Articles / Sign on Snaggy River -2023 (NEW!)
Category: Camps, Treks & Adventures
Let’s start by turning back time 200 years. It was in the spring of 23:
…”the River froze to the emmence thickness of four feet and did not brake up until the fourth of April and we embarked in Canoes on the 6th and on the 11th I was severely wounded by a wiping stick being shot through both knees which brought me to the ground this disabled me for the springs hunt and allmost for ever(1)
About the same time poor Daniel Potts had a wiping stick shot through his knees, two keelboats and 70 men left St. Louis commanded by William Ashley. Their mission was to resupply the men and business out in the field led by Ashley's partner Andrew Henry (Potts was one of Henry’s men).
Just like Potts, Ashley ran into some bad luck during his river travels. In Ashley’s case, it was the Arikara nation that forced the expedition back downstream. The conflict ending in a dispute known as the Arikara war. To quote a song by mountain man poet Bruce “Burnt Spoon” Drulinger: “So general Ashley scratched his head and figured what he’d do? Let’s pack them trade goods on some mules and ride to rendezvous!”(2)
Another famous incident is that of another Ashley-Henry employee and a bear. The story of Hugh Glass to be precise. (3)
In other words, 1823 was an intensive year when it comes to famous fur trade events in the far west. 200 years later, change of plans and obstacles while traveling a river turned out to still be a thing.
Friday May 5th
It has always been a hassle to get our little group together. This spring, this weekend in particular, caused more hassle and head scratching than normal though. Lets just say original plans were abandoned and new were made fairly late in the game. The result was Lars, a canoe and I meeting up at a burger joint outside Värnamo for a weekend under the stars.
With temperature and sunlight dropping fast we hurried north to get our canoe in water and head for the nearest suitable camp spot. We got lucky and found the perfect place by a lake with just enough daylight left to gather wood for a much welcome fire. It was getting chilly! Some whiskey and a bunch of interesting discussions later we hit our blankets falling asleep in an instant.
Saturday May 6th
Cold morning according to my feet. Luckily sunlight, fire and loads of coffee got them working again. After a slow breakfast of salt pork, bannock and continued discussions over another kettle of coffee we headed south towards “Two forks”; the southern end of the lake where two creeks join to form Snaggy River (Storån).
We hadn’t made up our minds yet if we should follow a tributary against the current for a back-and-forth type of trip or follow the main river downstream to another lake. We decided to give the creek a try but changed our minds real quick. Back on Snaggy River we soon hit one of the snags naming the river. A cluster of fallen trees blocking the way entirely. Our first portage(4) was a fact.
With knife edge precision and some trial and error we managed to go around, under or over 95% of the fallen logs without portaging. Much thanks to Lars athletic moves in and out of the canoe cordelling(5) us across the slippery logs. He only fell into the water once.
We made a short lunch break frying up some venison and drinking river water while discussing how far we should go before making camp. As we were moving into an area with locale natives of unknown attitude towards trappers we knew we had to keep a low profile.
Over, paddle, under, paddle, portage, paddle and over we went until sunlight and energy levels told us it was time to find that perfect spot again. Which we did, and celebrated by leaning up against a tree enjoying the last warming sunlight with a few drops of whiskey.
Camp was made simple. With clear skies there was no reason to make shelter. We simply threw our bedding on the ground, made fire and watched our boiling kettle filled with rice, venison and a very welcome overdose of garlic. We didn’t hear a single mosquito that night. If that was because of the early season or the seasoning, we will never know.
Sunday May 7th
Way faster hitting the river this morning. With reheated stew in our guts and camp gear back in the canoe we soon arrived at the first snag of the day. No way we cold go under or cordelle our way out of this one (power station). So portage we did.
A few minutes later we started seeing sign. Sign of a certain gigantic rodent popular among our kind of people. I had seen old sign along this water before, but these were fresh! Beaver is back on Snaggy River! As we couldn’t find a lodge there’s some future scouting to be done in the area for sure.
After about an hour of more, beaver signs and snags the obstacles were suddenly getting fewer and the current less noticeable. We were closing in on the lake and our end destination for this adventure.
Thanks Lars, for a couple of much needed days of fur trade nerdery!
1. Letter by Daniel Potts dated Rocky Mountains, July 7, 1824 to Thomas Cochlen. For further reading look at The Rocky Mountain Letters of Daniel T. Potts
2.From the song “Mountain Man” by Bruce Druliner from the record “Echoes and Ashes”.
3. Even though focusing on the true story behind Hugh Glass tihis is a great site for mor more info on the western fur trade in the early 1820’s: hughglass.org.
4. Portage/portaging = carrying craft and cargo over land either around an obstacle in a river, or between two bodies of water.
5. Cordelle = a long heavy tow rope used to pull a watercraft. Nominally against the current. A common and miserable practice used during Keelboat trips up the Missouri. For further reading on Keelboat travel on the Missouri this is a great article: Keelboats On the Missouri River by Tim McLaughlin.