EASTMAIN'S DEATH BY DIVERSION IN 1970s

In a sense, the Eastmain was Keewaydin's river. It, and much territory around it, had been traveled and opened to recreational canoeing by the camp's Section A under Heb Evans and Dan Carpenter Jr. They had traveled there for most of the years from 1967 to 1973. These were extraordinary expeditions for Keewaydin, because they were truly exploratory. They had little to guide them except the limited maps that were available then, some aerial photos by 1970, an Outdoor Life article by a Keewaydin alumnus and surveyor A. P. Low's 1895 report (both about the Eastmain only, not the surrounding area). Keewaydin acquired many Cree friends in Eastmain during those years of regular visits and was able to get additional information from them.

The lower Eastmain died when the river was diverted into Sakami Lake so the water could flow north and the mid-section flooded to feed the hydro-electric dams on the La Grande River (formerly Ft. George River). We feel a loss, but it is nothing next to the cultural and economic devastation that resulted for the Cree of Eastmain and Ft. George. 

Conglomerate Gorge on the lower Eastmain River just before its diversion about 1979. The Cree portage was along the right shore.

 

 

Photo: Claus Bieguert/Rainer Wittenham

Conglomerate after the diversion. You can now walk across the old bed where the rapids rumbled and waterfalls tumbled.

 

Photo: Brian Back, 1991

Both photos were taken from the bridge of the road that was built for the dam construction.

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