The Rise and Fall of the Great Lakes

In this short documentary from conservationist Bill Mason, he illustrates that although the Great Lakes have had their ups and downs, nothing has been harder to take than what humans have done to them lately. In the film, a lone canoeist lives through the changes of geological history, through Ice Age and flood, only to find himself in the end trapped in a sea of scum.

From the playlist : Bill Mason: Beyond the wild, beyond the paddle

The film was conceived and produced for the educational market. It was to be on the evolution of the Great Lakes (the working title was Evolution of the Great Lakes) and man’s impact on them. Mason agreed to a lighter approach for the film but was disappointed when the producer made several changes to his finished work. Test screenings proved to be very successful with children and teachers, who appreciated the humorous approach to the subject. The feedback was so positive that the film was blown up to 35 mm for theatrical distribution. Nevertheless, Mason was not happy with the finished product, feeling he had lost creative control over it.

— Albert Ohayon

Pedagogical evaluations and study guides are only available to CAMPUS subscribers.


Features designed specifically for teachers

Learn more   Already subscribed? Sign in.


Bill Mason
Bill Mason
Bill Mason
Bill Mason
Bill Mason
Joseph Koenig
animation camera
Kjeld Nielsen
sound editing
Alex Rayment
Roger Lamoureux
Michel Descombes
Bruce Mackay
Robert Fleming
Blake James


  • MCC

    “A wacky delightful film with a message (and lot's of footage of waterscapes, rivers and canoe travel). Well worth a viewing!” — MCC, 2 Aug 2015

  • geobarrett

    “I, too, have used this in geography classes for the past 25 years. First, as 16mm film (which was always fun to show backwards!), then VHS and now through the the magic of streaming video. It's funny that even though it has been that long the students still laugh and groan a little at the same parts! A truly Canadian classic!” — geobarrett, 18 Feb 2015

  • cardkleener

    “I first saw this in my Outdoor Education class in 1976. It was good to see it again.” — cardkleener, 27 Jan 2013

  • railmus

    “I must have showed this to over 100 classes in over 30 years of teaching. I tried to fit it in every year whether I taught history or geography or not. Still think it is a great piece of work and a CLASSIC!!!” — railmus, 16 Mar 2012

  • Lord_Kitchener

    “I'm from North Carolina, this is a classic. Reminds me of old films we used to watch in school. Glad the Lakes aren't this nasty anymore.” — Lord_Kitchener, 13 Jun 2010

  • Sammyg

    “I am so proud of being Canadian, Bill is a hero.” — Sammyg, 23 Apr 2010

  • usernongrata

    “big Joe Mufferaw had a few beers but makes it good in the end! well you did ask me!!!” — usernongrata, 22 Mar 2010

Discuss this film Please sign in to add your comment
Not a member ? Click here