'Remarkable' 1,200-Year-Old Native American Canoe Found in Wisconsin Lake to Be Preserved

A canoe thought to be 1,200 years old has been retrieved from a lake in Wisconsin.

It's known as a dugout canoe—a water vessel built from a hollowed out tree. It was found in Lake Mendota and was pulled out from a depth of around 30 feet with the assistance of Dane County Sheriff's Office.

Historians believe the canoe was built by ancestors of the Ho-Chunk peoples, one of two of the First Nations of Wisconsin, Wisconsin news outlet WMTC NBC 15 reported. Dugout canoes, sometimes simply referred to as dugouts, are most likely the earliest forms of constructed watercraft in the world.

Bill Quackenbush, a Ho-Chunk tribal historic preservation officer, was present at the canoe's removal from the lake according to the Wisconsin State Journal. He told the outlet: "When it comes to items of this nature, if it's going to protect and preserve the history and culture of us in this area, we're all in support of that."

In a Facebook post, the Wisconsin Historical Society said the canoe might be the oldest completely intact water vessel known in Wisconsin.

The effort to retrieve it from Lake Mendota was launched after maritime archaeologists at the historical society learned of its existence in June 2021.

The canoe was found in the summer by Tamara Thomsen, a maritime archaeologist who was scuba diving in the lake for fun. Its age was determined using carbon dating on a small bit of wood.

It was then recovered by divers who slipped a sling underneath it and brought it to the surface of the lake using inflatable bags filled with air, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

After it was pulled out of the lake, the canoe was taken to Wisconsin's State Archive Preservation Facility. It was then placed into a custom-built storage container filled with water and a chemical to stop it from deteriorating, the Wisconsin Historical Society said.

More chemicals will be added over time to restore the canoe in a process that could take around three years.

Christian Overland, CEO of the Wisconsin Historical Society, said in a statement on Facebook: "The canoe is a remarkable artifact, made from a single tree, that connects us to the people living in this region 1,200 years ago.

"As the Society 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 through the present day."

Canoe recovery
The team recover the canoe from Lake Mendota. It's thought to be over 1,000 years old. Wisconsin Historical Society