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The Scarcity of Canoe Birch

Discussion in 'Birchbarks, Dugouts and Indigenous Craft' started by tostig, Nov 11, 2007.

  1. tostig

    tostig Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Speak to any birch bark canoe maker and he'll tell you how it is becoming harder and harder to find good bark.

    The obvious reason is that the low hanging fruit has been picked.

    However, this observation begs a question since today there are not alot of birchbark canoe makers as compared to 400 years ago when birchbark canoes were the typical mode of transportation near rivers and lakes.

    So it must have been perpetually difficult to find good birch bark.
  2. HarryA

    HarryA woodwrecker

    Sacarity of Canoe Birch

    given (from

    Canada - "It has an area of 9,984,670 sq km (3,855,103
    sq mi), of which 7.6 percent or 755,180 sq km
    (291,577 sq mi) is covered by fresh water such
    as rivers and lakes, including part of the
    Great Lakes."

    So about (3.8 - .3) 3.5 million square miles is land;
    assume about one half of that supports canoe birch bark.
    We get 1.75 million square miles of birch bark.

    Assume one square mile would product one good
    tree every 100 years we get....
    hmmm...lets see get out the old slide rule here..
    put the cursor over...

    okay so we have:

    1,750,000 square miles ........1 tree
    --------------------- * ---------- = 17,500 canoes per year
    1 square mile .................100 years

    even if off by 50% thats a lot of canoes;
    that should have kept them in canoes?
  3. dboles

    dboles LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Factor out Western Canada west of the Rockies.For some reason the western birch doesnt work well for canoe work.A few fur traders journals mention this fact Too bad too as I see wonderfully large trunked clear barked trees.
  4. OP

    tostig Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Impressive. That's the same kind of calculation cosmologists use to guess at the number of life-friendly planets/stars in the universe.
  5. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    Birch-friendly Planets

    Can we also predict the number of planets in the universe where we're likely to find appropriate birch? (As I recall, Captain Kirk had to return to Earth when he wanted to go camping in the woods...)
  6. HarryA

    HarryA woodwrecker

    birch bark

    oh darn! tostig is to smart for me.

    For a map of bark distribution see: 0309.jpg

    this is from Jay B Parsons'
    "The chippewa birch-bark canoe: A modern construction method"

    I am still trying to contact him; I believe he is in NORCROSS, GA
    If anyone down that way can find me info on contacting him I
    would apprecitate it. I would like to put this publication on line.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2007
  7. beaver

    beaver Birchbark CanoeingBuilder

    Gathering bark

    Back in 1947; Bob Pine; Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe canoe builder remembers old timers bringing along a woodchuck tail to bring them good luck when searching for canoe birch.
    They tested 50 some trees by cutting off samples with an axe. Their comments were "Dead" or "Split" or "Too crooked" or "Branches" or "Too old" or "Too thin" or "Too brittle!

    Attached Files:

  8. Blue Viking

    Blue Viking Wooden Canoe Maniac

    Thought I would jump in here and throw in a "plug" for Chuck Harris who is a birchbark canoe builder in the Millinocket area of Maine....A friend of his did a 65 picture documentary of how he makes them from standing tree to paddling one with his dog...Cant figure how to get it on here but go to ...........If it doesnt, go to in your search engine and it has a sub category about the canoes.......worth looking at the pictures...professionally taken!B]
  9. Blue Viking

    Blue Viking Wooden Canoe Maniac

  10. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?


    "he makes them from standing tree to paddling one with his dog"

    who said, "outside of a dog, a canoe is man's best friend, inside a dog it's too dark to go canoeing."?

    Every dog I have taken canoeing seemed to enjoy it AND they did not know they could not walk on water, until they stepped out of the canoe. Each dog did that one time. After that they stayed in the canoe. A lab would probably know better than a Boxer and a lapdog mutt. As I drive the roads I am always on the lookout for a suitable tree. But I have found none. They must be hiding further back in the woods, way back. I know of one tree on the other side of a small mountain in western U.P. that I think would be a good one for a canoe some day.
  11. beaver

    beaver Birchbark CanoeingBuilder

    Keep your eye on that tree Dave. Now that I know its there somewhere on the other side of a small mountain in the Western U.P. I may have to come hunting for it some day bringing along my woodchuck tail for good luck eh.;)
  12. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    Hi Ferdy,

    I'd be happy to take you right to it. I hope to go there in the summer '08and plan on a visit next November. I will go visit it and mention you.
  13. Blue Viking

    Blue Viking Wooden Canoe Maniac

    Birch Trees!

    Funny thing about those trees!....They pop up when you least expect to see them....took a ride today from Bethel Maine to Gorham NH on Rte #2 and saw a section of the Road that must have been 5 miles long with trees big enuf around to yield all the bark a canoe builder could use in 10 years....what a shame its not closer to you guys
  14. joco

    joco Curious about Wooden Canoes


    I am frome ottawa region and have a cottage, in maniwaki.
    there some good builder off birch canoe up there.

    baught a cople off book frome that subject...very interesthing stuff .

    would love to paddle one ''one day'' must be a real experience.

  15. Denis M. Kallery

    Denis M. Kallery Passed Away July 3, 2012 In Memoriam

    A while back our friend Ferdy Goode contacted Kathy Klos and me. He had finished his 60th Birch bark, and he asked if we would like to go to his place to paddle it. We were and are very honored by his invitation. I am approaching my 65 birthday and had for a very many years hoped as you state "to paddle a bb one time" We went to a beautiful little lake nearby Ferdy's house and both Kathy and I were able to paddle this absolutely beautiful and wonderfully crafted little canoe. It was like sitting in a leaf riding on the water. The thrill of a lifetime!! We are forever grateful to Ferdy for that lasting memory. :D Denis
  16. joco

    joco Curious about Wooden Canoes

    hope you did take some pictures..;) .

    pictures are good memory reminder to.

    if not still have the pictures and feeling in your head.:) .

    must be a blast.

    i did meeth the big chef off algonquin a big time barch canaoe name is comanda.if anyone off you no him.

    he those hang around my father cousin....that indian chef is the real thing.

  17. joco

    joco Curious about Wooden Canoes

    soory for my bad english....i am french.:eek: .

  18. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    Joco-- It's easy enough to understand you... no need to apologize. I'll post some pictures Denis took of our birch bark paddling adventure. The canoe is Ferdy's 60th birch bark-- a 12 footer with quillwork and etching.


    Attached Files:

  19. Blue Viking

    Blue Viking Wooden Canoe Maniac

    Hi; I agree with Denis............NO NEED TO APOLOGIZE;) If you go to the following site......... on canoes on the home page. There are 65 photos of CHUCK in Millinocket area of Maine, from selecting the tree,cutting and stripping, building and paddling his EXQUISITE craftsmanship. I am going there this spring to learn the art of selecting and using Spruce Roots for bindings!..... and paddling one of his creations ...ENJOY!
  20. bob goeckel

    bob goeckel Wooden Canoe Maniac

    you notice none of us is trying to speak french. my french is so bad it sounds like english.:eek
    and i'm part french-canadian.

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