A Time of Transition
Following contact with European fishermen, traders and settlers on the coast of Atlantic Canada in the 16th and 17th centuries, population numbers of Aboriginal peoples in the region seem to have declined. This happened to the Mi’kmaq as it happened elsewhere throughout the Americas. The primary cause was the previously unknown illnesses and diseases introduced by the Europeans.
Guided hunting/fishing trip, Kejimkujik © Parks Canada/P. Yates
Nonetheless, Kejimkujik remained an important location for the Mi’kmaq, despite the steadily increasing settlements of European colonists. In 1842, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for Nova Scotia, Joseph Howe, granted twelve plots of farmland to Mi'kmaw families living on the shores of Kejimkujik Lake. The land was of poor quality and as sport guiding grew, it replaced farming as a livelihood for the Mi’kmaq.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Kejimkujik became a renowned destination for sports fishers and hunters from Canada, the United States and Great Britain.
Eel weirs had been used on the Mersey River for perhaps thousands of years. They continued to serve their role of directing and allowing the harvest of eels. The weirs were used well into the 20th century, including use by non-Mi’kmaw commercial companies.
The Settlers’ Legacy
European settlement of the area began around the 1820s, and while a few farms were cleared, logging and gold mining also played an important role in the history of Kejimkujik. In the early 1900s, the area became a destination for sportsmen seeking hunting and fishing adventures.
Hay wagon at Jakes Landing © Parks Canada/P. Yates
Though nearly half of the land in Kejimkujik was originally granted to farmers, very little cultivation was undertaken except for a few farms in the eastern part of the Park. These were all located on hills where the soils are best.
Directional signs from logging and mining era © Parks Canada/P. Hope
It is uncertain when logging began in the Keji area but almost all of the land has been cut over at some time. In the early days, most of the logs cut were driven down through the lakes and rivers, some as far as Liverpool. The remains of numerous sawmills testify to local operations in more recent times.
Three small gold mines existed within the Keji area. Although the workings in these mines yielded little ore to their owners, they did yield a variety of “tall tales” and they brought new attention to the area. The remains of pits, iron boilers, and cabins can still be found. You can visit one mine on the Gold Mines Trail, which features interpretive signs.
Contstruction of Kedge Lodge © Parks Canada/P. Yates
The Resort Era
Early settlers’ accounts of the Kejimkujik area describe a desolate wilderness, where the thin soils, rocks, and bogs would support nothing useful. It was this wilderness that became a haven for those who sought fishing, hunting, or simply to get away. To provide accommodation for the sportsmen, lodges and cabins were built around Kejimkujik Lake. The best known, and most luxurious, was Kedge Lodge. Many local men were hired as guides for these visitors, and the history of guiding is a colourful chapter in the area’s history.