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.

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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.

bark canoes for sale, handmade birchbark canoes, bark canoesFor unknown centuries the natives of the North America used Birchbark canoes such as this for hunting, trapping, fishing, and traveling on the network of rivers where they lived.

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.

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Visit Hafeman Boatworks

bark canoes for sale, handmade birchbark canoes, hafeman boatworksCome 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.

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10 Responses to “Birchbark Canoes – Hafeman Boat Works – Fur Trade Era Bark Canoes”

  1. avatar Steve says:

    Now that is one of the neatest things I’ve seen in a long time. I’d love to own one of these. Do I get hold of you guys to get one of these or do I go direct to Hafeman?

  2. avatar admin says:

    @steve – Thanks for your interest! Again, please contact Forged in Time for more information.

  3. avatar Karen Greer says:

    I am looking for a decorative canoe to hang from our vaulted ceiling in our cabin. Can you help? I can spend $300-400.

  4. avatar Mark Wietecha says:

    Your canoes look great…do you have any other information you might send me on these? I’m in Atlanta, GA, so would have to get the boat down to me…how do you recommend this work? I’m in Duluth in a couple weeks…are you nearby? Many thanks — Mark

  5. Any chance that you may be able to make us tabletop Fur Trade Canoes similar to the larger ones on your site? We would use these as special promotional gift items. Would only need to be 9-12″ long and we would like our logo painted on them. If so, how much would it cost to order 20 of them to start? We are in Ontario Canada. Please respond as soon as you can. If you cannot make these smaller versions, can you recommend someone else? Looking for something unique to the Metis Voyageurs from this province. Thanks

  6. avatar philip says:

    is the chipewa canoe a faster morel than the freight

  7. avatar FRANK REINIER says:


  8. avatar Riana says:

    im doing a project 4 school on the fur trade and so i wanted 2 know alot about the birch bark canoes used by the voyaguers. Any info?

  9. avatar Jim says:

    These canoes look great. I am interested in getting one, do you have any more pictures of them? I am interested in a 10 foot canoe. I am in Toronto Canada.

  10. avatar Ron Foss says:

    It sure is good to see all Bill’s work is still getting recognition. I stopped in to visit him on a cross country bicycle trip I made through out northern Minnesota, back in 1983 I believe. He and his son in law were still busy making canoes for people all over the country. He taught me how it was done and I made a couple for myself. Don’t have them anymore but it sure was great to do it and admire the end result.

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