Tidbits of Coureurs de Bois History.

The idea behind this page is to create a space for stories from Coureurs de Bois' past to help connect new members to those who have been involved for many years. 

Table of Contents

  1. What's in a name?
  2. 2005 Insurance Crisis
What's in a name?
Often new members ask why we are called “Coureurs de Bois” or what it means. Coureurs de Bois, literally translated, means “runners of the woods.” A short review of the role of Coureurs de Bois in the history of Turtle Island is outlined below and leaves little doubt that the founders of Elliot Lake’s outdoor club chose their name well. In the Winter 1991 edition of the Voyageur Trail News, it is recorded that Jesse Latendresse reported to the VTA that “the club will now be known as the Coureurs de Bois Elliot Lake V.T.C.” And so it is today.

From about 1660 to 1715, Coureurs de Bois were independent fur traders working outside of the emerging colonial systems. They travelled deep into the wilderness to interact and trade with Indigenous communities, reducing the flow of furs by Indigenous traders to Montréal and Trois-Rivière. By 1680 some 500 Coureurs de Bois were in the Lake Superior area in spite of being prohibited by the Catholic church and colonial authorities. To discourage Coureurs de Bois, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, France’s Minister of Finance, established the Congé System in 1681 which made licenses necessary for legal fur trading.

Thus, was born the “Voyageur,” travelers hired by trade companies to transport goods. About 25 licenses per year were granted. In contrast to the respected and licensed Voyageur, from 1681 onward, Coureurs de Bois were considered unlicensed, illegal traders nicknamed “wood-runners” by the English and “Bush-lopers” by the Anglo-Dutch (in Dutch, the verb “lopen” means “to walk”, so literally “bush walkers”.) No matter what they were called, they were an economic thorn in the side of colonial interests.

Coureurs de Bois were physically fit, brave, skilled hunters, fishers and they spent long hours in their canoes. They were effective negotiators and profited from their interaction with Indigenous people.

Coureurs de Bois Outdoor Club of Elliot Lake is a thriving member of the Voyageur Trail Association. There is something mildly satisfying about being part of an organization named after a group considered to be outlaws and “existing outside the system.”


Cadeau, C. “Voyageurs and Coureur des Bois”. All About Canadian History. 12 July 2016. ttps://cdnhistorybits.wordpress.com/2016/07/12/voyageurs-and-coureur-des-bois/ Accessed 02 December 2021.


Dominy, Steve (on behalf of the V.T.A.). Steve did the leg work to find the first mention of Coureurs de Bois with the VTA and provided a copy of the Winter 1991, Voyageur Trail News where the announcement was reported. Dec. 26, 2021.


Wien, Tom. "Coureurs des bois". The Canadian Encyclopedia, 07 November 2019, Historica Canada. www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/coureurs-de-bois. Accessed 02 December 2021.


Insurance Crisis of 2005

In the April 20, 2005 issue of the The Standard, Kevin McSheffrey reported that the Voyageur Trail Association and Coureurs de Bois Outdoors Club learned that their liability insurance would rise by almost 14 times what they paid in the past. The premium for $5 million of coverage went from $1 659.72 to a staggering $23 000.

The insurance fiasco precipitated a provincewide movement called “Black Week” to protest skyrocketing insurance rates on recreational trails. The Coureurs de Bois Outdoor Club organized a two-hour woodland march in solidarity with this initiative. There are about 30 individuals in Deborah Aarts photograph in the May 18th ,2005 issue of the The Standard so the event was well supported. The 2005 executive of Coureurs de Bois, led by Thomas Benian – President and Nancy-Jo Wannan – secretary-treasurer and Alan Day – Trail Master, also garnered the support of Elliot Lake City Council to pressure the Provincial Government to pass legislation to limit liability.

The attached articles from The Standard are an interesting read about this event in the club’s history.