Exploration and Fur Trade
The first European adventurer credited with seeing Lake of the Woods was Jacques De Noyon of Three Rivers, Quebec, who paddled his way to the mouth of the Rainy River in 1688. Following his arrival, the next known explorer was Pierre La Verendrye. He came with a party of more than 50 men in 1732.
La Verendrye established Fort St. Charles on Magnusson’s Island and managed the exploration work which would eventually open up the north and west to a tide of traders who came to gather the rich harvest of furs provided by the forest and lake environment. The post he established was abandoned by 1763. Today a reconstruction of the old fort occupies the exact site on Magnusson’s Island.
British possession of the land west of Lake Superior began the golden age of the voyageurs, which, with their canoes, became the main characters in the story of this region for the next 75 years. Lake of the Woods was a major link in the voyageur’s highway with all of the trade returning from the north and west destined to cross the lake. All of the rival fur companies, Hudson Bay, Northwest, XY and American established posts as they struggled to monopolize the trade. Posts of the various companies stood at different times at and near the mouth of the Rainy River. By the 1830s, the American Fur Company won the monopoly of trade on the southern side of the border but by the early 1840s the fur trade, as it had been, was finished.