What Is an Eskimo Canoe?

An Eskimo canoe, also known as a kayak, is a traditional watercraft used by the Inuit, Yupik, and Aleut people of the Arctic regions. These canoes are specially designed for navigating icy waters and hunting marine animals such as seals and whales. In this article, we will explore the history, design, and usage of an Eskimo canoe.

History of Eskimo Canoes

Eskimo canoes have been in use for over 4,000 years. The first kayaks were made of driftwood frames covered with animal skins, which were then waterproofed with animal fat. These canoes were used for transportation and hunting in the Arctic regions.

In the early 20th century, modern materials such as fiberglass became popular for making kayaks. However, traditional kayaks are still being made by some indigenous communities using traditional materials and techniques.

Design of Eskimo Canoes

The design of an Eskimo canoe is unique and well-suited to its environment. It is long and narrow with a pointed bow and stern to allow it to cut through icy waters smoothly. The hull is rounded on the bottom to provide stability in choppy waters while maintaining agility.

The frame of a traditional kayak is made from driftwood or whalebone. The skin covering is typically made from seal or walrus hides sewn together with sinew thread. The skin is stretched taut over the frame and sealed with animal fat to make it waterproof.

Modern kayaks are often made from lightweight materials such as fiberglass or plastic. However, some manufacturers still use traditional materials like wood or animal hides to create authentic-looking replicas.

Usage of Eskimo Canoes

Eskimo canoes were originally used for transportation and hunting in Arctic regions. They provided a reliable means of travel over long distances across icy waters when there were no other viable options.

Today, Eskimo canoes are used for recreation, sport, and tourism. Many people enjoy kayaking as a way to explore the natural beauty of the Arctic regions. Kayaking is also a popular sport with competitions held around the world.


In conclusion, an Eskimo canoe is a unique and important part of the culture and history of Arctic regions. Its design and usage have evolved over thousands of years to meet the needs of those who live in these harsh environments. Whether you are a seasoned kayaker or just starting out, exploring the Arctic waters in an Eskimo canoe is an experience like no other.

Photo of author

Lindsay Collins