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Introduction History of Canoe Explore Building a Canoe Birch & Spruce Learn More
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Birch and Spruce Trees

Although several species of birch tree grow in the Northwest Territories, the most common type is the paper birch. The bark of paper birch trees is white, papery and peels away naturally. Its waterproof qualities make it the ideal material to build canoes, baskets and food dishes. In addition, its wood is used to make snowshoes and toboggans, the sap can be boiled into syrup, and the bark possesses medicinal qualities.

Spruce trees are a familiar site below the tree line in the Northwest Territories. There are two main species of spruce in the NWT: white spruce and black spruce. These hardy trees have many uses: the wood is built into everything from cabins to canoe frames; the roots were spun into baskets and used to bind certain things; spruce gum sealed the seams of baskets and canoes; and the bark was sometimes used to make canoes. Parts of the spruce, such as the gum and the bark, also contain medicines for a variety of illnesses and injuries.

The trunk of a birch tree (NWT Archives/N-1981-001-0066(A370067))
Spruce trees cover much of the NWT (Department of RWED/Government of the Northwest Territories)
Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada