The Fur Trade in the Souris Basin - Historic Places Days

The Fur Trade in the Souris Basin

Municipality Of Grassland, MB, Canada
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This Geocache site is brought to you by the Turtle Mountain Souris Plains Heritage Association. Lat: N 49°25.745′   Long: W 100°42.150′ Note that the accompanying map may not be completely accurate. For exact directions to this location, search Google Maps using the coordinates given, or visit For more historical information visit our website at

Standing at the geocache location, is is thrilling to know you are enjoying the same view that fur traders, Métis and indigenous dwellers of the land would have seen nearly 200 years ago.  The Souris Basin was very important in the fur trade of the 18th and 19th Centuries.

Fort Desjarlais, almost directly north of your viewpoint, is remembered today as the most prominent and successful of the Souris River trading posts, built by the independent Joseph Desjarlais in 1836. The actual site is on private land.

One unexplained mystery regarding the fort’s existence was its immense size in comparison to other Souris River posts. Facing the river, the fort was 200 feet long and 150 feet deep (60 by 45 metres). One long log building and several other smaller ones were surrounded by a stockade of oak posts. At all times the fort employed an unusually large force of 50 to 80 men and kept a large number of horses. Other livestock was also housed there, and several small plots of grain were grown. The fort included a horse corral, and an excavation of the site in 1967 revealed manure two feet (over half a metre) deep. Fort Desjarlais’ operation came to an end in 1858 due to a fire that destroyed the fort.

In the 1960s several cellar holes and chimney mounds were still distinctly visible at the site of Fort Desjarlais. Since 1969, though, three floods of the Souris River have all but completely eroded evidence of the fort. Most of what did remain has crumbled into the Souris River.

Nearby, also on private land, is the likely location of a fur post built and operated by the American Fur Company, one of at least two known American sites on the Canadian section of the Souris River. Its location on the north bank of the river was mentioned in 1934 by a local Métis elder. The year 1810 is a good estimate for when it was constructed as the clay chinking in the chimney dates to after Ash House (constructed by the NWCo in 1795) but before Joseph Desjarlais built his large and successful independent fort in 1836 just upriver from this site. The American Fort seems to have been operational for a good stretch of time, though less than 20 years.

A portion of the fort has been eroded by the Souris River, but from what remains, the size of the fort is estimated to have been 100 feet by 120. The remains of cellar holes and chimney mounds indicate that three buildings were enclosed by an outer stockade.

Access to this geocache is down a public road allowance between two private properties. However, it is a dirt track, so walking, rather than driving, to find the cache is advised.


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Municipality Of Grassland, MB, Canada
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