For hundreds of years before there was written history, Indians had used the Mississippi River for travel. Then the Europeans came, across the Appalachian Mountains, to settle and farm the rich soil along the Mississippi and the rivers that feed into it. They, too, used the great river for travel. When they were ready to take their goods to market, they built flatboats, which were really just rafts. They loaded the flatboats with goods and let the Mississippi River's current float them all the way down to New Orleans.
The item also includes a general bit of info about keelboats on the Mississippi River plus a construction piece that my own students used to love doing.
Print on cardstock first then have your students construct a keelboat with simple cutting and coloring for a hands-on feel of these simple boats.