Sunday 3 February 2013

Calvin Rutstrum and an ingenious canoe portage arrangement!

I recently started re-reading Calvin Rutstrum’s books, one of my favorite authors of my youth.  I had almost completely forgotten how much I liked his writings. As the jacket presentation on one of his books say; “if you ever go to the woods… or even just dream about it, you want Calvin Rutstrum as your guide”!

Illustration by Gary Jones 

Here is a snippet on how to portage your canoe!

“As we were making a portage around a rapid, we met two Indian youngsters dragging a birchbark canoe over the portage. A girl and a boy; they could not have been more than ten to twelve years old. One on each side of the canoe's bow, handling it with a cross pole fastened to the gunwales, dragging the stern along the trail. What was ingenious about the arrangement was that the canoe’s stern was suspended in the crotch of an alder sapling elevating the canoe's stern above the rough trail. The stem of the sapling sliding on the trail also served as a spring to take the ground undulations and incidental bumps. It was a method I had never seen used before, something these youngsters had learned from their elders”.

Rutstrum, Calvin. Chips from a wilderness log. New York: Stein and Day, 1978

Here is a list of Calvin Rutstrum's books, many still available in libraries or on the internet:

Way of the Wilderness (1946),
Memoranda for Canoe Country (1953)
The New Way of the Wilderness (1958)
The Wilderness Cabin (1961)
North American Canoe Country (1964)
Wilderness Route Finder (1967)
Paradise Below Zero (1968)
Challenge of the Wilderness (1970)
Once Upon a Wilderness (1973)
The Wilderness Life (1975)
Chips from a Wilderness Log (1978)
A Wilderness Autobiography (1979)
Hiking Back to Health (1980)
A Columnist Looks at Life, Here's Cal Rutstrum (1981)
Backcountry (1981)


  1. Thanks for posting this, Dick! What a great way to protect the hull. I was having some nasty back spasms trying to portage a 70lb cedar canvas last summer. Had to take a 2 hour break before I could lift it. If that ever happens again, I'll remember this post and maybe will drag the canoe safely overland.

  2. Thanks Murat,
    It works quite well. I tried it out of curiosity a couple of years ago.