Sanborn Canoe Company is located in Winona, MN just 2 blocks south of the mighty Mississippi River. About 332 miles north is Bemidji, MN the headwaters of the Mississippi, via paved road. If my calculations are correct it’s 565 miles to Bemidji if you travel on the MIssissippi River! A massive network of oxbow lakes in a major meandering water wilderness, perfect for exploring via canoe.
Sanborn Canoe Co. was founded in 2009 as a summer project between cousins Zak Fellman and Todd Randall to build a canoe for use on their annual canoe trips. After spending the entire summer working nights and weekends the boys completed their canoe. Using the extra cedar they made a few paddles and headed off to the boundary waters. The trip was a success, the canoe didn’t sink and they became more inspired to build a company. The reality was making paddles was much easier and rewarding than making canoes. By 2012 Sanborn Canoe had a full line of wilderness paddles and used this momentum to introduce the Artisan Painted Paddle line.
Inspired, in part, from the heyday of the popularity of canoeing, when the voyageurs travelled the landscape of the new world by canoe, trading and carving out a new culture all their own. Paintings and tales of that era show elaborately painted canoes and paddles that inspire us to carry on that tradition. 1
In 2016 via a KickStarter to help re-establish Merrimack Canoes out of New Hampshire to Sanborn’s Minnesota base and expand Sanborn’s line with a canoe heritage classic. Merrimack Canoe is the oldest professional canoe building company in America! And it just didn’t seem right to the cousins that all the templates and materials for Merrimack were sitting in storage. The 45 day campaign succeeded, Merrimack was back in business and officially moved to MN.
Over the past few years Sanborn began the journey to fill out an explorer’s line of goods crafted around the culture of the Canoeist. Each of their gear items has both feet firmly planted in the canoe world with a beckoning hand or two introducing new folks to our world of canoeing as well. So if you pick up one of their wool beanies (inspired by the wool toques the french fur traders always wore) or our rugged leather suspenders or hudson bay camp axe(yeah, that’s inspired by the voyageur era as well) we hope you’ll feel the pull to pack your bag and hit the woods and rivers and lakes that beckon.2 Icebox MFG made the Merino beanies for Sanborn Canoe Co. as well as a line of waxed canvas backpacks.