In rural Jackson County, Missouri at the Fort Osage Education Center an important example of paddling’s unique history is on display year round…
The Fort Osage Education Center is not dedicated to the history of paddling sports. Instead it serves as the center of cultural history for Jackson County. The Fort Osage Educational center sits adjacent to the Fort Osage National Landmark and was designed to augment the educational programming of the thousands of students and tourists that visit the center every year. The center is a permanent exhibit exploring the indigenous geology, flora, and fauna of the 19th century. As well as both the Hopewell and Osage Indians, Lewis and Clark, Fort Osage and the Missouri River.
If you haven’t figured out where the history of paddling sports crosses paths with Native Americans, this exhibit is for you. Even for those who know where this story is going, it’s still interesting to find out where this story began. The experts believe it started over 200 years ago when Native Americans populated the area and crafted canoes as a means of transportation in pursuit of wild game. Admittedly, there are huge gaps missing from the story but fast-forward to 1992 when the US Army Corps of Engineers was working on a flood control project on the Blue River. Sticking out of a pile of debris from the project sat a hand carved 16 foot canoe. If it weren’t for the keen eye of a passing truck driver, the important piece of history might’ve remained there.
Instead, the canoe was transported to Fort Osage Education Center and immediately immersed in water to stop the drying process. The Smithsonian weighed in on preserving the canoe and was submerged for two years in a solution of polyethylene glycol to gradually strengthen the wood cells. It took another entire year for the canoe to dry out. “Few totally intact dugout canoes from this period remain in existence,” says Gordon Julich, Jackson County’s superintendent for historic sites. “It’s a significant artifact well-suited to help interpret early 19th century American History.”
It’s also a chance for paddle-sports enthusiasts to check out one of the earliest examples of the thing we love the most: GEAR.