War Canoe Launching.....paddling info needed

Dave Osborn

Below is the press release for the launching of a war canoe. I led a small group of volunteers for a couple of hours a week for the last year to complete the restoration the 1926 25 footer...... Check it out. If you are in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, please join us for this event!!

As far as steering the beast, am I wrong to suspect that it is more like team steering. Team port and team starboard? Or does the coxswain "rudder"?Having never paddled a war canoe, I'm hoping some of you may be able to share tips and tricks on how to steer the beast on the small lake that we are launching on!


1926 War Canoe to Again Grace Northwoods Waters

Thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers, friends of the North Lakeland Discovery Center in Manitowish Waters Wisconsin are about to re-launch a restored 1926 wood and canvas canoe that once plied local waters. Built in 1926 for a camp on Lake Tomahawk, the canoe had a long and circuitous journey on its way to Manitowish Waters where it lay for many years in storage, before the decision was made to bring it back to its former glory.

Under the knowledgeable guidance of restoration expert Dave Osborn, a small but dedicated group of Discovery Center volunteers assembled once a week throughout last summer, fall and winter to work on restoration of the 25 foot, vintage Old Town.

“Perhaps as exciting as the loving restoration completed by our volunteers, is the historic connection of the craft to this area” stated Discovery Center Executive Director, Bruce Greenhill. “As we were nearing completion of the restoration we included an item in our newsletter asking our members to suggest a name for the craft - something that evoked a connection to the lakes and woods, or spoke of team spirit and a sense of community”. Inspection of the build record revealed the canoe was built for and sold to Camp Strongheart in 1926. “We knew immediately that would be the name by which our canoe would be known” explained Greenhill.

With room for 8-10 adults, Strongheart is sure to become a well-used and much loved addition to the Discovery Center's already-outstanding program resources.

Established by Nathan Herzog in the mid 20s, Camp Strongheart for Boys was located on the north shore of Lake Tomahawk on a site that is now occupied by Indian Shores Campground. Many of the original camp buildings are still in use.

An official launch event and maiden voyage of Strongheart will take place at the Discovery Center on Thursday June 25, 2009, commencing at 2:30 pm. The public are invited to attend. A photographic display of the project will enable visitors to learn a little about the restoration process, then all can cheer the volunteers as they paddle around Statehouse Lake. Refreshments will be served and an original song written to commemorate the event will be performed. Canoe rides will be offered. Donations to help defray the cost of refreshments will be appreciated.

Located on the site of a former Youth Conservation Corps camp on Hwy W in Manitowish Waters, the North Lakeland Discovery Center is a community-based environmental education center promoting stewardship of the region’s natural and cultural resources.

Questions may be directed to Bruce Greenhill at 715.543.2085 or bruce@discoverycenter.net.

Boulder Junction Chamber of Commerce
Musky Capital of the World

Microsoft brings you a new way to search the web. Try Bing™ now

Hotmail® has ever-growing storage! Don’t worry about storage limits. Check it out.
Last edited:
Hi Dave

Interesting question. I paddled a war canoe only once. The stern man had good rudder control. I found that a strong bow draw could have significant effect as well. I would suggest that the bow paddler/s be proficient with the bow draw. The pry, on the other hand may pull the paddler out of the boat or break the paddle. And that would be fun to see too. Perhaps some re-enacters will chime in on their experiences with the fur trade canoes.
[Edit; I'm not sure why this got posted 3 times. I managed to delete one, both others remain for some reason beyond me.

Beasts indeed!
I have sterned a half dozen different "war" or "voyageur" canoes with up to 22 paddlers. Weight and weight distribution is a very important consideration.

If the hulls are deformed from damage and repairs, they can be finicky, with a tendancy to track to one side or the other -which can take a lot of effort to for the sternperson to correct. Make sure you have a large bladed paddle, and a spare.

And you have to be very aware of the relative direction of heavy waves and/or wakes. As long as the paddler's don't over-react to these, they won't threaten a tip, but they can skew you sideways a lot.

Weight and forward momentum can affect performance, especially stopping distance!

A long canoe travels fast though. A few years ago, on National Heritage Rivers Day (Canada), we paddled 3 twenty-six foot canoes from the western end of Lake Ontario to the Humber River in Toronto in less than a day. That is moving!

If time allows, practice and familiarize all with the paddling, movement and control.

And wear voyageur sashes!
Last edited:
In the 34foot Voyageur canoes that my local Forest Preserve District uses, we have trained bow & stern paddlers ("Avant" & "Gouvernail"), who communicate with each other. The stern gets away with a lot of ruddering, & giving orders to the bow and the milieux. The bow person does a fair amount of draw & cross-draw strokes, as needed. They don't do pries any more, after I had to repair three of the paddles -- two were just glued back together & put a 'glass sheathe around them, the 3rd needed a whole new top end, scarf joint, & 'glass sheathe.

With a capable crew, paddling in unison, you can make 6knots easily. It's a lot of fun!

Cheers indeed!
War Canoe

Dave, you can't just leave us all hanging. Do you have any pictures of this War Canoe?


A friend is making a video presentation and I'll post the link to that once it is completed. Until then, here are a couple of photos.....


  • wc warcanoe.jpg
    wc warcanoe.jpg
    7.1 KB · Views: 408
  • w.canoe.jpg
    4.9 KB · Views: 419
Very cool! I am going to be doing the same sort of thing out here in NV with a 1945 25' war canoe. My plan is to have a local boyscout troop help with the restoration, and then I am donating the canoe to the local boy scout base which is on a lake up by Susanville CA. Inspirational video!
There's a nice little museum in Wolfboro, NH http://www.nhbm.org/museumspon.html that has a canoe day every couple of years and one event is pulling a young waterskiier behind a war canoe. They use an Old Town like yours with 5 thwarts and some strong young men. Getting the skiier up onto the surface is tough, but once she is up they keep her going, albeit with a bit of a jerky motion corresponding to the strokes. Making the wide turn and bringing her back to shore is too much for the paddlers so the drop her, turn around and do it once again. Lot's of tired men and women - that's why God made beer...
enjoyed the post

I was up for two hours last night waiting for dial up to down load the presentation. Missed the last minute or so.

So Dave, How did it handle? What was it like?
Hi Dave!
It handled like I thought. A difficult barge to turn, but I think with paddlers that worked together and figured out how strokes on each side made the canoe react, it could be a lot easier. The bowman needs to be strong as well. (thanks Ferdy!!) We didn't crash into the pier or run a-muck, so it was a successful launch. Hopefully there will be as much care given to the canoe now as the Discovery Center puts it into it's programs.
It was a fun day. Local media really played it up on the 10:00 news.

There is a "sister canoe" to this one (25'er as well), just a couple of serial numbers apart hanging in the shed there, too. It may be a project for another time. Unfortunately it has had the evil fiberglass applied to it.
Beautiful day here in da nortwoods!!
WEll Done

I figured that with you at the stern and Ferd in the bow no bad thing could happen to it. Now, about that twin sister---.
Hey Dave (O),

What are th echances you took pics of the decks on the war canoe? I am getting one, as I mentioned, and it needs decks. I have pics of a couple of different styles, but not good ones. Can you help out?

Here is the best I have without going to where the canoe is stored.
Hope it helps.


  • wardeck.jpg
    742.1 KB · Views: 400