Great Lakes Journey: Exploring the Heritage Coast


144 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 0-7710-5539-0
DDC 917.1304'4




Reviewed by John R. Abbott

John Abbott is a professor of history at Laurentian University’s Algoma University College. He is the co-author of The Border at Sault Ste Marie and The History of Fort St. Joseph.


This slim, glossy volume comprises a journal, a preservationist’s
agenda, and a collection of photographs. The McGuffins, avid and well-
published canoe trippers, naturalists, and photographers, paddled the
Canadian coastlines of Lake Superior, the North Channel of Lake Huron,
and Georgian Bay in the summer of 2002.

The journal, which constitutes about 20 percent of the whole, touches
on places passed, strangers encountered, friends and family visited. It
is really a commentary to accompany a family album of pictures. The
photographs are superb, in part due to the McGuffins’ extraordinary
skill with the camera, but largely because this is an awe-inspiring
maritime environment.

The agenda presents a preservationist’s case for those portions of
the shoreline slated to become part of the Heritage Coast. The
presentation is the standard one: wilderness is good; pulp mills are
bad. Terrace Bay and Marathon are poisonous excrescences on the
landscape. The Aboriginal attitude toward the land is friendly and good.
The settler’s way is bad. Companies that mine and ship trap rock are
bad. One would never know about the thousands of pits left by Aboriginal
copper miners, who violated the land as vigorously as their technology
permitted, but who made no effort to reclaim it, as contemporary miners
are increasingly required to do. Ontario sends Michigan the garbage from
its largest city (in part because of the failure to gain support for the
Kerr Mine landfill in Northern Ontario), and Ontario sends trap rock (of
which we have an abundant supply) so that Michigan can improve the
quality of its highways. A glance at the list of the McGuffins’
sponsors reveals few who have not benefited from our exploitation of the
earth and its resources. One can make a compelling case for selective
preservation without resorting to the unsophisticated dialogue of an
elementary-school classroom.

With that reservation, this book is a delight. It features a beautiful
canoe, an engaging child, a handsome dog, two sincere and talented
writers and photographers, and some of the best pictures of these rugged
shores ever committed to glossy paper.


McGuffin, Gary, and Joanie McGuffin., “Great Lakes Journey: Exploring the Heritage Coast,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 16, 2024,