How to Build a Cardboard Canoe

Building a cardboard canoe is a challenging yet fun way to learn how canoes work and what makes them float. These are meant to exhibit how canoes actually float and don't allow you to paddle them far out into the water, but they're a great way to learn about how these boats provide transportation.

Learn about canoes and what makes them float. Canoes are sleek, long boats made of lightweight material which allows them to float easily. The more you learn about how canoes float, the easier it will be to envision its completion and help ensure that it works.

Measure and lay out the extra thick cardboard you'll use. Make sure it's large enough for the entire canoe. Check out the measurement specs at Canoe Colorado for an idea of how to size your canoe. A typical canoe is about 15 feet and 10 inches long.

Place the pre-measured cardboard onto a flat surface and smooth it out. Cut it into thin, long strips that will be the length of the canoe. A typical canoe is about 15 feet and 10 inches long.

Cut out some styrofoam in shapes to fit the inside, hollowed out area of the canoe using your specs. This serves as the mold or skeleton to build the canoe around.

Carefully lay out the styrofoam "skeleton" and then place the cardboard strips along this lengthwise. Attach each strip together using a sturdy and waterproof glue. Let dry.

Check to be sure the canoe is solid, and fill in any gaps with wood putty to fill in any holes.

Test the canoe and make sure it floats before getting inside.


  • Understand that most cardboard canoes are used for educational purposes or races, and aren't meant to be a substitute for a real boat. You can ride in your cardboard canoe, but only in shallow water for short periods of time.


  • Be sure you plan out the exact dimensions of your cardboard canoe ahead of time so you have enough materials.

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