SNYDER: Wooden canoe event on Saturday at Pinchot will stir nostalgia


This will be good, I thought to myself.

The instructions said I could build an entire canoe in just three hours. It would be a little hobby to keep me busy during a cold winter weekend.

I must have read something wrong. My build took a wee bit longer. I stopped counting after 20 hours it was too embarrassing.

In the end, though, it was a great experience. Because I got my hands dirty and my brow sweaty, and I learned more about the realm of boat building in those 20-plus hours than I ever imagined.

When I started, I thought it'd be a quick build. When I was done, I realized it will be a life-long experience. I'm glad I did it.

It turns out, I'm not alone. There are thousands of other folks just like me — folks who enjoy boats that weren't built in a factory. If you are one of them, there's a treat coming your way this weekend.

For the past six years, local members of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) have met annually at Gifford Pinchot State Park. Saturday is that day.

It's a day when the group shares their love of old canoes with the rest of us. They show visitors how to build or repair wooden canoes, how to make a paddle and even the essentials of camping.

"The WCHA is primarily interested in the history, salvage and restoration of old canoes," said Fred Capenos, one of the event's organizers. "Some members enjoy building new canoes. Some of the new canoes that they build are replicas of the older ones. Some are of their own designs."

Spend just a few seconds looking at a classic canoe and you'll quickly realize these watercraft have evolved over the ages. Today's fiberglass or plastic canoes simply don't have the "personality" that comes with a hand-built canoe. An old canoe is absolutely a work of art — a work of art that yearns to take you on an adventure.

"Most people have never seen or even heard of a wood and canvas canoe," Capenos said. "When they do, they are always amazed. You just need to paddle an old wooden canoe to understand the true difference between the old and the new."

Whether it's the cane seat, the hand-hewed planking or the feel of a paddle that's seen more than a lap or two around the lake, there's something about an old canoe that stirs nostalgia. Just the sight of one evokes visions of a Norman Rockwell painting. If you've never experienced it, I promised you'll be impressed.

I urge you to stop by Gifford Pinchot State Park sometime Saturday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. The folks from the WCHA will be set up in the "Conewago Day Use Area" on the south side of the lake. They'd love to show you what their craft is all about.

To get more information about the group and how you can join, check out

— Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at