1,200-year-old canoe pulled from Lake Mendota

Wisconsin Historical Society

MADISON, Wis. — An ancient canoe was pulled from Lake Mendota on Tuesday, according to the Wisconsin Historical Society.

A Facebook post from the WHS said maritime archaeologists recovered a historic dugout wood canoe Tuesday, just months after learning of its existence in June.

Officials said carbon dating indicates the vessel is about 1,200 years old and was in use around A.D. 800, centuries before European arrival.

“The dugout canoe found in Lake Mendota is a significant artifact of the continuum of canoe culture in the Western Great Lakes region,” said Christian Overland, the Ruth and Hartley Barker Director & CEO for the Wisconsin Historical Society, in the post. “By taking action today to preserve this canoe we are protecting a piece of history for future generations. 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.”

The canoe was raised from a depth about 30 feet with the assistance of the Dane County Sheriff’s Office’s dive team.

It was later taken to the State Archive Preservation Facility and placed into a custom-built storage vat containing water and a bio-deterrent to protect the canoe.

The preservation process is estimated to take three years.