Festival Features St. Croix’s Canoe Heritage

Wooden canoe includes free events and paddle trip in the Shell Lake area August 16-17.




2 minute read

Mike Bartz and his canoe companion.
Mike Bartz paddles his restored wood-canvas Old Town canoe on the St. Croix River. (Greg Seitz, St. Croix 360)

Wood canoes and the people who build, restore and paddle them will spend this weekend in St. Croix River country.

For the first time ever, the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association is holding a regional assembly in Wisconsin. The Great Lakes assembly is being co-hosted in Shell Lake with the Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum. It is free and open to the public.

Local paddler and canoe-builder Mike Bartz said the Shell Lake area is the perfect spot for the party, between its great canoe routes and its long and rich history.

“This area’s canoe tradition include prehistoric paddlers, the Ojibwe, the fur traders, and all the paddling today on the Namekagon and St. Croix Rivers.  There are places like Forts Folle Avoine over on the Yellow River, the St Croix-Brule portage, and more river routes like the Flambeau, the Clam, Chippewa and so many others.”

Last year’s assembly in Michigan drew hundreds of people, according to the Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum.

Busy weekend

Events planned throughout the weekend provide opportunities to admire rare canoes, buy and sell boats and other merchandise, and of course do some paddling.

This year’s visitors can expect to see a boat show like no other with antique wooden canoes from manufacturers like Old Town, Rushton, Peterborough, Willetts Brothers, and of course, Shell Lake, displayed beneath the giant oaks alongside new models produced in canoe shops around the Midwest. The show, which will run from 10am to 4:30pm, also features demonstrations of canoe craft such as freestyle paddling, canvasing, wood bending and canoeing safety. After a dinner break, visitors will be treated to a “Parade of Canoes” paddle-by salute.

Saturday schedule:

  • 10:00-5:30 pm Assembly of Wooden Canoes
  • 10:00-5:00 pm Demonstrations
    • 10:00 to 11:00 Sue Plankis freestyle paddling
    • 11:00 to 12:00 National Parks Service
    • 12:00 to 1:00 Dave Osborn canvassing a canoe
    • 1:00 to 2:00 Alan Craig poling a canoe
    • 2:00 to 3:00 Dick Butler bending outwhales
  • 10:00-5:00 pm Vendor booths offering canoe related items
  • 7:30-8:30 pm Parade of Canoes at the Shell Lake beach area

Sunday on the water:

On Sunday, the 17th, WCHA members will be leading canoe trips for anyone interested in paddling the rivers of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, the Bois Brule, or the wetlands of the Hunt Hill Audubon Sanctuary. Both the Assembly and the paddling tours are free and open to the public. For more information, contact wcharegionalassembly@gmail.com.


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If you have any questions, please email greg@stcroix360.com


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Festival Features St. Croix’s Canoe Heritage