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Searching for Wisconsin's Dugout Canoes

Glenn MacGrady

Staff member
Oct 24, 2012
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"Pollen records from Wisconsin lakebeds suggest the climate was warmer and drier around 3,000 to 6,000 years ago, when many of the dugouts from the southern part of the state were made from elm . . . ."

That was interesting Glenn. I never thought that dugouts and birchbark canoes would have been built and used by the same people at the same time.

There was a dugout found in a pond less than a mile from my house in the Poconos. It was estimated to be 400 years old and looked like the ones from Wisconsin. I wonder if anyone has used sonar or other means to see if they may be others on the bottom.
I assume dugouts are a more ancient technology than birch bark construction, and that the hulks can be preserved for a longer time against total rot disintegration.
Yeah, I assume all of that too. It made me wonder if the local natives (most likely Lenape) also used birch bark canoes. According to the little research I did they did not have the right type of birch trees to make them. They used American tulip, elm, white oak, chestnut or red ceder for their dugouts.
"Was it abandoned? Was it lost by accident?

"Staff archaeologist Amy Rosebrough first asked the questions two years ago when a team of divers excavated a 1,200-year-old canoe out of Lake Mendota.

"Less than a year later, jaws dropped again when a 3,000-year-old canoe was retrieved from the waters, found 100 yards from the discovery of the first dugout canoe."

From this article, which also has a video:

"Wisconsin historians recently announced the discovery of at least 11 ancient canoes in a Badger State lake – including one boat that dates back to 2500 BC.

"The findings were announced in a press release by the Wisconsin Historical Society on May 23. The canoes were found in Lake Mendota, which is located outside of Madison.

"The Wisconsin Historical Society explained that two ancient canoes were found in a cache in the lake in 2021 and 2022. Since then, historians have found at least 11 other ancient canoes, along what they believe was an ancient shoreline that became submerged over time."