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Why Is It Called A Jon Boat?

by Don | Last Updated: July 7, 2020
jon boat parked on a trailer

Jon boats are extremely popular among outdoor enthusiasts, including hunters and anglers. One of the main reasons they’re so popular is because of the boats ability to navigate extremely shallow waters, its stability and perhaps most of all, it’s affordability.

If you’re not familiar with these boats, or have never had to opportunity to ride in one, then you might be wondering what they are exactly.

What Is A Jon Boat?

A Jon boat is a flat-bottomed boat that is almost always made out of aluminum, fiberglass, or wood. They typically have bench seats, and depending on the size of the boat, there can be anywhere from 1 to 3 benches. The flat-bottom design makes them ideal for use in shallow waters. Most of the time, you’ll find them equipped with an outboard motor.

Read More: The Best Trolling Motors To Use On Your Jon Boat

Why Is It Called A Jon Boat? How’d It Get It’s Name?

It’s pretty well agreed that no one knows for certain where the name “Jon Boat” came from or how exactly it received that name. There are, however, a few theories out there circulating that I think are pretty good explanations.

1. Ozark Jon Boats

In the beginning of the 20th century, in the area of Missouri known as the Lake of the Ozarks, many people used flat bottom boats to get around. They were ideal because of the shallow water they could navigate in due to the flat bottom hull design.

They called these boats “flat bottom skiffs” or “Ozark Jon Boats”. They were commonly used for duck hunting and carrying timber all over without fear of tipping or running aground.

Over the years, the design, construction and materials used to build these boats improved. One of the improvements made was the use of Jack Pine in it’s construction. So they began to call them “Jack Boats”, which over time turned into “Jon Boats”.

2. A Scandinavian Origin?

You might also notice that the spelling of Jon Boats is also different, depending on where you read about them.

One theory suggests that Jon Boats have a Scandinavian origin based in part from this spelling of the name “Jon”.

In Scandinavia, Jon is a very common name and is also the common spelling of the name. It’s also a fact that fishermen used small, flat-bottomed boats to carry themselves and their gear to much larger fishing boats.

It’s suggested that fisherman came to love these flat bottomed boats so much that they gave them nickname “Jon Boat” out of that same affection.

3. The Charlie Barnes Misunderstanding

Charlie Barnes was an craftsman, boat builder and river guide. Born in 1878, Charlie Barnes learned to build boats out of necessity. He ended up building boats that were flat bottomed and were capable of navigating the shallowest of water.

Word spread all over about Charlie and his ability to successfully guide people from all over the country up and down the local rivers. At one point, a newspaper reporter came to interview Charlie regarding his unique style of boat, and when asked, “Charlie, what boat am I looking at?”, Charile being hard of hearing thought the reporter asked him, “Who’s boat am I looking at?” So in reply, Charlie said, “John’s Boat”. And legend has it that the name stuck.

Final Thoughts

We may never know for certain how Jon boats got their name or who first invented them, but what we do know is that these boats are absolutely awesome if you’re looking for an affordable, sturdy way to get out onto the water.

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