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History of Canadian Canoeing

historyThe word canoe is derived from 'kenu' meaning dugout. Canoes seem to have evolved in many parts of the world to provide solutions for travel, transportation and hunting/fishing.

Dugout canoes made from large tree trunks were made in the Caribbean, Africa, America, Asia and Europe including here in the UK. A iron age dug out canoe has been found in the UK in Poole Harbour and is on show in the Poole Museum. Another from Shropshire is in the Harper Adams University, Newport. The oldest dugout canoe is from the Netherlands and has been dated to be older than 7000 BC.

polynesian 2In Polynesia canoes have a history of being rigged with sails and outriggers for increased stability and speed in favourable conditions. As well as dug out Polynesian canoe have been built with bullrush type plants over wooded frames.

Open canoes are most commonly associated with North America and Canada where the North American Indians were able to construct very light weight canoes using birch bark around a light weight wooden frame. These birch bark canoes opened up the waterways for exploration as the boats were strong yet light enough to be carried (portaged) around unnavigiable stretches of water. These boats also had the advantage that paddlers could make running repairs using the local materials - birch bark, pine roots and spruce resin.

canoe-trip01Voyager canoes were used to paddle the inland waterways, carrying goods from inland to trading ships that sailed to Europe. The voyager paddlers had a reputation for joviality and mischief as well as hard work. The speeds and distances covered were impressive, even by today's standards. There is one report of a voyager canoe covering 500 miles in nine days in what must have been almost relentless paddling.

Our Big Canoes, inspired by the voyagers canoes of Canada and North America, are of a similar size but are constructed from modern composite materials making them strong, durable and light.