Pacific Northwest Canoes
Masterfully designed canoe
A canoe or Canadian canoe is a small narrow boat, typically human-powered, though it may also be powered by sails or small electric or gas motors. Canoes are usually pointed at both bow and stern and are normally open on top, but can be decked over A canoe (North American English) or Canadian...

of many sizes and forms were made on the Pacific Northwest
Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest is a region in northwestern North America, bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west and, loosely, by the Rocky Mountains on the east. Definitions of the region vary and there is no commonly agreed upon boundary, even among Pacific Northwesterners. A common concept of the...

coast of North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

. They were the main form of transportation for the indigenous people of the area
Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast
The Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, their descendants, and many ethnic groups who identify with those historical peoples. They are now situated within the Canadian Province of British Columbia and the U.S...

 until long after European colonisation
European colonization of the Americas
The start of the European colonization of the Americas is typically dated to 1492. The first Europeans to reach the Americas were the Vikings during the 11th century, who established several colonies in Greenland and one short-lived settlement in present day Newfoundland...

. In recent years, a few have been built.


The canoes are made by carving from solid logs
Logging is the cutting, skidding, on-site processing, and loading of trees or logs onto trucks.In forestry, the term logging is sometimes used in a narrow sense concerning the logistics of moving wood from the stump to somewhere outside the forest, usually a sawmill or a lumber yard...

, usually of red cedar but in some areas of Sitka spruce
Sitka Spruce
Picea sitchensis, the Sitka Spruce, is a large coniferous evergreen tree growing to 50–70 m tall, exceptionally to 95 m tall, and with a trunk diameter of up to 5 m, exceptionally to 6–7 m diameter...

 or cottonwood. Typically these boats were widened beyond the original diameter of the log by the spreading of the steam-softened sides. Spreading does more than widen the canoe; it introduces major changes of form throughout the hull
Hull (watercraft)
A hull is the watertight body of a ship or boat. Above the hull is the superstructure and/or deckhouse, where present. The line where the hull meets the water surface is called the waterline.The structure of the hull varies depending on the vessel type...

 which the canoemaker must anticipate in carving the log. The straight and level gunwale
The gunwale is a nautical term describing the top edge of the side of a boat.Wale is the same word as the skin injury, a wheal, which, too, forms a ridge. Originally the gunwale was the "Gun ridge" on a sailing warship. This represented the strengthening wale or structural band added to the design...

s bend smoothly out and down, while the ends rise, forming a graceful sheer and transforming a rigidly narrow, hollow trough into an elegant watercraft.

In order to spread without splitting, the walls of the hull are made remarkably thin. When the hull is completely carved, water is poured into it to a depth of six inches or so, and heated to boiling with red-hot rocks. The resulting steam is confined by covering the open hull with mats. The hot rocks are replaced as needed to keep the water at a boil. The softened sides, heated through by the steam inside and fires outside, begin to move outward, aided by the weight of water and rocks pressing down in the centre. Spreading sticks are tapped into place between the gunwhales, and are moved towards the ends and increased in length in the centre as the sides flare outward. When the planned beam and form are reached, the canoe is allowed to cool, the water is removed, and the thwart
A thwart is a strut placed crosswise in a ship or boat, to brace it crosswise.In rowboats it can also serve as a seat for a rower....

s, bow
Bow (ship)
The bow is a nautical term that refers to the forward part of the hull of a ship or boat, the point that is most forward when the vessel is underway. Both of the adjectives fore and forward mean towards the bow...

 and stern
The stern is the rear or aft-most part of a ship or boat, technically defined as the area built up over the sternpost, extending upwards from the counter rail to the taffrail. The stern lies opposite of the bow, the foremost part of a ship. Originally, the term only referred to the aft port section...

 blocks, and gunwhale caps are fitted and fastened in place.

Large travelling and war canoes were often painted with designs associated with the names of the canoes or the crests
Crest (heraldry)
A crest is a component of an heraldic display, so called because it stands on top of a helmet, as the crest of a jay stands on the bird's head....

 of the owners.


The canoes were used for transport up and down the coast. They were used for trade, as war canoe
War Canoe
A war canoe is a watercraft of the canoe type designed and outfitted for warfare, and which is found in various forms in many world cultures. In modern times, such designs have become adapted as a sport, and "war canoe" can mean a type of flatwater racing canoe.-War canoes as sport:War canoe is...

s, and in competitions. Emily Carr
Emily Carr
Emily Carr was a Canadian artist and writer heavily inspired by the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. One of the first painters in Canada to adopt a post-impressionist painting style, Carr did not receive widespread recognition for her work until later in her life...

, who grew up in the early days of Victoria, British Columbia
Victoria, British Columbia
Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, Canada and is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island off Canada's Pacific coast. The city has a population of about 78,000 within the metropolitan area of Greater Victoria, which has a population of 360,063, the 15th most populous Canadian...

, describes a regatta
A regatta is a series of boat races. The term typically describes racing events of rowed or sailed water craft, although some powerboat race series are also called regattas...

 in which the Indian races were the highlight. The canoes, of ten paddlers and a steersman acting as cox
- People :*Cox , for information on the origins of the family name and a list of people with the name- Places :* Cox, Alicante, Spain* Cox, Florida, United States* Cox, Haute-Garonne, France* Cox Island, Nunavut, Canada...

, "flash[ed] through their races like running fire." The Kloochman ("wife" in Chinook Jargon
Chinook Jargon
Chinook Jargon originated as a pidgin trade language of the Pacific Northwest, and spread during the 19th century from the lower Columbia River, first to other areas in modern Oregon and Washington, then British Columbia and as far as Alaska, sometimes taking on characteristics of a creole language...

) was "an even grander race" than the men's, with the women giving "every scrap of themselves to the canoe", working in complete unity

Historical examples

The Haida of the Queen Charlotte Islands
Queen Charlotte Islands
Haida Gwaii , formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands, is an archipelago on the North Coast of British Columbia, Canada. Haida Gwaii consists of two main islands: Graham Island in the north, and Moresby Island in the south, along with approximately 150 smaller islands with a total landmass of...

 reputedly made the biggest ones - some 60 feet (18 metres) long.

Modern examples

n 1937 Betty Lowman Carey
Betty Lowman Carey
Betty Lowman Carey became the first woman to singlehandedly row the Inside Passage of British Columbia in 1937. At the age of 22, having graduated from the University of Washington, she traveled in a traditional dugout canoe converted to include oars and named in an acronym of her brothers first...

 (born July 31, 1914) became the first woman to singlehandedly row the Inside Passage
Inside Passage
The Inside Passage is a coastal route for oceangoing vessels along a network of passages which weave through the islands on the Pacific coast of North America. The route extends from southeastern Alaska, in the United States, through western British Columbia, in Canada, to northwestern Washington...

 of British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

 n a dugout canoe.
In 1978 Geordie Tocher and two companions sailed a 3½ ton, 40 foot (12 metre) dugout canoe (the "Orenda II"), made of Douglas Fir, and based on Haida designs (but with sails), from Vancouver
Vancouver is a coastal seaport city on the mainland of British Columbia, Canada. It is the hub of Greater Vancouver, which, with over 2.3 million residents, is the third most populous metropolitan area in the country,...

, Canada to Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

to add credibility to stories that the Haida had travelled to Hawaii in ancient times. Altogether they travelled some 4,500 miles (7,242 km) after two months at sea.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.