James Duane Doty Journal 1820

James Duane Doty (1820) was a government agent representing the territorial interests of the United States of America.


Doty -1832 Map & Journal 
202 Wisconsin Historical Collections [vol. Vii

There are two grand water communications with this country; one by Lake Superior and the Fond Du Lac River, and the other by the Mississippi. The first is considered the most eligible route. It is about thirteen hundred miles St. Louis to Sandy lake, and ten hundred and fifty from Detroit, by water, to the same place. There are many rapids in the Mississippi, particularly above the Falls of St. Anthony; which it is almost impossible to ascend with boats or canoes. The waters of this river are also considered unhealthy. On the other course, the greatest difficulties are found in the rapids of the Fond Du Lac River; but as this River is ascended only one hundred and fifty miles, and the rapidity of the Mississippi continues for six hundred, and a strong current the residue, the difference in the exertion and fatigue between the two routes is very great. Lake Superior is computed by the voyagers to be four hundred and eighty-four miles long. It is three hundred miles from Detroit to Mackinac, and forty from there to mouth of the River St. Marys. That river is forty miles long.

Communication may be had with the Mississippi from Lake Superior by the Tenaugon, Iron, Carp, Presque Isle, Black, Montreal, Mauvais, Brule and Fond Du Lac Rivers.

The Tenaugon is ascended thirty-six miles, where a portage commences of two-hundred pauses, to the “old plantation” as commonly called, but by French “vieux desert,” “old deserted place, ” which is on a small lake of the same name about four miles long, and three broad. Two Rivers rise in this lake, one the Abenomins, which empties into the Green Bay; the other discharges into the Sauteur River. They are both navigable for canoes.

Iron River is so rapid that a portage is commenced at its mouth. The canoe is scarcely put into its water in the whole length of the river. It leads near some navigable waters of the Ouisconsin.

Three miles above the mouth of Carp River is a perpendicular fall of about forty-five feet, when it passes Porcupine Mountain; above, the stream is small, and with difficulty ascended.

Presque isle River has many rapids, and is seldom used. Black River is the same.

The Montreal River is not navigable; but at its mouth, on the east side, a portage is made of one hundred and twenty pauses to a


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small lake ; in which distance the Montreal River is crossed twice, the first time at eleven pauses, and the second at eighty. The lake is three miles long, and is the head of another branch of the Sauteur. This fork runs fifteen miles into Turtle Lake, which is about two miles over, thence it runs a few leagues into a small lake, passing through which it continues on until it joins the fork from Old Plantation Lake, thirty-three miles from Turtle Lake. A lake of considerable size is connected with Turtle Lake on the northeast by a river. In Lake Du Flambeau the Southwest Company have an establishment of five traders and twenty hands, the return from which last season was about fifty packs. It lies from Turtle Lake near southeast. The route is from the mouth of the Montreal to Turtle Lake, from which there is a portage one-fourth of a mile to a small pond, thence up the outlet of a small lake one-fourth of a mile, from which a portage of three miles is made to the Old Plantation River. This is descended eighteen miles to the entrance of the Rivière du Flambeau, which rises in the lake of the same name, and is twenty-four miles long. The Company’s fort stands in the north side of the lake. The lake is crooked, is four miles long and one broad. From this there is a chain of lakes which extend down to the head waters of the Ouisconsin. Portages are made from one to another so as to connect the communication in that direction. The small river formed by the junction of the Turtle and old Plantation Rivers, is almost entirely a rapid; and, running over a bed of rocks, is very dangerous. It takes seven days to descend it, and is one hundred and seventy-five miles long. The river Sauteur (Chippewa) which is also rapid, is very wide, and about one hundred and eighty miles long, emptying into Lake Pepin. It is sixty-three miles from the Tenaugon to the Montreal River.

Mauvais River is ascended about one hundred miles. A portage is then made of twenty-two pauses to a small lake which is connected with another by a stream one-quarter of a mile long. From this is a portage of one pause is made to Clam Lake, in which a branch of the Sauteur rises. This Lake is one mile long and three-fourths of a mile broad, which is the general extent of all the lakes on this route. It is from this, six miles to Spear Lake, fifteen miles to Summer Lake, and twelve miles to a lake called by the Indians


204 Wisconsin Historical Collections [vol. Vii
Pocquayahwan. The branch continues through this Lake, and passes out in the southeast side. On the west a small river enters, which is ascended fifteen miles, whence a portage is made of ten pauses into Lake Coutere, on which the Southwest Company have an establishment. It is nine miles long and three broad, and is connected with the Sauteur by a stream thirty miles long, which issues from it. The Mauvais is twelve miles from the Montreal River.

The River Brule, seventy-eight miles from the Mauvais, is ascended ninety miles to a bend, form which a portage of two pauses is made to Lake St. Croix, the head water of the river of the same name. It is three miles long and two broad. On the River St. Croix, on hundred miles from the lake, the Southwest Company have an establishment. It discharges into the Mississippi three hundred miles from the trading post. Between the Mauvais and Brule Rivers, several small streams empty into Lake Superior; as the Raspberry, Sandy, Sescawnawbekaw, Cranberry, Bullrush and the Little Iron Rivers. Goddard’s River is between the Brule and Fond du Lac.

As the Fond du Lac River was ascended by you, it will be unnecessary to describe it. It will merely state, that it rises in Vermillion Lake, is near three hundred miles long, and that its general course is east. It may scarcely be called navigable above the Savannah, which enters one hundred and thirty-six miles from its mouth. The Savannah is twenty-four miles long, and is ascended to its source. The portage to the small river, which empties into Sandy Lake, is six miles – the river is descended twelve. Sandy Lake is four miles long and two wide. By the outlet of the lake to the Mississippi is two miles, but by land it is hardly the half of a mile. It is two hundred and fifty miles from Sandy Lake to Vermillion by way of the Mississippi and Trout Lake.

The accompanying map was drawn by the person who communicated the preceding facts, and may, in some degree, convey an idea of the principal water-courses of the country.

About half way from the Sandy Lake to Red Cedar Lake below, a river empties into the Mississippi which rises in Duck Lake. A portage of six miles is made from the Mississippi, opposite Sandy Lake, to this river, which is ascended sixty miles. From Duck Lake the communication with Leech Lake is over a country, one-half of