Pic River Site National Historic Site of Canada
Pic River, Ontario
© Parks Canada Agency/Agence Parcs Canada
Pic River, Ontario
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1780 to 1780
1789 to 1789
1821 to 1888
Event, Person, Organization:
Pic River Site
Research Report Number:
Description of Historic Place
Pic River Site National Historic Site of Canada is located on the north shore of Lake Superior, 14 kilometres south of Marathon, Ontario. Set on broad sandy lowlands, the site is bounded by the lake to the west, a rocky highland to the north, and the Pic River to the south and east. The site is composed of four archaeological nodes: the Pic River site, Fort Pic, the Heron Bay site, and the Duncan site, which together represent numerous Aboriginal and European occupations dating from 12000 B.C.E. to the late 19th century. Official recognition refers to the four archaeological sites.
Pic River Site was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1981 because: it represents the cultural history of the Pic River system and isolated north shore Shield regions of Lake Superior from the Middle Woodland period to the late historic period; it is associated with the early contact period on Lake Superior in the late 18th century and the establishment of fur trade posts on the Pic River from the late 18th century to the late 19th century.
The mouth of the Pic River has been the site of numerous Aboriginal occupations, dating back thousands of years. In the 1780s, a fur trade post was established at the site, to be taken over by the Northwest Company in 1799 and subsequently by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821. The Ojibway who lived in the area eventually relocated upriver.
As a consequence of the changing shoreline of Lake Superior over time, the sites generally exhibit evidence of more recent to more ancient occupations as one travels inland or upstream. The Duncan site (DdIn-7), the furthest excavated point upstream, represents a small late Archaic or Early Woodland camp (400 B.C.E. – 300 C.E.). The Heron Bay site (DdIn-1), located to the south near the mouth of the river, contains midden deposits from Aboriginal occupations suggestive of Early and Late Woodland Laurel peoples. The Pic River site (DdIn-2), located upon beach terraces nearest the river mouth, is a midden deposit that runs along a previous shoreline from the Late Woodland occupation (1300 C.E. – 1600 C.E.) to the early and late European contact periods. The Fort Pic site is located between the Pic River site and the Huron Bay site, upon the grounds of the former trading post.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, 1981, December 2007.
The key elements relating to the heritage value of the site include: its location southeast of Marathon, Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Superior, west of the Pic River; its four archaeological nodes, spread across broad, sandy lowlands; the integrity of any surviving or as yet unidentified archaeological remains which may be found within the site in their original placement and extent relating to Aboriginal occupations, including any cultural remains, midden deposits, faunal remains, and sherds; the integrity of any surviving or as yet unidentified archaeological remains which may be found within the site in their original placement and extent relating to the occupation of the site by the Hudson’s Bay Company, including the well at Fort Pick and faunal remains; the viewscapes across Lake Superior.