Kansas City, Mo. – A 29-foot-long canoe hollowed out of a cottonwood log is taking shape at the Missouri Department of Conservation's (MDC) Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center. The canoe mimics those used by the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804 to 1806, especially on their float back downstream on the Missouri River from the Rocky Mountains to St. Louis.
But canoe creator T.J. Jenkins has an advantage that the Lewis and Clark crew might have enjoyed -- chainsaws and leaf blowers.
Although, a chainsaw doesn't make the job too easy, said Jenkins, a chainsaw woodcarving artist from rural Platte County hired by MDC to carve the canoe. Frontier folk used a tool called an adze to trim or hollow out wood. The tool is similar to an ax, only the blade is horizontal on the handle rather than vertical.
"I'm using a chainsaw but it's not too much faster than an adze," Jenkins said. "I have to scoop it out."
MDC helps people discover nature, and Discovery Center draws its name from the Lewis and Clark crew, called the Corps of Discovery. The new canoe will replace an older one in the outdoor classroom and gardens.
"This one has to have a little thicker sides than if we were going to use it on the water," Jenkins said, "because it has to take the wear and tear of kids playing on it."
Many visitors and school groups are introduced to new wildflowers, birds, insects, prairie grasses, trees and wetland creatures at Discovery Center, 4750 Troost Ave., just east of the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City. The garden is in bloom with late-summer wildflowers and butterflies are visiting them. Visitors are welcome to walk the garden trails.