Are Mad River Canoe's Now Junk?

More anecdote of MR Woes
Here is a quote from a thread on about the ‘Caption’ that MR is now making:

“There was a prototype available at Louifest, but the outfitting was in wrong, and I don’t think it could be paddled (as in not possible).”

“I have a friend who has ordered one (last Nov) and have heard conflicting stories as to ‘the boat is being loaded on the truck this week’ or ’ We are having trouble producing hulls with the quality we require. The next test batch is scheduled in a few weeks.’ Whatever the real story, he still has no boat and is unlikely to paddle it this summer in any case.”

Issues with Mad River
IQ gunnels with unavailable accesories. LOL

Mad River Synergy. Used to be a pretty good whitewater canoe. Same name but now it’s pumpkinseed kayak like thing. Huh?

Royalex delaminations. Yeah every ones royalex comes from the same source but I only seem to hear of delams on Mad River whitewater boats. I’ve seen a few of these and heard about enough more to think that it’s a Mad River issue. I have NOT seen or heard of this on anything other than whitewater canoes.

IQ2 gunnels on whitewater boats. ROTFLMAO!

Multiple Freedoms and Explorers. Used to be an Explorer was an Explorer, a Freedom was an Explorer with more rocker and a Guide was one of the best river running solo’s you could get.

Now they have 4 different Explorers and 3 Freedoms none of which have much in common, and one of the Freedoms is reputed to be the old Guide. Marketing run amok!

In all fairness Mad River had some quality issues before Confluence bought them. When I got into whitewater in the early 90’s the word was that you did not want to buy an outfitted whitewater boat from MR. Tom Foster had a running fight with them over the deck plates on the Outrage. The vinyl gunneled boats were fitted with a stock deck that pinched the bow and stern, making for a wet boat.

Mad River still has some of the all time classic designs. The Explorer, Guide (Freedom Solo), Malecite and Outrages are all very good at what they do. The Caption while not an MR design is another classic that I’m glad to see revived.

I can only hope that Confluence reigns in their marketing folks and works out their quality issues.

The future of some fine boats is at stake.


Synergy is top seller this year
The Can-yak Synergy is a top seller this year, along with the Native Watercraft “Ultimate” according to info from CE. If they sell enough Synergy hulls to help pay overhead so they can continue building Royalex Canoes then that’s fine by me.

Gunnels cut wrong? Yoke in backwards? If that really happened, documented, then that’s bad. My friend has a Bell Ocoee that when it sits on the truck racks the left bow gunnel is an inch off the rack.

Fork lift damage? I recently saw a stack of six Old Town Camper’s with a huge hole caused by a fork tine run clear thru them. Two years ago I bought a Hemlock Peregrine kevlar solo canoe that had been repaired at the factory after a fork lift tine ran through it at the trucking company. I saved about $400 on the purchase price. Boat paddles and looks just fine.

Poor suckers paddling blem’s?..I have two in my stable and adding a third, a high performance kevlar solo, all with blems that saved me about $600 overall. I’m such a sucker:)

Royalex delaminating? I have two friends paddling Esquif boats that have worn through the bottom after one season of occasional use.

Okay, Mad River has some problems. So do several other companies.

Bell has recently sold and moved, lots of chatter on the Internet about that, some of it not so good, some of it very good.

Esquif recalled the first production run of their new prospector style canoe because the Twin Tex was too floppy, but the Esquif Company is still a good company producing fine boats.

Bell had to reinforce their Chestnut Prospector because it was too flimsy, but Bell is a good company and will recover from any negative harping on this board of late.

Nova Craft has had problems with their “Blue Steel” surface cracks, but they are still a good company.

Did you ever read the reviews of the Wenonah Rendezvous?

Over the years Mad River Canoe Company has produced more boats than all the other companies combined (not including Old Town). It stands to reason that as a “percentage of production” Mad River Canoe will have more customer complaints than all the other companies combined (not including Old Town).

I don’t want to sound like I’m lecturing, but the principal goal of any business is to produce a return on investment for the owner and shareholders. Otherwise there’s no reason to build a business, you’d be better off working for someone else. If a business isn’t profitable then it will cease to exist. Some of us seem to hate the bean counters at Mad River Canoe, but they are just doing their job, which is to produce a satisfactory return on investment for the owner and shareholders. As a consequence of them “chasing profits” we get to paddle some darn fine boats.

Ah’ don’t think

– Last Updated: Jul-15-07 10:35 AM EST –

it's de boats themselves dat be bad or junk - ah' think it is "CUSTOMER SERVICE" that is the problem with Confluence. Even dealers (ah' worked fer a dealer part-time) can't get answers let alone individuals. Would ah' buy another Mad River Canoe? Probably, but with the realization that ah' will not see the correct ordered boat for a year +. Yes, ah' have a horror story dat justifies this statement!


re: Vermont Canoe & Kayak Co.
Take a look a canoes from the fledgling Vermont Canoe & Kayak company. The ones I have seen are beauties. The owners and many employees are ex-Mad River employees.

Ironically the company is situated in Vermonts’s Mad River Valley in the former home of Mad River Canoe.

At the moment they are only offering three models.

And we’re doing our job as consumers,
by sharing suspicions that MR may not be delivering the quality we require. We customers do not give a flying boof about the noble role of the capitalist production masters. They put up, or they shut up.

mad river material
I’ve been looking at a mad river canoe just for the fact that it’s a one of few boats I’ve found that I can afford. It will be used for mild whitewater and I do want it to be durable enough to last for years to come. Getting to my point, Mad Rivers’ polyethylene canoes are cheaper, such as the exporer 16 tt, but how does the material stand up compared to Royalex?



The Tupper looks interesting.
Thanks for that link.

“Mad River
Has produced more boats then all the other companies combined” It would be interesting to see those numbers. Not doubting you but it would be interesting.

Tupper does look interesting
A 23" waterline beam in a canoe? Low seat for stability. Almost looks like a deckless kayak. The boundaries are getting fuzzy!

I don’t know any specifics on the tt except that it is polyethelene.

I would expect it to stand up quite well.

The problem with poly hulls is that nothing sticks very well to them so it’s difficult to install float bags and thigh straps or anything else that will get pulled hard on.

That’s not a Mad River issue. It’s the same for the Old Town Dicovery’s and any other poly hull.


Here’s MY Opinion
I have owned 5 Mad Rivers, 3 Vermont versions (Revelation, Monarch, 16’ Explorer) and 3 since Confluence bought them out (St. Croix, 14TT, 15’ Royalex Explorer).

All 3 from Vermont were finished impeccably. Of the Confluence canoes, the first was warped a bit (Poly) but useable. There were several “Burrs” on the gunnels, but the boat was o.k. and got 3 years paddling out of it before I sold it. 2nd Confluence Mad River had no warping and no noticeable flaws.

The 3rd, my 15’ Explorer that I bought this year, has a few that I didn’t notice in the shop. The decks are cut unevenly (I can take a picture if anyone doesn’t believe it) and the gunnels had many little nicks, fixed easily with a bit of sanding. Also found a deep nick inside the hull underneath the stern seat when I replaced the stock seat with a contoured seat. Nothing major, but all little flaws I wish I had noticed earlier and then I wouldn’t have been as dissapointed when I DID find them. I haven’t told the dealer yet as the dealer is 4 hours away and he gave me a great deal anyway. These flaws WILL influence my decision in the future.

I really like the shallow v hull in Mad River Canoes and very few manufacturers use this design. That’s why I stuck with Mad River when buying a new tandem royalex boat this spring.

But, AS SOMEONE WHO HAS OWNED AND PADDLED MAD RIVERS FOR OVER 20 YEARS, the quality has definetely deteriorated since the buyout.

And, as a wise man once said, “That’s all I have to say about that” (LOL)! WW

In a nutshell,

– Last Updated: Jul-16-07 12:17 PM EST –

when you have enough people unhappy with one company to generate the number of posts we see on this forum about it and the number of people who chime in with additional peaves and tales of woe, there must be something wrong down at Mad River.

Is it just bad customer service or have they destroyed MR's line and filled it with junk?

From my experience, it seems like bad customer service that starts right at HQ. They still make some nice boats and and they make boats to be sold at a price point because everybody can't afford a $1200 canoe or their usage does not justify the price. Its not an uncommon practice. If you have a knowledgable and helpful dealer in your area who will take care of you and go to bat if you do have a problem. Go for it.
For those who feel that the quality has deteriorated, you may be right, but look around at the competition and you will see similar cutbacks in materials and workmanship in the name of keeping costs down. This is not completely due to greed or the need to be more profitable, but also to keeping retail pricing in a range where buyers are comfortable. I hazard to think what a boat from 20 years ago would cost today if it was made exactly the same as it was then, but I bet I could not afford it.
If this forum was around when the then Johnson Wax company bought Old Town, we probably would have heard the same things. They, however were smart enough not to move the factory and loose all the experienced people, but they did ruffle some feathers at the time.

Never was very good at math, 3+3=6, not five (LOL)!

about the poly boats
I didn’t know that, so are there any adhesives out there thay do work well with the polyethylene boats?

Promises, promises, but every new
glue promised to stick well to poly has turned out to be a disappointment. If you buy a poly boat, you should plan on devising an outfitting system that pins things between the gunwales and the bottom, without glue.

thanks good to know
are there any adhesives/glues that can damage the hull material poly or royalex?

Just my opinion…
I have a wood trimmed, Mad River Guide, made in Vermont. One of my favorite canoes, and I’ve owned more than a few, including a Mad River Freedom Solo.

I wouldn’t trade my Vermont made Guide for two, brand new, Mad River Freedom Solos. Lots of Freedom Solos, and more to come. Vermont made Guides are getting few & far between.


…let’s not mention how your friend…
slapped the objects that he applied contact cement to together before allowing the corroding agent to dry off…which essentially Eats Royalex.

Mad River Delaminations
The boats I’ve seen were not worn. The vinyl seemed to separate from the underlying ABS leaving large blisters. I’ve heard that Mad River replaced at least two of those boats.

Again I’ve only heard of this on Mad River whitewater boats, Outrages and Outrage X’s.