infoon wabasca canoes


New Member
well after many years I am going to return to a canoe , here in e wa st I have found a wabaska 16' anyone with info on these? I know they were produced by canadian first nation tribes I believe cree in the wabasco region of canada any help would be great .
thanx smitty
Wabasca Canoes

Greetings from Camrose Alberta! I can tell you a little bit about the Wabasca Canoe but others will know far more. I worked with the Bigstone Cree First Nation from 2002 to 2005...I was helping with some of their innovative health programs at the time. Wabasca is located about 4 hour drive north of Edmonton and is the traditional territory of the Bigstone Cree and they have 5 Reserves in the area. It's lovely forest/parkland country with nice lakes but, in addition to the work challenges, I really went to Wabasca to see if I could locate the Chestnut moulds that were rumoured to be there. Apparently the moulds were sold/donated to the band's Economic Development office after Chestnut went under but others will have more details. I later found out that the moulds were shipped off to places unknown long before I got there and I do hope they didn't end up in a bon-fire. Some of the Bigstone folks I worked with actually built those canoes and several recounted their time in the shop working with mouthfulls of canoe tacks! In terms of wood used, one chap mentioned the boats were made of local tamarack but I don't know whether this is true...northern Alberta has a lot of pine, spruce, poplar and birch so tamarack is a definite possibility: We don't have cedar in the area. They apparently made a number of boats including canoes and freighter-style boats intended for northern customers and every now and then you see them on the WCHA site. Other members of WCHA will be able to provide more details.

For more info on the Bigstone Cree and the Wabasca area, check out their website and hopefully it'll contribute to your own paddling enjoyment. Cheers,
Every Wabasca canoe that I have seen and worked on had white cedar ribs, red cedar planking, Oak gunnels, and maple decks and thwarts, and seats.

They were all well made.
In 1972 Jamie Thompson drove across the country from Vancouver in a 1959 Volkswagen microbus with no heater in January to try and get a job at Chestnut Canoe in Fredricton, NB. He left with the spring thaw to go canoeing and the following autumn he started building canoes at Langford on Lake of Bays, ONT.
After one year he returned to Alberta with his bride and researched and built the first York boat at Fort Edmonton. In the evenings he built a 16' canoe mould based on the Chestnut Cruiser but deeper. He and his young family moved to the hamlet of Hairy Hill where they could afford to set up a small shop and where he and a partner, Gary Shell, built about 120 canoes with sitka spruce ribs and red cedar planking.
In 1979 Jamie was invited to run a three month course in building wood and canvas canoes for the people of the Cree community of Wabasca by the provincial government. The Bigstone Band was not involved in funding this initiative. The course led to an Edmonton crane builder, Ellis Knapp, funding the Wabasca Canoe Co. as a business.
A large shop was built and between 20 - 50 people were trained. Twenty people worked full-time in the shop. Twenty-five moulds were bought from the defunct Chestnut Canoe Company and brought to Wabasca. About 300 canoes from eight feet to twenty-five feet were built over the next two years. A source of white cedar was found in Quebec and from then on the hulls were built with that wood. The 1983 world oil price crash brought everything to a halt and dried up the funding. The moulds and equipment were pulled out of Wabasca and an Ontario buyer purchased all the moulds. Jamie then directed his energy into working with the community to build a 5000 sq. feet log community recreation centre. He and his family returned to Edmonton in 1987. I know all this because I am his wife.