Human activities have strong historical roots in the Hudson Plain. The ill-fated expedition of Henry Hudson, who was set adrift by his mutinous crew in 1611, left the legacy for most of the names on today’s maps. Later, interest in fur drew other English and French explorers to this area. In the late 1600s, the Hudson's Bay Company erected a series of forts along the bay at the Albany, Rupert, Moose and Hayes rivers and, later in the early 1700s, on the Churchill River. These posts were the early gateways to the riches of central Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories.
To people that lived in the forts, the surrounding lowlands were dubbed the "land of bog and fog" or the "insect-infested swamp." Further to the south, the lowlands were bordered by an area of "little else than rocks with innumerable lakes." They regarded the area as a "food desert" because many of the initial settlers found food supplies difficult to find. By European standards, it was a harsh and testing environment.
In many respects, the fur trade brought European and aboriginal cultures together and for years it was a prosperous venture. Unfortunately, fierce competition for furs between the North West Company from lower Canada and the Hudson's Bay Company eventually strained the native economy, affecting subsistence and commercial activities.
Today, the settlements of Churchill and Moosonee are perhaps the most recognized in the ecozone; each lies at the end of a railway line. Fort George, Eastmain, Fort Albany, Attawapiskat, Lake River, Winisk, Fort Severn and Shamattawa are less well known. Except for these largely coastal villages, the area is almost unpopulated, home to only 10 000 residents. While the ecozone is ecologically diverse, it is not well-endowed with timber and minerals. Instead, tourism, fishing, hunting, and trapping provide the main economic base. Polar Bear Provincial Park draws many tourists. The varied wildlife, contrasting landscapes, ocean coasts and scenic rivers of the area have become popular attractions.