This is the story of the canoe, that singular American artifact so little changed over time. Featured here are canoes old and new, from birch bark to dugout to carbon fiber; the people who made them; and the adventures they shared. With features of technology, industry, art, and survival, the canoe carries us deep into the natural and cultural history of North America.
The Nahanni River in Canada became famous—and a popular destination for whitewater canoe adventurers—after the 1950s publication of the book The Dangerous River by R. M. Patterson, a hair-raising account of a trip into the wilderness region earlier in the century.
The business of canoe liveries and outfitters in the lakes and rivers region of North America, including Ely, Minnesota, in 1958, allowed city dwellers to experience the joys of wilderness travel without actually owning a canoe.
Groups interested in preserving canoe country from development sprang up all over the continent. Canoes were often used as images of a free and quiet outdoors experience, including this poster with artwork by Francis Lee Jaques, ca. 1949.
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