Carry board ???

Louis Michaud

LOVES Wooden Canoes
Mentioned in the book "Survival of the Bark Canoe": carry board.
Looked around the net and could not find anything. Anybody has a picture, description, made one ?


Louis Michaud
Louis Michaud said:
Mentioned in the book "Survival of the Bark Canoe": carry board.
Looked around the net and could not find anything. Anybody has a picture, description, made one ?


Louis Michaud

Salut Louis,
I wonder if this refers to what we call a "carry bar", an extra bar (about 1"x1") added to a canoe an arms length ahead of the centre thwart. This allows the portageur to reach forward with one arm in order to balance and steady the canoe, rather than using both arms to hold the gunnels.
Having a carry bar also facilitates more comfortable long carries as you can alternate arms and even change the position of the weight (canoe) on the shoulders over a wider range of the shoulders rather than limiting the carry position closer to the centre ie. back of the neck.
Does not sound like it. Here's from the book page 71:

"The carry board, a flat piece of cedar, a modified shingle, will place weight on the back of his head and the middle of his shoulders. Thoreau described a carry board in The Maine Woods, and Henri has made this one from Thoreau's description."

I don't have Thoreau's book. The carry board seems to be used with a tumpline.

Louis Michaud
yes, I think it is used instead of the centre-thwart and has 4 gaps to hold the tumpline in place.
I find this in one of Jerry Stelmoks Millennium sojourner canoes.


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Reinforcing Board

The reinforcing bar in this bark canoe built by Bob Pine in Lac Du Flambeau in1947 was made from cedar.

Robert Ritzenthaler; Milwaukee Public Museum-------"The portaging of the canoe was done with the aid of a tumpline, 2 paddles, and a 3 foot cedar board. The board was tied across the gunwales above the center thwart, and the ends of the paddles were tied with the tumpline thongs between the thwart and board, with the blade ends tied onto the next thwart".

"The weight of the canoe is borne on the shoulders on which the paddles rest, and by the tumpline on the head".

beaver/Ferdy G.


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What is the source of those pictures of the carry board? Are they from one of Robert Ritzenthaler's books or are they from the Milwaukee Museum's collections? I would like to be able to see the originals if they are available.
It is always fascinating to me how an inquiry like this can open up such an window on the use and history of canoes, especially native techniques.
Mark Z.
From the description of the "carry board", it really sounds like a yoke.

It could also be the reinforcing bar that is lashed over top of the thwarts. In a birchbark canoe, the thwarts are mortised into the gunnels, and a bar lashed over top will add strength to this joint for heavier canoes.

The shaped thwart that is show from Jerry's canoe is very traditional, in fact it is quite ubiquitous on bark canoes, where paddles would be lashed to the center thwart for portaging. Its still a viable solution, I have made and installed several.

John Jennings book on Adney's bark canoe models shows a wealth of information.
This is great. I've been wanting to rig up a tumpline to carry the canoes for quite a while but never could figure out the rigging for it.
I have been portaging using tumplines on my bags and barrels for a long time and find it the best method for me.
Living in the Milwaukee area, I too would like to access the original pics to see if I can completely figure out the riggings.
Any more info from MPM would be good.
Did not get a reply from Mr. Vaillancourt, so I had to wait until I had a copy of the book: The Maine Woods by Henry D. Thoreau. It's not a reinforcing thwart used in birchbark canoes. It's really a carry-board/back-rest. It does not seem very comfortable and I would not like to be tied up this way to a 65 lbs w/c canoe on a difficult carry...
So, here's the description from page 255. Thoreau's guide is a Penobscot (Abenaki ?): Joe Polis. The trip occured in 1857. Pictures are mandatory if you make a carry board and try it out!

"He prepared his canoe for carrying in this wise. He took a cedar shingle or splint eighteen inches long and four or five wide, rounded at one end, that the corners might not be in the way, and tied it with cedar bark by two holes made midway, near the edge on each side, to the middle cross-bar of the canoe. When the canoe was lifted upon his head bottom up, this shingle, with its rounded end uppermost, distributed the weight over his shoulders and head, while a band of cedar-bark, tied to the cross-bar on each side of the shingle, passed round his breast, and another longer one, outside of the last, round his forehead; also a hand on each side-rail served to steer the canoe and keep it from rocking. He thus carried it with his shoulders, head, breast, forehead, and both hands, as if the upper part of his body were all one hand to clasp and hold it. If you know of a better way, I should like to hear of it. ... The shingle remained tied to the cross-bar throughout the voyage, was always ready for the carries, and also served to protect the back of one passenger."


Louis Michaud
I came across this description of a carry board many years ago and have never been able to figure it out. While I like tumplines, I can't see how, once you've got the canoe on your shoulders, you then get a hand or two hands free to arrange a tumpline on your head. My guess is the tumpline is going to get all tangled up in the toss, as pack tumplines do.

So maybe this requires some experimentation to get figured out.