1,200-year-old canoe taken from the lake: “remarkable artefact”

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(Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society)

MADISON, Wisconsin (WFRV) – A 1,200-year-old canoe was pulled from a lake in Wisconsin on Tuesday.

The Wisconsin Historical Society says Maritime archaeologists on Tuesday recovered a wooden canoe from the bottom of Lake Mendota. The canoe is estimated to be 1,200 years old and was in use around 800 AD. The canoe may be the oldest known water vessel in the state which is still completely intact.

Carbon dating would have been used to determine the age of the canoe. The Dane County Sheriff’s Office dive team helped lift the canoe to a depth of about 30 feet.

“The canoe found in Lake Mendota is an important artifact in the canoe culture continuum in the Western Great Lakes region,” said Christian Overland, director and CEO of Ruth and Hartley Barker at the Wisconsin Historical Society.

“The canoe is a remarkable artifact, made from a single tree, that connects us to the people of this region 1,200 years ago. As the Company prepares to open a new history museum in 2026, we are excited about the new possibilities it offers to share Native American stories and culture throughout the present, ”said Overland.

Officials say the canoe was transported to the Wisconsin State Archives preservation facility in Madison and placed in a custom-made storage tank. The tank contains water and a bio-deterrent to help protect the canoe from physical damage.

A chemical solution will eventually be added to the tank, which will replace the water in the cellular structure of the wood. The conservation process is estimated to take around three years.


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