Jonboat Building Demonstration

Jonboat exhibit
A jonboat begins to take shape...

April 29, and May 6, 2007 from 2:00pm to 7:00 pm at Big Spring.

Old Traditions still live in the Ozarks

The wooden johnboat has been around for a long time. No one knows for sure when the first johnboat was built or where it got it's name, though it is indisputable agreed that it served the early settlers in this region well, sustaining their daily lifeway of river trade, transportation and fishing activities along the Current River.

A long, narrow flat bottomed boat, 22 to 26 feet long, was made from large pine planks and once a familiar sight because they were commonly used on Ozark streams. They were reliable and built to easily navigate swift flowing narrow streams. Often, the type of boat built depended on the available materials at hand and the skill of the maker.

Long time wood craftsman and johnboat builder, Don Foerster is determined to keep this old boat building tradition alive. Learning this skill from a Carter County resident Bob Shockley in the 1970's, Don is currently teaching young apprentice Nathan Dazey of Van Buren, Missouri, the craft of making the boats, a style of boat used in the 1920's and 1930's, passing along generations of boat building knowledge to a younger generation. As long as our boat builders live and there are young men like Nathan Dazey to learn the basic design and structure, the graceful old time wooden johnboat will continue to be made and will be seen on the Current River.

Learn more about the design, construction and use of the Ozark johnboat on Sunday afternoons, April 29 and May 6 from 2:00 pm until 7:00 pm at Big Spring, four miles south of Van Buren on State Route 103. Don and Nathan will demonstrate their skills at the old boat building shed. The boat will have its final assembly during the Ozark Heritage Days, June 8 & 9, 2007.

This program is sponsored by the Missouri Folk Arts Program and the National Park Service, Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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P.O. Box 490
Van Buren, MO 63965


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