On June 27, 1831, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (Image 1 above), first Indian Agent in the Lake Superior region, set off from Iroquois Point on the eastern end of Lake Superior with a small detachment of U. S. soldiers. He was headed west along the shore "to vaccinate the Indians for smallpox and...learn as much as possible...[about their]...culture, customs and history."
The party sped quickly and easily along the south shore of the lake adjacent to what is now Upper Michigan powered by voyageurs paddling their large canoes. Schoolcraft looked out on the vista as they drifted along and was inspired to write one of the more cogent descriptions of the beauty and immensity of Lake Superior:
??He who, for the first time, lifts his eyes upon this expanse, is amazed and delighted at its magnitude. Vastness is the term by which it is, more than any other, described. Clouds robed in sunshine, hanging in fleecy or nebular masses above-a bright, pure illimitable plain of water-blue mountains, or dim islands in the distance??a shore of green foliage on the one hand??a waste of waters on the other."
Schoolcraft was describing a beautiful U.P. summer day featuring light winds and sunny weather along with some fair-weather clouds developing over land. For him, the land of the U.P. was a wild, largely unexplored territory. Seeing signs of human activity was the exception rather than the rule:
"Sometimes there is a smoke on the shore. Sometimes an Indian trader returns with the avails of his winter??s traffic."
A peaceful lake can turn dangerous quickly with a change in the weather and his voyageur-guides were quick to respond:
"A gathering storm or threatening wind arises. All at once the voyageurs burst out into one of their simple and melodious boat-songs, and the gazing at the vastness is relieved and sympathy at once awakened in gayety.??
This trip along the lakeshore was no leisurely paddle. The voyageurs kept a strenuous pace. Under good weather conditions, the party traveled up to fifty miles a day.Schoolcraft made five trips along the Lake Superior shore from Sault Ste. Marie to what is now the Duluth-Superior area during his 19 years in the region. On this trip, he took along a young, talented professor he admired named Douglass Houghton (Image 2). Houghton would become Michigan's first State Geologist. His report a decade later resulted in the United State's first mineral rush. Tragically, Houghton drowned in an autumn storm on the west end of the lake 14 years later at the age of 37.