5 Classic Films about the Northwoods to Stream Now

Art & Science

Most people in Minnesota can go longer without water than they can go without talking about the weather.

So we’re going to talk about the weather, and the fact that though spring has officially arrived, we are a long way away from budding flowers and green leaves.  We are in the middle of a long, muddy, sopping wet, too-cold-for-a-shirt-but-too-warm-for-a-jacket shoulder season.

It’s not the best time of year to be outside, but we’ll be there in a few weeks.

In the meantime, we put together a list of classic movies about adventure, canoeing, and life in the Northwoods that you can stream right now, for free.

1. Waterwalker

Bill Mason’s legendary movie is the Citizen Kane of canoe films. In many ways this is THE classic of classics that any self-respecting paddler should have seen. This beautiful statement about how we interact with the natural environment, both culturally and artistically, was filmed almost entirely around Lake Superior. It’s a reminder of what a gift this great body of water is, and why we need to treasure it.

2. Alone in the Wilderness

This may be the most dangerous film on the list. The reason is this: Few other movies can make a perfectly happy man or woman want to leave their job, their house, their responsibilities and all the other creature comforts to set off to the Alaskan wilderness. Dick Proenneke’s hypnotic film documents his years building a cabin in the Twin Lakes region of Alaska. His narration is charming, his skill with an axe and saw astonishing, and the overall effect is quite simply, inspiring. A must watch.

3. César’s Bark Canoe

For anyone who’s been fascinated by birchbark canoes, and I’m willing to bet that’s everyone reading this blog, this is a mesmerizing film. With no narration to distract you, the film showcases 67-year old native César Newashish as he builds a canoe using only birchbark, cedar splints, spruce roots and gum. If you’ve read John McPhee’s classic, The Survival of the Bark Canoe, this is a must.

4.Yukon Passage

From 1896 to 1899, the promise of gold lured tens of thousands of people to the Yukon. More than a century later, the romance of the Yukon Gold Rush continues to intrigue us. In this film, four young friends set out to recreate a 1890s-style voyage down the Yukon River. Living on a wooden raft they built at the headwaters, they travel until freeze up, build a cabin and once the river freezes over, continue to the ocean on dogsled.

5. Into the Great Solitude

What would it be like to spend three months by yourself, paddling 600 miles down an Arctic river so far north not even trees grow? Robert Perkin’s classic meditation on life, family, nature and self gives a compelling portrait of such an adventure. This is not an adrenaline-fueled film. Its meditative pace captures the solitude, the stillness and challenges of being alone in one of the planet’s last true wildernesses.

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