THE GREAT NORTHERN FOREST 348. A vast solitude.—To the north of all the regions we have studied is the vast land of the gloomy evergreen forest; of the lonely fur-hunter, and the trading post on the green clad river bank. There man must travel by canoe on the streams, or by dog team through the dark and often pathless forest. It is so lonely there that people sometimes wish so much to hear the human voice, that they begin to talk to themselves. Sometimes they can not stop talking, and so go crazy—" bush crazy," as it is called.
This country lies beyond the land of farms. (Fig. 14.) For that reason the white man has let it remain the home of the Indian, and goes there himself only to hunt, to trade, or to seek minerals. What regions form its southern bounds? Its northern boundary is the northern limit of trees. It reaches from near the Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains and almost to the Pacific Ocean, but it does not quite touch either coast, because trees cannot grow near the cold waters of Bering Sea, or close to where the Labrador current, ice cold and dotted with floating ice, flows down from the Arctic. A short distance inland from the cold ocean waters trees grow, and for this reason the interior of Newfound land is forest country, where there are a few very large papermills. These papermills have been built by the owners of London news papers, which are printed on Newfoundland pulpwood paper.
349. of our timber has been taken from land we were clearing for farms, but this Northern Forest Region will not be made into farms. It is the great wood reserve of North America. As yet, the white man can use it only at a few places on its edge. One such place is along the St. Lawrence tributaries, where Canadian lum bermen camp all winter, chopping and haul ing logs to the stream banks, ready to float down in the spring log drive. These logs supply many papermills and sawmills, and make Ottawa a great lumber city. Some of the lumber from the Northern Forests is used on the edge of the Wheat Region, and a little has been used by the miners on the Yukon in Alaska and in British territory; but throughout most of its vast extent the forest has been of value to man mainly through the fur and game that it produces. What rivers drain this region? Would it be better for trade if they all flowed south? 350. Mining—In some places rich minerals are being found. The land is probably rich in minerals, but most of it is still unexplored. There are rich silver mines at Cobalt, in eastern Ontario, and since 1897 gold has been mined near Dawson, on the Yukon. At that time there was a great rush of miners to the gold region of the Yukon. In 1921 there was great excitement because petroleum had been discovered near Great Slave Lake, and on the Mackenzie River at latitude 60°. Steamboats run in the Mackenzie River and carry supplies down stream from the Cana dian railroads. The Canadian Yukon settle ments are so dependent upon the Yukon steamers that they can not get even a bottle of medicine by any other route.
351. A timber reserve. Can we save it?—
The great future use of this region is to produce wood. Civilized man needs ever increasing amounts of wood, and the world's forests are steadily growing smaller and smaller. The time is soon coming when much of North America will have to depend upon this great northern forest. Already millions and millions of fine logs have been burned there by terrible forest fires. It is to be hoped that the governments of Canada and the UnitedStates (which controls Alaska) will be able to keep the fires out of this won derful forest and will preserve it until the time comes when we need to use it. The time is not far away when sawmills and pulp mills along the Yukon, the Mackenzie, the Saskatchewan, and the Nelson rivers, as well as those already at work on the branches of the St. Lawrence, should be making the boards needed for houses, and the rolls of paper which will finally be made into the newspapers and books which we use. This can not happen, however, unless the forests are protected. Many trees must be protected from fire for a hundred years before they are big enough to be made into good boards.
352. A water-power reserve.—The eastern part of this district, in Ontario and Quebec, has thousands of glacial lakes on a plateau. These lakes store water, and provide an even flow in the streams that tumble down toward the St. Lawrence. This is one of the great water-power regions of the world. In time to come much of this power can, if needed, be taken by wire even to the coast of New England. Compare the distances with the power lines in Fig. 194. Thus this northern land of few people may send wood and paper to the entire continent, and it may also help the whole United States by furnishing power to turn the wheels in the mills of New Eng land and other states. This forest belongs to Canada, but we in the United States will be its chief users.
353. Hunting as an industry.—Already thousands of Americans go into Canadian woods each year to hunt and fish. Indians earn money by serving as guides for the visiting white men.
Throughout most of its length the Great Northern Forest still is and will con tinue to be the permanent home of the fur-hunting Indian.
354. Possible farmland for the future.—Most of the Great Northern Forest stands on ground made rough and stony by the great glaciers, but the Mackenzie Valley and parts near the Rockies have soil that can be plowed. Big crops of potatoes have been grown at Fort Vermilion near Lake Athabaska, and even on the Yukon near the Klondike. As we come to need more land, and secure new crop plants that will grow in a land having cool, short summers, some parts of the forest may be cleared for farms. In northern Ontario is a district of clay soil and few stones where some farmers are settling.
Near the base of the Rockies some of the plain may be cleared and added to the Wheat Belt; but this will not be done until the land farther south is used much more fully than it now is. Most of this region is good for nothing but forest.