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Across the Canadian Prairies
Fort William to Winnipeg

The journey from Fort William to Winnipeg is not particularly interesting, except perhaps to the sportsman and geologist. The country is of a rocky formation, covered very generally with a growth of small trees, and there are large areas of marsh and boggy land. Here and there little clearing may be seen, and occasionally small stretches of land suitable for cultivation; but from Fort William to Rat Portage—a distance of nearly 300 miles—there is practically no settlement at all, and the only people to be seen are those connected with the railway, occasional trappers and hunters, and a few sportsmen and Indians. At places the scenery is grand and picturesque, and lakes and streams abound; but upon the whole the views from the train are rather depressing than exhilarating, from the fact that most of the timber near the line has been burnt, and mile after mile of bare grey poles greet the eye. A little relief is of course found in the brilliant green of the undergrowth in the early part of the year, and in the varied colouring of the autumn foliage.

It is a problem, which only the future can decide, as to the use that is likely to be made of this part of Canada. There does not seem to be much probability of its being available for agriculture, although it is not fair to form any decided opinion from what can be seen near the line. It is believed, however, that it will be found to be rich in mineral wealth of various kinds. In the neighbourhood of Fort William and Port Arthur silver and iron have been found in considerable quantities, and the impression prevails that other deposits may be discovered as the country is explored and examined. It is certain also that gold and silver in paying quantities exist around the Lake of the Woods, but the neighbourhood is more or less inaccessible at present, and although some mines are being worked, the industry cannot be said to have attained extensive dimensions up to the present.

The district conterminous to the Lake of the Woods will probably become an important industrial centre. There is an abundance of water-power there, and it is largely utilised for the working of tho numerous sawmills which are in operation. In fact, the timber trade is a very extensive one, employing largo numbers of hands, and it is not too much to say that the population of tho district is in the neighbourhood of D,000. There is also a very large flour mill at Keowatin, a short distance from Rat Portage, which turns out an immense number of barrels of flour daily. The Lake of the Woods is a favourite summer resort for the Winnipeggers, who go there in hundreds in August and September. The scenery on the lake is varied and picturesque, and summer cottages can be seen on most of the islands, while those who do not posse's residences are accustomed to camp out. The hotel accommodation is not, of course, sufficient to provide for the large accession of visitors which takes place at the time mentioned.

A tourist cannot fail to recall tho difference that exists in the travelling facilities at the present time compared with those in 1870, when Colonel Wolseley (as he was then) conducted *he Riel Expedition from Port Arthur to Winnipeg, the journey occupying three months. Traces of the expedition can still be seen in the shape of the encampments and the remains of some of the boats. The district used to be a rich hunting-ground for the trappers and Indians, wild animals having formerly been very numerous. The opening up of the country, however, by the railway, has either driven the animals farther away, or they have become scarcer as the result of the continual war waged against them, and it is not so valuable an appanage of the Hudson Bay Company as it was before being opened up by railway communication.

About 60 or 70 miles from Winnipeg, the forest gradually becomes less dense, and the prairie, which extends as far as the Rocky Mountains, begins to show itself. Traces of settlement are also more numerous. The houses of the settlers may be seen here and there, also hundreds of cattle grazing on the rich prairie grasses, and other evidences of the agricultural industry become apparent. As Winnipeg is approached, settlement becomes thicker than ever, and there is an air of prosperity about the numerous comfortable houses and well-fenced holdings. The capital of Manitoba is visible for a considerable distance, owing to the flatness of the prairie, and the first glimpses indicate that it is a busy and thriving place. It, however, deserves a chapter to itself.

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