A lot has been written about the origin of the celebrated flat bottom wooden boats used on the James and White rivers.
Outdoor writer Robert Page Lincoln wrote a long article extensively interviewing Galena river guide and boat builder Charley Barnes, which was published in the March 1948 issue of Fur-Fish-Game magazine.
Charley Barnes guided Galena-to-Branson floats for forty years and built more than three hundred of the craft used in these trips. In a 1956 interview with Springfield News-Leader reporter Don Payton, Barnes said although he had “taken commercial floats on the Current River” and heard the term johnboat applied there, “We have never used that name here.”
Barnes got into the James River float business during its earliest commercialization, but soon realized, “the boats available weren’t big enough to accommodate occupants for much longer than a day.”
Barnes quickly came to the realization that greater cargo space was needed for tents, food, equipment, and other gear. The result was that Barnes, still working in Branson, fabricated a boat “about 20 feet long and a yard wide with a snub nose and flat bottom.”