The Lost Wilderness is an interesting but quite complex book since it is part photographic “now and then”—historic photos alongside contemporary pictures of the same backwoods location—and part historical travelogue, as well as a present-day commentary on how well Ganong’s beloved wilderness has remained intact in the 21st first century. Perhaps New Brunswick’s most important historian, as well as a noted botanist and cartographer, William Ganong’s unique contribution to his native province is the charting of the untamed wilds. By foot and canoe, he traveled the rivers, valleys, and hills for over forty years in order to document the province’s geography.
By consulting Ganong’s notes, correspondence, and publications, the author was able to reconstruct many of Ganong’s historic field trips throughout the interior of New Brunswick and then retrace the journeys, rediscovering the lost wilderness from a century earlier. By travelling the province, Guitard was able to re-identify for the first time the most important historical sites including the aboriginal portage routes that allowed First Nations to journey along the historic waterways from one end of New Brunswick to the other. Because of Ganong’s work many of these old portage routes have now been marked with historic monuments including outside Petitcodiac, at Frosty Hollow, Baie Verte, and Meductic.
Nicholas Guitard has certainly done a commendable job sketching Ganong’s previously unmapped routes throughout New Brunswick. The author was able to revisit many of these historic expeditions and shoot a great number of photographs showing the same location many years later. Guitard had previously trekked through New Brunswick capturing many of the province’s stunning waterfalls to produce a waterfalls guide but attempting to follow in Ganong’s demanding footsteps through dense forest, fast-flowing rivers, and over high mountains proved to be a challenging task.
From the St Croix River in Charlotte County to the Madawaska River on the Quebec border, over to the Restigouche, the Tobique region, Mount Carleton, and the headwaters of the Miramichi, Nicholas Guitard was able to rediscover Ganong’s incredible wilderness travels from an age long since gone. He has certainly allowed all New Brunswickers—indeed all readers—to discover a time and place that is no more but still vital to our appreciation of the natural landscape that is New Brunswick. For this author Guitard is to be applauded.
The Lost Wilderness: Rediscovering W.F. Ganong’s New Brunswick
by Nicholas Guitard
$24.95, paperback, 232 pp.
Goose Lane Editions, 2015