Printed postcard, 1907: The genesis of the square-ended, flat-bottomed boats specifically adapted for commercial floating on the James and White rivers is poorly documented. Many theories have been advanced as to how they were developed, and how they came to be called johnboats.

The photo appears to depict a family departing for an overnight outing. Boats could be rented from lodges, and self-guided trips were common throughout the float trip era. Both paddles and poles are evident. We wish this group, dressed for Sunday school, all the best as they prepare to drift down the beautiful James in these odd overloaded, probably unstable, pointed-bow skiffs, or punts, or whatever they were called.

(This feature is courtesy of Leland and Crystal Payton at Lens & Pen Press, publishers of all-color books on the Ozarks. They will be publishing James Fork of the White in 2017. Some pages from this book can be seen on Their earlier river book, Damming the Osage, can be at seen