The History of the Canoe – Part 2

Continuing our history of the canoe we look how the craft evolved as a leisure boat rather than its earlier role as a workhorse for the fur traders of North America. American sporting magazines and early media built up a demand for canoes as a great method of pursuing leisure activities. Stores sold canoes as a way of getting-away-from-it-all and the pressures of the new industrialized cities.

These new leisure crafts reflected the American growth in manufacturing and industry. When the turn of the 19th Century arrived, and the economic crash hit America, new cheaper ways of making canoes evolved.

Escape from Busy Cities 

The canoe was marketed as a great way to get out of the big cities of North America, not only were they for sportsmen and fishermen they were also for couples to enjoy time together. The courting canoes became really popular, the paddler which was normally the male, faced the stern of the boat so he could look directly at his date. This coined a phrase at the time called canoodling.

The End of Wood and Canvas

The early construction materials of wood and canvas were soon phased out after WWII, these boats were expensive and were soon replaced by synthetic materials, making the canoes cheaper and lighter. The first new material was aluminum, and the crafts were stamped out of a single sheet of metal and then molded into shape and finally welded or riveted.

The 1970’s

The 1970’s saw major changes in canoe building as new materials and purposes for canoeing saw dramatic new ways for crafts to be made. Laminated plastics, fiberglass and Kevlar now dominated the market and these new materials were the new aluminum of the age.

And as time progressed even newer designs out of space -age materials hit the waterways. Boats made from coated nylon and carbon fiber became available on the market, these super crafts could never compete on price, but they were lighter than anything ever before.

Today cheap plastic kayaks dominate the market, purely on price and durability. These popular canoes are also easy to handle and are great for beginners and everyday canoeing. There is an old saying that conjures up the romanticism of canoeing, when a man is part of his canoe, he is part of all that canoes have ever known. Today canoes have come a long way from being the mules of the fur trappers, they are used for leisure and competition and are regularly seen racing, touring, navigating whitewater and generally pottering about on the world’s waterways.

Canoes are one of the most practicable water crafts that have ever been created, they can float on just about any sort of water including seas, streams, lakes. It is because of this versatility that the humble canoe has been with us for over four thousand years.

Who knows what the future lies for the canoe, but with the increase in people’s leisure time getting bigger and bigger with each technical advance, it would point to a more sporting and leisure future for the canoe.