island.
What to Do: Sail or kayak along any part of the route. If you’re not up for the full journey, destinations to consider are the Thousand Islands, Saguenay Fjord and Cape Breton — all classic regions full of the wildlife Mowat cared about.
South Coast of Newfoundland
The Connection: Even as the outport communities along Newfoundland’s south coast emptied, Mowat fell in love with the region as well as his wife, Claire, who he met here. He recounts this affair with the people and the place in Bay of Spirits: A Love Story.
What to Do: Whale-watch or sail. But the ultimate way to get to know the coastline its ghost-ports with the same intimacy as Mowat is to sea kayak from one end to the other.
Queen Maud Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary
The Connection: The short story, Walk Well, My Brother, and the film adaptation The Snow Walker, tells a fictional story of a bush pilot who reluctantly picks up a sick Inuit woman from this remote coastal area of Nunavut before crashing in the barrengrounds.
What to Do: During the summer, hundreds of thousands of geese and swans congregate in the marsh- and lake-rich lowlands of Canada’s largest federally protected nature reserve. One of the country’s largest caribou herds also calves and summers here. Hard to reach, it is sometimes visited by cruise ships travelling the Northwest Passage, such as those with ElderTreks (eldertreks.com).
The Connection: Using Samuel Hearne’s staid journals, Mowat livened up the tale of the 17th century explorer’s epic quest to discover the source of the green metal along this Nunavut river in Coppermine Journey.
What to Do: Most canoeists take 15 days to paddle the Coppermine River, along the route Hearne took from Lac de Gras to the Arctic Ocean. Tracing the tree-line before breaking into the tundra, the whitewater journey is sure to offers sightings of Arctic wildlife. Several companies, including Black Feather (blackfeather.com) lead trips.