How Canoeing Works

History of Canoes

No one can say exactly where canoeing started, but canoes have been around for thousands of years. Several years ago, archeologists discovered the remains of a dugout canoe among ancient ruins believed to be 8,000 years old [source: Antiquity].

Although canoeing is now considered a sport, canoes were used for transportation throughout history. Clues from the history of Indian canoes can help us understand how got the canoes we use today. In North America, the very first canoes were used by the indigenous people of the Caribbean to travel between the islands [source: All About Canoes].

Throughout history -- even over the last century -- the canoe has evolved from those made of logs to modern canoes, made of birch back canoe, was used by Native Americans, explorers, missionaries and trappers. Since it could haul huge lots of cargo while handle all sorts of conditions such as quiet waters, open lakes, quickly-moving rivers and coastal waters, it was perfect to navigate North American waterways.

As soon as European explorers came to North America, they found canoes quite handy and started using them. In fact, the Europeans were amazed with the advanced engineering skills that the Native Americans used to design sophisticated canoes. Instead of hollowed out logs, these canoes were framed and constructed of multiple types of wood and held together with glue made from trees [source:]. In 1603, Samuel de Champlain was the first explorer to record the dimensions of Native American canoes. He wrote that they measured up to 23 feet (7 meter), to a 50 inch (1.27 meter) beam, and carried as much as 1,000 pounds (454 kilograms) of cargo [source: Malo]. The French used the canoe to establish the fur trade and further explore what we now call Canada and the mainland United States.

Canoeing has deep roots in world history and continues to draw enthusiasts from all walks of life.

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More Great Links


  • American Canoeing Association: American Whitewater //
  • Boy Scouts of America meritbadges/mb-CANO
  • Camp, Raymond R. The Young Sportsman's Guide to Canoeing. New York: Nelson and Sons, 1962.
  • Canadian Canoe Association
  • Camp Friedenswald. Canoeing Lesson Plan. Michigan Lesson Plan.
  • International Canoe Federation
  • A Fussy Man Considers The Paddle.
  • Malo, John. Malo's Complete Guide to Canoeing and Canoe- Camping. New York: The New York Times Book Co, 1974.
  • United States Canoe Association
  • USA Canoe/Kayak
  • Antiquity Vol 79 No 305 September 2005.
  • WGLN-TV. Ready, Set, Learn! Alphabet Kitchen Learning Activity. September 6, 2006.