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The Adventures of Monty
Overview of Sevareid and Port's Trip
Biographies of Eric Sevareid and Walter Port

Overview of Sevareid and Port's Trip

The following is an overview of the trip from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay taken by Eric Sevareid and Walter Port in 1930. Their trip was recounted in the book "Canoeing with the Cree", written by Sevareid and first published in 1930. The Minnesota Historical Society has since republished the book. The book was based on a diary the two kept on their trip and on a series of newspaper articles the two wrote on their trip. The Minneapolis Star, the newspaper that sponsored their trip, published a total of 11 articles. All quotations in the overview are taken from "Canoeing with the Cree". Copies of the book are available through the Minnesota Historical Society (www.mnhs.org) and can be found at many bookstores throughout Minnesota.

Eric Sevareid and Walter Port were 17 and 19 respectively when they canoed to Hudson Bay from Minneapolis in 1930. The two young Minneapolis men launched their trip in June, shortly after graduating from High School. Their proposed trip was extraordinarily audacious at the time given the great distance they were to travel and the remoteness of the Canadian wilderness. At that time there were no maps for much of the area they would canoe through in Manitoba-it was very much 'uncharted' territory. It was little changed from the time of the Voyageurs who plied their fur trade in the area in the 1600's.

Many of the adults in Eric and Walter's lives discouraged them from trying and feared for their safety-"But our minds were made up. I suppose people try to discourage everyone who starts a trip like ours. You just have to make up your minds you can do it and then go ahead" ("Canoeing With the Cree", p. 6). The two were not very experienced with canoeing or camping, but they had determination and a dream.

The two began their trip by putting their canoe in the water at Fort Snelling-right in the heart of the Twin Cities and where the Minnesota River joins the mighty Mississippi. Though their final destination of York Factory on Hudson Bay is due north of the Twin Cities, the journey begins by paddling southwest and then northwest upstream over 300 miles on the Minnesota River. While paddling on the Minnesota the two had memorable encounters with a snapping turtle, a swimming baby rabbit, cows stuck in mud, and a huge storm. At Big Stone Lake on the South Dakota border they saw their first Sturgeon, a pre-historic fish that can now only be found in far northern Minnesota.

The next leg of their journey took them downstream, despite taking them due north. The Red River of the North forms the border between Minnesota and North Dakota. It is one of only two major rivers in the world that flows north, with the other being the Nile. Walter sustained an injury to his hand that caused them to have to stay in Fargo for 11 days while it healed. The amazingly kind doctor that treated him told the two "Don't let anyone, no matter who he is, convince you that your trip can't be completed. You have youth and strength, and courage too, I hope, and with a little common sense you can do it" ("Canoeing with the Cree, p. 52). At this point their journey became a race against time, as winter comes early way up north by the bay. They were only half way there and it was already August 1st.

Eric and Walt continued down the Red River into Canada. They stopped in Winnipeg and were hosted and helped by the Winnipeg Canoe Club. From there they continued north to gigantic Lake Winnipeg. The lake is the 7th largest in North America. It is very shallow and therefore prone to developing large waves quickly. The two narrowly avoided disaster when six-foot waves pushed them straight into a rocky reef. Owing to fierce paddling and a stroke of luck they were carried over the reef instead of onto it.

Halfway up the 300-mile expanse of Lake Winnipeg the two spent a few days at the settlement of Berens River. They befriended some Canadian Mounted Police as well as many Cree Indians. This was the first of numerous times the pair were welcomed by the Cree people, and "Canoeing with the Cree" is filled with many interesting stories of their friendships and mutually beneficial interactions. For example, Sevareid and Port would have never found their way through the maze of lakes, rivers and portages leading from Lake Winnipeg to Hudson Bay without the help of two Cree canoeists who paddled with them for many days. The two also found time to help re-model a church in the Cree community at Norway House.

As they paddled on the Hayes and God's rivers, the weather grew rainier and colder. The two learned how to navigate enormous rapids, and had many close calls that could have, at the very least, shattered their canoe. At one point after paddling for many long days they came to blows. They both blew off some steam, and a few hours later they reconciled with each other. On the last day before reaching York Factory they canoed 60 miles in 11 hours.

York Factory was the greatest of all ports in the heyday of the Fur Industry. Sevareid and Port were enjoying a meal there from 'Factor Harding' when their gear was almost devoured by wild dogs. The two were assisted to hike and paddle to their train ride home by more Cree Indians. They arrived back in Minneapolis on October 11th. "It was as though we had suddenly become men and were no longer boys" (Canoeing with the Cree, p. 209).


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Biographies of Eric Sevareid and Walter Port

Both Eric Sevareid and Walter Port went on to lead remarkable lives after their journey.

Eric Sevareid

Eric Sevareid became a copy boy at the Minneapolis Journal. He attended the University of Minnesota and was a reporter for the campus newspaper, the Minnesota Daily. In 1939 he became CBS's European correspondent and later, a national correspondent. He won a Peabody award in 1950 and 1954 for achievement in television news reporting. Sevareid did news commentaries and reporting on the CBS evening news from 1963 until he retired in 1977. He worked alongside Walter Cronkite. It has been said that the news has never been quite as good since he retired. Ron Howard is currently working on a movie about Eric Sevareid, focusing on his reporting during World War 2. Mr. Sevareid passed away in 1992.

Walter Port

Walt continued to lead an adventurous life after the canoe trip. He studied at Shurtleff College in Alton, Illinois. In 1934 he returned to the north land by moving to Bemidji, MN where he worked as a fishing guide. From 1941 to 1944 he lived and worked in Alaska. From 1944 to 1946 he served in the U.S. Navy. When he returned he established a photographic department at the Johnson Corner Drugstore in Bemidji.

 



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