Chattooga Canoe Discovery

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historic Canoe Discovered in the chattooga

Word has gotten out about some exciting news:  A second historic wooden dugout canoe was recently found in the Chattooga River!

Many of you may recall the first dugout canoe that was recovered from the Chattooga in 2004; this 31′ 5″ boat, carbon dated to the 1700s and determined to be of Native American origin, can now be seen at the Oconee History Museum in Walhalla, SC. Watch “The Great Canoe Rescue” about the effort on their website.

The origin of this latest canoe, whether built by Native Americans or early European settlers, is difficult to determine. Archaeologists at the University of South Carolina estimate the boat could be 200-250 years old, but we hope radiocarbon dating will help provide further insight. Hatchet or ax marks indicate it was constructed after the arrival of European settlers, and a single square nail was found in one end. As we work to piece together clues of its history, we are collaborating with the SC Institute of Archaeology & Anthropology (SCIAA) and reaching out to the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.

The Chattooga Conservancy is excited to be leading the canoe extraction effort, in coordination with the SCIAA and the U.S. Forest Service (FS), to preserve this unique piece of history. A group of paddlers floating the river noticed the canoe and notified Chattooga Conservancy staff last fall. After visiting the site, we determined it was indeed an old canoe!

We carefully assessed removal options with the SCIAA and FS, then got to work constructing a protective cradle for the canoe to be carried in. The first stage of the canoe recovery process began last week. With an incredible group of volunteers who rallied together on short notice, we carried the cradle through difficult terrain and across the river, where we then unpinned the canoe and secured it into the cradle. We hoped to begin bringing the canoe out of the river corridor sometime this week, but the next stages—pulling it up steep slopes and across the river—require additional work and logistics. We’re looking ahead to schedule this as soon as possible.

We have approached numerous organizations in South Carolina and Georgia during the last few months, and the SCIAA is now negotiating with a local entity as a candidate to publicly display the canoe.

Huge thanks to all who have participated in this recovery effort so far! We’ll follow up soon with phase 2!

Read more: The State: Discovery of historic canoe sparks recovery effort in SC