Volunteers at Mounds Park host final canoe burning of summer

Aug. 26—ANDERSON — Volunteers at Mounds State Park in Anderson braved scorching heat and suffocating humidity Friday morning to produce a dugout canoe in the name of education.

The remains of a fallen oak tree were brought to an area near the Nature Center. The inside would then be hollowed out via several burnings.

Friday morning was the 16th and final burn, according to Charlie Boren, the volunteer leading the project. The goal, he said, was to remove about an inch of flesh with each burn.

Volunteers installed mud along the walls of the canoe before setting the inside ablaze.

Boren said the mud would keep the fire from burning too far into the canoe.

Once the mud was laid, the volunteers laid kindling and the fire was lit.

Boren said the idea was to create a canoe in a similar fashion to the Native Americans who once inhabited Madison County, including the park area.

He and other volunteers learned how to make the canoe via sketches from the early settlers.

"It showed them fanning it and burning it, the mud and everything," Boren said.

Native Americans did not use axes to cut down trees but used fire, according to an article from the North Carolina Arboretum.

The fire was then used to hollow out the inside, which allowed the canoe to hold people and cargo while gliding through the water.

Native Americans would finish the process by coating the outside with animal fat to make it waterproof.

The canoe at Mounds State Park will never touch water, Boren said, but will be used for educational purposes.

For Boren and several other volunteers, the burnings are a way to pass their knowledge of canoe making to the next generation, including Department of Natural Resources staff.

"It (canoe making) makes a really cool focal point for up here, for the kids to come in and take a look and learn what it was like to live as an Indian and what it would take to make the canoes," said Keith Whitesel, a maintenance technician for the DNR.

Follow Caleb Amick on Twitter @AmickCaleb. Contact him at caleb.amick@heraldbulletin.com or 765-648-4254.