Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/293

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THE

 

POPULAR SCIENCE

 

MONTHLY



OCTOBER, 1908



SPOLIATION OF THE FALLS OF NIAGARA[1]
By Dr. J. W. SPENCER
WASHINGTON, D. C.

1. First Reference to Niagara—Champlain.—A few weeks hence there will be celebrated the three-hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the city of Quebec, by the Great Champlain. Out of this grew the Dominion of Canada. Although the establishment of the little settlement on the St. Lawrence River made Champlain most famous, it is not in this that his chief greatness lay, but rather in his wonderful explorations in the lake region of the interior of the continent, throughout a long life spent in the wilderness.

Jacques Cartier had ascended the St. Lawrence in 1535 and again a few years later. Champlain followed in his tracks as far up the river as Montreal (in 1603) five years before the settlement of Quebec. From the summit of the old volcanic mountain at Montreal he saw the first or Lachine rapids of the St. Lawrence, above which he could discern the smooth water of the expanded river, now known as Lake St. Louis. Here he received accounts from three different Indians as to the nature of the country beyond. Their communication must have been largely carried on by signs and diagrams, drawn on the sand. Although the first volume of Champlain's works is extremely rare, the accounts were transcribed by Lescarbot in his history of New France, published soon after, in 1609. The description of the rapids and various lake-like expansions of the St. Lawrence, the Thousand Islands, Lake Ontario, the occurrence of Niagara with its rapids, and Lake Erie reaching to Lake Huron "beyond which no man had been," were all so complete that a navigator unimpeded by hostile Indians could easily have found his way. But the natives were hostile, so that Lake Huron came to be known long before Lake Erie and the Niagara River.

2. First Account of Niagara River.—Champlain never saw Niagara,

  1. Address before the American Association for the Advancement of Science, June 30, 1908.