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North Carolina Arboretum Showcases Dugout Canoes

North Carolina Arboretum Showcases Dugout Canoes

Ancient Canoe. Courtesy of Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida

The North Carolina Arboretum will host the traveling exhibit, Dugout Canoes: Paddling through the Americas from Saturday, January 28, through May 2. This interactive exhibit featuring ancient artifacts, tools, models and life-size vessels, will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. inside the Baker Exhibit Center.

“Due to the many different educational elements in the exhibit, including videos and hands-on interactive and informational panels, this is appealing to both young children and adults,” says Whitney Smith, NC Arboretum’s marketing and PR manager.

Visitors to the exhibit can use a microscope to identify wood, create a rubbing from a sacred Mayan engraving, design their own paddle and sit in a life-size canoe. A showpiece of the exhibit is an actual canoe from the Newnans Lake archaeological find.

The national exhibit was created by the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida after a drought in 2000 caused Newnans Lake in Alachua County to drop, exposing more than one hundred ancient dugout canoes ranging from 500 to 5,000 years old.

North Carolina Arboretum Showcases Dugout Canoes

Modern Canoe. Courtesy of Florida Museum of Natural
History at the University of Florida

Hands-on activities provide a sense of how scientists study discoveries like this one, which is considered the “world’s largest archaeological find.” Scientists and students observed, studied and sampled the area before water covered the long-hidden prehistoric artifacts once more. The exhibit also highlights how Native American communities still use dugout canoes today.

“There’s also a more modern, contemporary canoe from the Pacific Northwest,” Smith says, “canoe paddles and some model canoes from across the Americas, fishing equipment and canoe-making tools.” The exhibit contains more than one hundred objects that highlight the importance of dugout canoes in travel and exploration for Native Americans of North, Central and South America.

Videos document the making of a canoe, canoe science, the archaeological find and a journey by canoe in modern times. Dioramas provide a realistic backdrop to the history behind the creation of canoes long ago.

The Arboretum will offer educational programs around the exhibit as part of its youth education field trip program. The exhibit is offered in English and in Spanish.

The NC Arboretum welcomes more than 500,000 visitors each year to its 434 acres of gardens and trails and to exhibits, plant shows, educational programs, demonstrations and lectures.

The North Carolina Arboretum is located at 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way in Asheville off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 393. Admission is free for Arboretum Society members or with the standard parking fee of $14 per personal vehicle. For information, visit or call 828.665.2492.

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