Canadian Canoe Museum– Part 1

August 18, 2014 at 12:11 am 2 comments

Back to our holidays in the Kawarthas in July.


We read about the museum in the Kawartha Visitor  2014 Summer Vacation Guide and right away it grabbed my interest—a museum about canoes. We weren’t about to find one of those in our community of southwestern Ontario. Curious, I persuaded my husband that we should go there the day after our trip to Lang Pioneer Village. So we set out for Peterborough to find this place and were delighted with the offerings there.


Who would have thought there were so many kinds of canoes?  I knew that native Canadians probably started the canoe making, but a canoe with a sail? Courting canoes with a phonograph on board?



A woman met us at the door and told us a bit about the museum and where to begin our tour. She also told us there was a student questionnaire that if we chose to answer, we would get a discount on anything we bought in the shop. We’d wait and see  how our time worked out.


Thus we began with the upper level and the whale hunters of Canada’s Pacific Coast.

DSCF7580The signs were large and easy  to read, often showing maps where the canoes were employed.



DSCF7581 A canoe with a sail on it. I hadn’t known there was such a thing.




DSCF7583My husband reading the sign by the Eagle Canoe made and used by the Haida




DSCF7582 I was impressed by the art work on the canoe and the paddles. They’re works of art. Mind you, it was a pretty large canoe. I don’t remember the exact length. Something like 50 feet or a bit longer.




Here’s a bit of history on the Haida and their life, including the canoes. They weren’t altogether friendly folks, when they raid and take prisoners.




DSCF7585An early birch bark canoe



This map and chart shows a few of the shapes of their bow profiles. The sign says, in part:

… their most distinguishing characteristics are bow profiles. … The condition of the water, whether flowing, tranquil, wave tossed or turbulent is reflected in the design of the bow that sets the canoes apart.


I found this intriguing and had never thought so much about its shape. Some of their information came from Cedar by Hilary Stewart, 1984, Douglas and McIntyre, used by permission. If a person was inclined to learn more, this would be a good source to consult.


We watched a video of native Canadians knitting the Cowichan sweater on Kuyper Island and learned that not all the sweaters sold in stores are hand knit. The women do it to keep up the tradition and as part of a way of life, but they find it an increasingly unprofitable venture as stores bring in machine-made sweaters and often the prices they are paid do not afford them a livelihood with the cost of yarn. Rather a dilemma for them.


The men used canoes to gather supplies they couldn’t get by land.




DSCF7590 Rackfuls of canoes, named and cataloged, for visitors to see the various kinds. I didn’t count the numbers of canoes, but there were aplenty of them.



DSCF7593 The canoe builders were craftsmen and incorporated designs.

“The making of canoes is an ancient art,” as one of the signs read, but the building continues today. Skilled model builders can be found in the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association. The museum’s desire is to recognize the builders and continuing the tradition.





Jen in the Presentation Area, where they hold workshops. She’s putting kits together for a workshop and she took time to explain some of  the programs they offer.  They teach classes to children too and how to preserve and add a collection number. One project was a shadow box. Thanks, Jen.




DSCF7598 A Mi’Kmaq Winter camp




DSCF7600Then the museum got into the canoes used for trade.




And one loaded with supplies for a journey. Where would the canoeist sit to paddle? Might they have just loaded it to show us what might be carried on a journey? Would a canoe be towed like a wagon?


DSCF7604Hands On Areas

Every so often there was a play area for children to act out the role of a trader or canoeist. This was a puppet theatre and it had puppets stacked on a pole that children could use.

DSCF7605Look at this work of art on a canoe.




DSCF7607and here was the canoe with the sail that I saw on a Trip Advisor recommendation.

As I looked at the sign behind it, a museum staff member said to me, “Farley Mowatt.”

I said, ” Ah, but that was the boat that wouldn’t float.”

He grinned, not expecting this answer.

By the way, I do recommend this place for families.


And here I’ll stop for the day. To be continued.

Photos by L. and C. Wilker. If you wish to use a photo, please ask.


Entry filed under: artists, arts, business, community, culture, environment, history, leadership, merchandising, photography, seasons, storytelling, travel in Canada, writing. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Diana  |  August 19, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Very fascinating. Thanks for sharing. My husband has always had a love affair with canoes. if we’re out driving [in the summer] and he suddenly rubber-necks and says, “Wow she’s gorgeous.” I know it’s not a woman he’s ogling… it’s a canoe tied on someone’s roof-rack. :D. He used to canoe quite a bit and I occasionally went with him. So your trip down canoe memory lane sparked a little trip down my memory lane.

    • 2. storygal  |  August 19, 2014 at 6:07 pm

      Hello Diana,

      Even though I have only canoed a few times in my life, I was interested in seeing the museum. There’s another post to follow. Stay tuned and thanks for commenting.


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