Dugout Canoes (Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail)

Native man in canoe on Columbia River
Native man with dugout canoe, Celilo, Columbia River, 1897

Library of Congress

During the Expedition’s return trip in late April 1806, in the area where the Snake River meets the Columbia, the seven or eight dugout canoes that carried the men and their limited cargo from Fort Clatsop were left behind and the men returned to traveling by foot and horseback.

Hoping the canoes would have some trading value, the men were probably disappointed when none of the Indians would offer much for them. As John Ordway wrote in his journal, “the Indians would not give us any thing worth mentioning for our canoes So we Split & burnt one of them this evening.”

The dugouts were probably about 30 feet long and up to three feet wide, with a capacity of two to three tons. Empty, the canoes may have weighed as much as one ton.

Dugout canoes continued to be valuable in the lives of the Indians of the northwest throughout history, as proven by this photo from the late 19th century.

Source: The Lewis and Clark Journals

Last updated: April 16, 2018