Any polers here?

Most of my experience paddling is in sea kayaks, but, if I can find the room to store it, I’d like to get a polable canoe. I was wondering what sorts of dimensions or general characteristics I should look for in a canoe to make poling easier. I’d be poling up and down rivers in the Pacific NW, and if I take to it, possibly rapids as well.

ded, I sent you an email but will mention here that you will need a boat/platform that is somewhere in the 33-36" wide range. What kind of boat are you looking for? Also, are you looking at aluminum poles or wooden? There’s a big difference between the two in many aspects, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Don’t ya love these no-win situations?! Feel free to contact me via email for any other info I can feed you. Always good to see/hear of someone else who has a hankering for poling.



I’m interested, but lack experience…
I would, for one, be happy if you posted your questions and answers here. My limited experience has been that longer boats (17’ or so) seem easier to manage, at least for me, for now. I know McWood4 has done some poling; perhaps he’ll contribute when he has a chance.

I recently decided to construct myself a couple “real” poles, only to find that fir closet rod is no longer available in this area. I would sure like to have a few 12’ lengths from the thousands of feet of rod I’ve cut up as a carpenter!

Good luck, take care! Regan

Whatever happened to…
that Merlin II poling challenge, Doug? Wasn’t that you. I poled my Swift Shearwater for about a hundred yards the other day. I stayed in the boat, but scared myself a time or two.

Doug isn’t 16’ about the minimum length usually suggested? I pole my shallow arch hulled Northwind pretty well but wonder how my Dad’s OT Chipawayan with its flat bottom would work in comparison.


Have you done a search of the archives? There are a couple of previous threads that talked poling. I’ve only been fooling with it myself for about a year. It is fun and very helpful for going upstream in shallow water.

Have fun.

Still have my Sylvester Pole. Rusty but
hoping to start again.

I learned poling in an 18.5’ Moore Voyageur, a “supercanoe.” It moved upstream easily, but with a fairly tubular shallow arch bottom, it could get caught and blown downstream by the current.

My second poling boat was an Old Town Tripper. Ours had a bit of extra rocker forced in by foam pedestals through the middle of the boat. The Tripper is 17’, fast enough against the current, flattish and stable enough underneath, with enough rocker to maneuver well. The boat’s only fault for poling was its high weight. (The Moore was also quite heavy.)

Sold the Tripper. Our new tandem is a 48 pound Bluewater Chippewa. It has a flattish shallow arch bottom, has no rocker through much of its length, but rise in the ends will make it turn well enough when poling. The transition from the flattish bottom to the slab sides is a bit sharp, and will require me to remember not to dip the edge toward a side current. Light weight will greatly aid this boat in climbing shallow ledges, and in spin moves.

I used the Moore and the Old Town to explore several small class 1 to easy 2 streams in Georgia. Once I poled at least a couple of miles up to High Shoals on the Apalachee, and then down again. I often poled up the two plus miles from hwy 41 on the metro Chattahoochee to above the top rapid, and back again. The Chattahoochee is very challenging for poling, because when the water runs through the multiple ledges, it almost always does so at various angles. Thus when poling up over shallow ledges, one must immediately compensate for a different current direction above the ledge.

It is too bad that the Beletz book on poling is no longer in print. I hope some other instructional books have appeared.

Thank you
I will be sure to check the archives.


Another book on poling
also out of print, unfortunately, is The Basic Essentials of Canoe Poling by Harry Rock, 1992. Though I don’t have a copy of it myself, it is recommended in Verne Huser’s Paddle Routes of Western Washington. Huser is an avid poler himself, and mapped many of the routes in the book by poling up and paddling down the rivers. A great site for finding copies of out of print books is:

Back when I used to work in a bookstore, we sent everyone there for out of print books. They’re an excellent new and used bookstore based in Portland OR, and w/ access to other used bookstore’s catalogues all over the country. Another book, also, I believe out of print that contains an in depth section on poling, is Pole, Paddle, and Portage by Bill Riviere. This book I own and the section (and book as a whole) was very informative to myself, though, admittedly, I’ve never poled as of yet.


Thanks for your reply
and your email. I’d want to use wooden poles for sure, I just prefer the feel of the wood in my hand as opposed to aluminum (though, if there’s a reason I should try aluminum, I’m open to suggestion). I was wondering how much rocker you would recommend, and whether a keel was a benefit in keeping you going straight, or a hindrance for turning (or as is often the case w/ such things, both)? For right now, I’d love to buy a “beater” type canoe just to fool w/, but in the future (probably a few years) I’d like to build a canoe that would be suitable for poling and paddling. Thanks.


While I pole a 16’ MR Explorer I’ve seen some in 15’ boats as well as longer boats.

I use a wooden closet pole which is warm to the touch relatively soft and springy and heavy. I also use an aluminum pole which is c-c-cold, noisy, light and relatively stiff and springy. I prefer the wood for snubbing down and the aluminum for harder upstream pushes.

If you are in New England there is an active ACA group some of whom will be on the Farmington this Saturday Oct 16. Sometimes Harry Rock himself will show for those and will sell you a copy of his book. IMO half an hour poling with Harry is worth more than all the books.

Oh yeah and I learned all I know bout gunnel dancing and Rock Hopping from DougD :slight_smile:


The Challenge
Osprey, Somehow the challenge got pushed off to another date but then Sherpa decided it was time to get married so he got busy with that. Looks like we’ll return to that at a later date.

I think typically a 16’ canoe is pretty ideal a size. I’ve poled a 17’ and a 14’ so it can be done.

ded, I learned how to pole with a canoe with a keel and there is a big difference in performance when turning. My OT is a flatbottomed boat and that is preferrable, to me anyhoo. A buddy of mine has the MRE with the shallow V hull and he does just as well. The only real difference is when we are doing shallow waters. His hull has more of a tendency to grab rocks/logs/ect… more than mine does. Good luck!


For some tips from a professional
guide-poles a big aluminum canoe with two anglers up front, gear etc. The MAN can make that

'noe MOVE. Also, hold it rock solid while you cast. He has a platform in the back and the canoe is totally rigged. Tell Big T that Wayward said hello.E-mail: