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“Quetico: Near to Nature’s Heart”, by Jon Nelson

Friday, August 27th, 2010
submitted by: Bob Evans

This book is unquestionably the best book I have read about Quetico Provincial Park.  Jon and his wife Marie were Quetico Rangers, first at Beaverhouse, then Cache Bay and Prairie Portage.  After his tenure there he returned to Graduate School for a Master’s program, I believe, in Archaeology, and worked as an archaeologist in Quetico for several years.  During that time he interacted with and got to know a number of the First Nation citizens of the Lac La Croix community.  As we are very much interested in the pictographs of the area, his multiple comments on this aspect of First Nation culture and religion were very interesting to us.

This book relates a broad range of topics from the early geological and natural history of the time when the glaciers of the last ice age were retreating from the area now Quetico, to contemporary issues with the park.  It is divided into sections allowing the reader to read sections of interest in any order.  To me, with my woefully inadequate knowledger of pre-history, the readings on the early post-glacial era and the Paleo-Indians were fascinating.  For the biologist or the reader interested in biology and ecology, the chapters in part three relating to ecology, tell the stories of lichens, orchids (yes, orchids in Quetico), moose, ravens and forest fire ecology along with other topics.  As a biologist and biochemist myself, I found these chapters fascinating, well written, and full of interesting information.  I learned a great deal from them.

For the person who is a paddler in canoe country, and may or may not be interested in the science, part two on special places in the park is delightful reading.  As one who has paddled Quetico for decades, and still does, Jon has an intimate knowlege with the park and an obvious love for it.  His descriptions of places well known to many paddlers, like the Pines,the Wawiag River, McNiece Lake, Prairie Portage and others, show that love of the area.  I believe that a paddler who has visited one or more of the special places he describes, or other places that have become special to them, will immediately want to paddle to the other wonderful places he describes.  My wife and I have paddled everyone of the places he describes, and we really loved seeing them again through Jon’s eyes.  We learned new things about some of our special places.

For the paddler who loves the special wilderness of Quetico, or the person who has never been there but loves the “heart of nature” this is a “must read” book.  I am now in my third reading of the book.  It has been wonderful time spent.  

Thanks, Jon and Marie for your great contributions to the folks who love Quetico.

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