Volunteers were waiting at the Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum in Spooner last Friday May 17 for the expected arrival of an antique Old Town “War Canoe.” It would take a number of people to move this large craft, built to be paddled by as many as ten people at a time, so those volunteers would be needed when the canoe arrived.
“War Canoe,” or the racing of large canoes with eight to ten paddlers, was a popular sporting activity for canoe clubs throughout the latter part of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth centuries, especially in Canada. This particular canoe is owned by Mike Cichanowski, founder and CEO of Wenona Canoes, and is being lent to the museum for the summer of 2019. The canoe will reside in the museum canoe shop to undergo a summer’s long restoration project while being available for viewing by the visiting public.
The canoe arrived about 2:15 PM, and there was plenty of help on hand to unload it from a specially modified trailer, move it indoors, unwrap it from its shrink wrapped protection, and gawk at this nearly 100 year old marvel.
A quick hunt for the serial number etched inside the bow and a check on computer disc of Old Town build records revealed that boat was built and sold in 1925. A check with a tape measure proved the length to be an astonishing twenty-five feet.
The canoe has arrived in Spooner in time for the museum’s opening day event this Saturday May 25th, Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Day. This free annual event marks the season opening of the museum and will include museum tours and open house in the museum exhibit hall, ongoing activities and demonstrations in the canoe workshop, live music and food and beverage in the beer garden, a silent auction and canoe raffle, and of course the annual WCHM Canoe & Wooden Boat Show in the street in front of this former grain elevator turned museum.
Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Day is a free event in Spooner produced by the WCHM each year on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend from 10 am to 4 pm.