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2. Descharme Lake

Descharme Lake, Saskatchewan

Descharme Lake is a hamlet in Saskatchewan. Descharme is accessed by road via Saskatchewan Highway 955 from La Loche.

Old Descharme Lake

Across the lake from the village of Descharme where the Descharme River flows south
to the Clearwater River lies the old town site of Descharme.

Pierre and Marie Lemaigre raised a family of twelve there. Six boys and six girls. 
Mary Jane Jolibois age 39 died there in March of 1965. A cross was set up in her memory.
She died approaching a plane's propeller too closely. the news story

The old town had a fish filleting plant and a store. It had an airstrip and a hanger.
These were run and owned by C. & M. Airways of La Loche. 
G.M. Clarke and John H. Midgett of Meadow Lake were the owners with Leon Belanger of Ile a la Crosse as another partner.
A dozen homes were located there.

The Dene High School cultural camp is now located nearby. 

Descharme Lake

Until the 1950's Descharme was reached from La Loche by dog team, horses and by walking.
In 1979 Highway 955 was built to the Cluff Lake mine site and an access road was built to Descharme. 

There were 48 people in the village in 1974.

Recently the residents were offered homes in the town of La Loche and many moved there. 
Today the hamlet is about one hour's drive from La Loche on the gravel road.
It has about ten permanent residents.
Some residents from La Loche maintain cabins there.

The cemetery of both settlements of Descharme Lake is at the new town.

Descharme began as a Dene winter hunting camp centuries ago.

Note: This was written with information given by one of the sons of Pierre and Marie Lemaigre on July 14, 2011. 
Ronnie remembers helping to unload freight for a bottle of pop when he was a boy. He drew the map shown above.

Note: The site of the old village can be seen clearly on the Google satellite map along with the trails leading to it.

When Descharme Lake was called Swan Lake.

The small village of Swan Lake now identified as Descharme Lake is mentioned as one of the mission villages of La Loche in 1895.
It was the main winter hunting camp for the residents of La Loche and had a small permanent population of about 25  people and a winter population of 50.
Hunters from La Loche and Turnor Lake would hunt caribou and moose as far as sixty miles away from their base at Swan Lake.  
Father Penard wrote in 1895: "at the end of about 25 leagues (75 miles), we arrive at Swan Lake. If we are expected, we would find about 50 people, 
if not we would have to get them from the vicinity, perhaps up to 20 leagues (60 miles) from there, somewhere in the woods."

Father Joseph Rapet visited the Swan Lake hunting camp settlement in January of 1900.(Peel 9671)
Father Ducharme visited a sick man in Swan Lake in March of 1930.

Meaning:  'Des charmes" means beautiful or charming place in French. 
The date of the name change from Swan Lake to Descharme Lake is not yet known. 
Father Ducharme used the name 'Swan Lake' (lac du Cygne) in 1930 and P.G. Downes used the name 'Swan Lake Portage trail' in 1936.
Swan Lake was the name used in a 1943 newspaper article. (see news clips)
Descharme Lake was the name used in a 1965 newspaper article. (see news clips)
It may have been named after Father Ducharme of the La Loche Mission who retired to The Pas in 1949.
Swan Lake had 18 people in three families in the 1906 Census. 

1906 Census for Swan Lake, Saskatchewan 
38182MontgrandReneHeadMM50Swan Lake

Cont'dMontgrandJosephSonMM11CanadaSwan Lake
4CarolineDaughterFF [sic]3"

The Swan Lake Portage:

P.G. Downes a traveller wrote in July 1936 in his journal: "I find that we are not going over the regular portage, but by the Swan Lake trail, which is considerably longer."
He crossed this portage with Nigorri Toulejours, William Janvier (both from La Loche) and a dog named Coffee. 
The 20 mile Swan Lake portage and trail " begins at the north east end of Lac La Loche".

The Swan Lake Portage begins at La Loche follows the shoreline for miles then goes almost straight north to the confluence of the McLean River and the Clearwater River.
Across the Clearwater it continues in the direction of Descharme Lake. (see the map on this page).

Correction: The location of the lost village of Swan Lake has been found.

On reviewing the material describing the location of Swan Lake and looking at maps showing old trails
in the region it is clear that the location of the village of Swan Lake was actually on Descharme Lake 
and not on Careen Lake as was previously indicated on this site. 

Scroll  the map below to view the trails and winter roads leading north towards Descharme Lake from La Loche and Turnor Lake. The short dashes are trails or portages and the longer dashes are winter roads.

La Loche 74C edition 2...scale 1.250,000. Produced and printed by the Surveys and Mapping Branch, Department of Mines and Technical Surveys, 1960 from air photographs taken in 1952. Reprinted with contour revision 1964. Interim corrections 1977.