1200 year old canoe found - WI

This is right here. I bet I boated over it :slight_smile:

That is how bad the supply line issues are. We already have to dig out the old boats!


I just hope the owner had their PFD on and got to shore ok when it went down. :canoe:

I bet the owner already bought a new boat. Now that they have the old one back, they may sell one of them. Look at CL if you need a boat! The owner may have to do some repair work first, though. Or they sell it as “has some visible wear”.

An important find.

Might be part of the Mississippi culture.
If you are nearby, check out Aztalan State Park.

It will be much easier for future people to find all our old plastic boats.

Thanks for putting this up, LP. I saw it in this morning’s paper but wasn’t home to post. Good catch!
Might be Mississippian, might be Woodland - there’s a whole lot of native American history in and around the Madison area and Aztalan is a good place to start, but there’s a whole lot more.

The Lower Wisconsin River flows through what’s thought to be the highest concentration of Indian mounds in the world. There are a LOT in the Muscoda area and there were at least two distinct cultures of mound builders that inhabited the area, one replacing the other at about 1050 AD if I’m remembering correctly. The older culture built effigy mounds and were supplanted by longhouse and conical mound builders. At least some of the effigy mounds were made with soil that was transported from other areas (in pack baskets by canoe?). Just downstream from Muscoda on river right there’s a thunderbird mound with a 1/4 mile wingspan (tied with a serpent mound in Iowa for the largest known effigy mound) that was identified in a plowed field from the air by the differing color of its soil.

The Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board is active in the purchase and preservation of sites along the riverway. If this is of interest to you, check out the info (especially the links) at:

There are (or were - I don’t know what’s going on post covid) opportunities to volunteer in helping in the clearing of these sites. (I did quite a bit of this at the Bloyer/Twin Lizard Mound site) The River Alliance of Wisconsin should be useful in locating where current activity is being undertaken. Mark Cupp at the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board in Muscoda should also be helpful if you want to get involved in volunteer work in this area. If nothing else, its worth attending at least one of the solstice ceremonies at the Frank’s Hill (Shadwell) site. The bird mound “gives birth” to the sun in the notch between two hills at sunrise on the solstice.

The work Bob Salzer did at the Gottschall Rock shelter is amazing - he uncovered at least 1200 years of annual ceremonial use of the “cave”, again if my memory serves.

But this is the first dug out canoe I’ve ever heard of from the area - its a “big deal” find.

Thanks again for posting.


They could just call it “Vintage” and sell it on CL as in and throw in some “oars” (my favorte in a CL add) and two Mae Wests.

Thanks to PJC.
People need to show some respect for Native American artifacts and archaeology in general. Quit making stupid jokes.

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Actually I see the “oars” a lot in commercial sales ads for lower level kayaks with kayak paddles. I bet this is where those CL sellers get the term from.

I’m not 100% sure I’m correct on definitions. But oars would be what you use on a typical row-boat where you sit backwards (or a galley)

I’m just glad whoever found it figured they better get some knowledgeable archeologists on the scene. Worst case scenario would have been they would have thought it is a 50 year old canoe and discarded it. I bet once it reaches oxygen, it needs to be professionally preserved quickly.

I bet (and hope) the people 1,200 years ago also made jokes about all kind of stuff. I expect the people in 1,200 years to do the same to us. Actually, they will find huge landfills, and plastic all over the oceans. So they will just hate us.

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I bet you’re right about that… I used to work on a farm in a valley that had a number of springs in the lowlands. It had been tiled out with clay tiles many years ago and every year there’d be some that gave way and collapsed creating mud holes in the fields. So every year we’d find some part of the fields that we had to retile. only deeper (~4’) and with modern slotted plastic tile lines. The lowlands were peaty and it was not unusual for us to hit deeply buried logs that had probably been drowned out and grown over by sphagnum in the centuries following the retreat of the last ice sheet’s melting: We were always hoping for a mastodon or something (teeth of which have been found in that valley), but no such luck.
Anyhow, when we hit such a log it stopped our tiling machine cold and we had to dig down to the log by hand and chain saw out a section to allow the machine to cut its trench. We’d bring up a section of log, saturated and buried for a long long time, toss it off to the side, and in two days exposed to oxygen it was nothing but a pile of soggy wood chip.

I bet a dug out canoe sunk in lake sediment would be no different.

Oars have or are used with a fulcrum - a oar lock - paddles don’t or aren’t.

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This CNN piece is much more in depth (!) and talks about the steps that will be taken to preserve it:


You’ve driven through St. Louis on I 55 from Illinois, I’d bet… Is that what caused you to think of that?

If not, that route takes you right past Cahokia mounds, an area set aside to preserve and give public access to a group of mounds, ninety some of them, the largest of which is Monk’s Mound. If I’m recalling this correctly that one mound covers about 14 acres, is over 100 ft. high, and was thought to have taken around 500 yrs to build. Its a project that is on par with the pyramids of Egypt or Mesoamerica - or European castles. There’s also a circular group of post holes there that are aligned to the cardinal directions. Its called Woodhenge. It wasn’t just the Incas and Aztecs that oriented to the sun.
Its kind of a weird place to visit actually - the museum is well done, the grounds beautiful, everything well kept, but step outside the preserve and its not nearly as interesting a world. Its near a race track and the pawn shops and discount liquor stores abound.

Anyhow, just as you suggested, you drive right past Monks Mound (you have to know its there, not be distracted by traffic, and be on the lookout or you’ll miss it) on the left as you approach St. Louis from the east. (You can see the arch from the top of the mound, BTW. Beautiful place to see the sunrise if you happen by at or near that hour. As if you’re going to the Ozarks from the NE.)
A few miles further and you pass the East St. Louis landfill on the right. Everyone notices that. It absolutely dwarfs Monks Mound. Didn’t take us so darned long to make it either.
So do we get civilizational bragging rights or something for that?

Newnans Lake, FL has had many dugouts found from 500 to 5,000 years old. I am posting a link to a video about the discoveries.

As an aside a close friend while wade fishing for bass in this lake once stepped up on what he thought was a log in the water only to have it start moving. A big gator then came up with it’s jaws opened and he ended underwater with it on top of him. He thought he would die as it slowly crawled off him and left.

Dugout Canoes-Discovering 101 Canoes at Newnans Lake, Fla. - YouTube


Good info. Thanks. Seems odd there’s be such a concentration in one place and that they’d be preserved at all, given how shallow they seem to be buried. I’d think Florida’s climate wouldn’t encourage preservation of wood, at least unless it was in some local anoxic environment, as I presume the dugout in the cenote you posted about earlier must have been. But there they are… there’s no arguing that. Was there ever a tradition of skin on frame boats or some equivalent to a birch bark from the south east? I’d think people living in such an environment would be strongly incentivized to go off shore for fishing and general travel. A dugout seems like it would be less than ideal in bigger waters, though I guess they were used in the Pacific north west - but they had really big trees to work with.

I have to say… a lot of days go by when I have to confess to not being properly thankful that logs around here don’t threaten to eat you when you step on them. I take too much for granted. Glad your friend got out of it OK - I think something like that would have me questioning just how badly I wanted a bass.

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I think the concentration is because there are only a few locations where the conditions allow preservations. There probably were sunk or otherwise lost wood items all over the place. But we only see the few that happened at a location with good conditions.

Same way we mostly have pottery to study old cultures. pottery just happens something that will last and is genuinely human product.

Skin on frame boats likely deteriorated. Or the tiny pieces are not easy to find and distinguish. When they get damaged, they fall apart. The dugout being massive probably got stuck in the mud and then covered by water. Maybe it was a mudslide that brought and held it that deep.

Honestly, it is a miracle someone seeing a piece of tree figures out it is a canoe and not just a tree that fell in. Who knows how many artefacts got destroyed by not knowing better.

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I don’t know of any skin on frame boats in FL’s past, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t. I think they would be more likely to deteriorate quickly than logs. Longleaf pine heart wood is high in terpenes, and rosin and cypress is rot resistant. Also, the muck is often soft on the bottoms of lakes over the sand. There is a river bottom forest found by divers a few years ago in the Gulf of Mexico that was submerged as sea level rose after the last ice age. A hurricane uncovered it. Lots of sinkholes in the state, and one in the Aucilla River in North FL has some of the most compelling evidence of humans being in the western hemisphere as early as 20,000 years ago. Here is another link on that.
Remarkable evidence of ancient humans found under Florida river | Reuters

My friend was a passionate hunter and fisherman. He had another gator come after a wounded duck he had waded out to get. That’s another story. When the first FL gator hunt was scheduled he applied and was issued a license. Gators 8 feet and under have the best hides and skin so bring the highest price. While gator hunting on Newnans Lake he harvested a 13 foot, 500 pound gator. A big one like he stepped on. He said that evened the score. He died in bed February 2020. I miss him. We were close., and did lots of stuff together over the years fishing and hunting.

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Like you, I wouldn’t expect a skin on frame (or anything akin to a birch bark) to survive in mud or anoxic water like a dugout, but there might have been other evidence of other kinds of watercraft - pictographs or images on clay or carved on shell, even oral tradition. When I think of what I’ve learned of the history and prehistory of the area I have to admit it isn’t much. Still, what little I’ve learned and recall about it is that most or all the Caribbean Islands visited by Columbus and other early explorers in the area were inhabited at the time of discovery. So the natives must have gotten there somehow and were making a living at least in part from the sea. At 14,000 years ago the last glaciers were well into retreat - so it would have been wet though perhaps not as wet as today. Can you imagine what inter-island travel or oceanic fishing would have been like in those dugouts that were pictured? Or for that matter anything short of dugouts made from monster Douglass Fir or Sitka Spruce available in the PNW?
I’d think even paddling to, say Cuba, in a modern sea kayak would be a bit of an iffy proposition even with compass and charts, much less in a dugout. I’m sure it can and has been done, but its no small thing now and would have been a statistically really bad bet back then.
So it makes me suspect there might be some other type of boat that was used that I don’t know about.

When Cuba and the US opened up a while back a group of sea kayaker actually did the crossing from Cuba to the Keys. It wasn’t easy. A dugout does float when flooded, and with outriggers or two boats tied together like a catamaran could be a very stable platform for paddling and/or sailing.

This maybe a little off topic, but I listen to a really great podcast titled “Tides of History” on the free NPR One app. It has been around for several years. My wife found it during the pandamnit and turned me on to it. I have long enjoyed learning about early man. So I started with his July 2, 2020 podcast titled “Bone, Stone and Genome. Understanding Humanity’s Deep Past.” He is taking it forward in time with each episode. He covers all the recent stuff that has been discovered, and the newest methods. He also interviews the scientist about their respective fields of study. He has covered what has been discovered in the Americas, among many other topics and all parts of the world. (Though not much has been said about boats unfortunately so far). Right now I am listening to the beginning of the state, in Mesopotamia, and Egypt, so it is coming into the written records from those times. I highly recommend it. It is very well done, information dense, and enlightening. I give it :+1: :+1:


I have friends in Panama that live on an island on the Caribbean side. All of his boats are, or were the last time I was down, dugouts. Down there they run them w/ little 15 horse motors. They also had a 12’ that I took out daily to paddle. Even made my own paddle as I was crazy about the ones available.

The first few times I was in the area even the water taxis were dugouts. That changed when the first fiberglass boats started showing up and then the tourist wouldn’t get in anything else.

I also remember in my youth in Florida hanging out w/ an old school Seminole that poled a dugout around the swamps.

Both places had the kind of trees needed. I’m a fan of dugouts and see no reason why anything else would have been needed in those areas.

Sea kayaks actually remind me of them alot, same kind of round bottom w/ good edging.


I know dugouts have, and still are, used all over; from Africa to SE Asia and throughout the Amazon. I’ve never used one myself, but I’m sure in skilled hands they’re a perfectly useful watercraft.
But I was unaware of any off shore use of them now, and I assume then. The Hawaiian outriggers are rib and plank, aren’t they? Maybe several dugouts rafted up or used with outriggers were routinely used off shore… I’ve just never heard of it.
And thanks Castoff - I’ll check out the podcasts.