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June 9, 2014

From Big Annie:  The Wanigan: A sort of houseboat typically used during log drives as a cook shanty, bunkhouse, supply boat, or as a place for rivermen to dry their clothes. Scow or hull construction varied with the demands of local waterways. Many had hulls of hewn lumber. Those used in perilous waters might be reinforced with hewn “knees” or frames. Some wanigans were returned upstream by horses pulling along the riverbanks, while others were dismantled and the parts hauled upstream by sled or rail for re-assembly. Still others became floating bunkhouses near mills, were sold for use further downstream, or were placed on shore and used for sheds or cabins.

At the beginning of the 20th century the most economical way to move logs to the saw mills was to float them down-river. These river drives were the most dangerous and exciting part of the early timber industry. The wanigan, a barge-like boat, was the headquarters for the drive


http://www.thefreedictionary.com/wanigan says:

wan·i·gan or wan·ni·gan  (wn-gn) also wan·gun (wngn, wng-)


1. New England & Upper Northern U.S.

a. A boat or small chest equipped with supplies for a lumber camp.
b. Provisions for a camp or cabin.
2. Alaska

a. A small house, bunkhouse, or shed mounted on skids and towed behind a tractor train as eating and sleeping quarters for a work crew.
b. An addition built onto a trailer house for extra living or storage space.

[Ojibwa waanikaanstorage pit.]
Regional Note: Wanigan is apparently borrowed from Ojibwa waanikaan, ”storage pit,” from the verb waanikkee-, ”to dig a hole in the ground.” Nineteenth-century citations in the Oxford English Dictionary indicate that the word was then associated chiefly with the speech of Maine. It denoted a storage chest containing small supplies for a lumber camp, a boat outfitted to carry such supplies, or, as in Algonquian, the camp equipment and provisions. In Alaska, on the western edge of the vast territory inhabited by Algonquian-speaking tribes, the same word was borrowed into English to indicate a little temporary hut, usually built on a log raft to be towed to wherever men were working. According to Russell Tabbert of the University of Alaska, wanigan is still used in the northernmost regions of Alaska to mean “a small house, bunkhouse, or shed mounted on skids” to be dragged along behind a tractor train as a place for a work crew to eat and sleep. However, Tabbert notes that in southeast Alaska, where mobile homes are a common option for housing, wanigan now means an addition built onto a trailer house for extra living or storage space. Classified advertisements for trailer homes frequently mention wanigans.

Originally posted 2011-11-29 23:08:44.

Bryan Lowe

The author of this post is also the editor of ShantyboatLiving.com. He has built several boats including the Escargot seen on this site. Submit YOUR stories about any aspect of shantyboating HERE. Interested in All Things Odd But Cool? Some odd stories you'll enjoy.

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2 Responses to Wanigan

  1. Dan Hohman on November 30, 2011 at 7:42 am

    Thanks for the great article Bryan. This reminded me of a wonderful Disney movie from my childhood. I don’t remember what it was called but it had logging and rafts just like these. Thank you for the reminder!

  2. Dan Bierwirth on December 10, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Bryan, it was a great article… I’m with the other Dan.. I remember the Disney Movie too, but can’t remember the name… Great stuff, keep it up.


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