Birchbark Canoes – Hafeman Boat Works – Fur Trade Era Bark Canoes
In the tradition of the natives and fur trade companies, Bill Hafeman started building birchbark canoes in 1921. In 1981 he handed down the tradition to his granddaughter, Christie and her husband Ray Bossel, Jr.
They still make bark canoes along the Big Fork River, an old fur trade route, by the same methods used hundreds of years ago without nails or glue. The only concession to modern times is a permanent polyurethane pitch to replace the old troublesome pitch.
Makers of Authentic Birchbark Canoes
In the last ten years they have made more than 150 authentic bark canoes and hope to pass the tradition on to their two sons in the future.
These canoes had birchbark as the outer skin; lightweight, rot resistant cedar for the inner framework, roots from the spruce to sew the canoe together, and sap from spruce or pine mixed with charcoal and bear grease to seal the seams and holes.
When the fur trade started around 1650, the natives taught the Europeans to make bark canoes to carry their freight. Canoes such as the ones pictured were made as long as 37 feet for use on the Great Lakes, and around 26 feet in length for use of hauling the freight on the rivers. The 37 footers held close to 3 1/2 tons and twelve men. The 26 footers held close to 2 ton of freight, six men, and all their supplies for six weeks. The fur trade period existed for over 250 years and the use of bark canoes is well documented.
Visit Hafeman Boatworks
Come visit our shop for a free tour. To get there from Grand Rapids in Northern Minnesota: take Hwy. 2 west to Deer River. Continue north on Hwy. 6 from Deer River, 30 miles, The shop is located on the south edge of the Bigfork River on the east side of Hwy. 6, across from County Hwy. 14.
For More Information call (218) 743-3709.