Early European explorers and settlers to Virginia found that the Indigenous population had a successful watercraft of their own: the dugout canoe. Canoes were laboriously crafted from a single log. A fire was allowed to slowly burn into the wood and the accrued char was scraped away using a stone or oyster shell. The resulting vessel was durable, stable, and capable of carrying between 10 and 20 people.
The Mariners’ Museum and Park holds a single colonial-era canoe. And it’s pretty interesting. The artifact was discovered by fishermen in Powhatan Creek (James City County) in 1963 and housed at Jamestown Festival Park until it was gifted to the Museum in 1969. Composed of three major fragments, the canoe would have originally been over 26 feet in length with a width of around 25 inches. The wood is pine and an approximate count of the annual growth rings would have put the source tree at more than 200 years old.