Argosy vs Yellowstone

Hello All,

I’ve a local dealer with both the Wenonah Argosy and the solo Bell Yellowstone in stock - both in royalex. I’d like to gather some expert opinions on both of these fine canoes. I have a Prism for flatwater use and am looking to get a royalex solo for light duty river or class 1-2 at most. Usual applications will be about 50/50 flowing water and flatwater in small lakes. I’m 6’1" and about 210 lbs. Any input would be greatly appreciated. Jim

Not an expert but
I did recently (back in April) do an extensive test paddle with both the Argosy and Yellowstone (and Vagabond) in Royalex. I paddled with both a single blade and my kayak paddle. Since I was new to canoeing I did most of the “testing” with the double-blade.

The Argosy was the fastest at a fast cruising effort (not sprint, but more effort than just relaxed paddling).

Argosy - 3.8 knots

Vagabond - 3.7 knots

Yellowsone - 3.4 knots

Yellowstone was the quickest in making 180 degree turn with paddling on one side only (not sweeps) and not heeled.

Yellowstone - 8 strokes

Argosy - 9 strokes

Vagabond - 11 strokes (and almost ran out of river width)

Yellowstone had much less initial stability and even though I am used to 20" kayaks I felt uncomfortable sitting and paddling in the Yellowstone. It did have the highest seat (almost even with gunwales). The Yellowstone felt much better when kneeling and was not that much different from the Argosy when kneeled. Both Argosy and Yellowstone had really great secondary stabliity. In the Yellowstone I actually felt a little more comfortable keeping it heeled slightly as I paddled.

The Yellowstone had more of a tendency to have a “spin out” more when trying to turn it very quickly. I assume this was the stern sliding around much faster than I was used to in the kayak. In some moves it felt like the Yellowstone was trying to throw me out sideways when making a turn. The Argosy had a slight “spin out”, but I did not every feel that “thrown out sideways” feeling I got in the Yellowstone. I think this means that if you are really comfortable with rockered canoes you could make the Yellowstone do some moves quicker than the Argosy.

I chose the Argosy primarily for the speed. I paddle a lot with kayakers and being able to get up to a higher speed to catch up after picture taking or water breaks was important. Since I am so new to canoes and to moving water I also thought I would spend less time swimming with the slightly slower, but more predictable turning response of the Argosy.

I do not think you would go wrong with either canoe.

Good luck in choosing your posion.


I have a Yellowstone
A guy that I paddle with has an Argosy. We’ve switched boats a couple of times. He thought my YS was faster than his Argosy. I didn’t notice that, but I did think that the Argosy turned a little better than my YS. Who knows - everyone has different opinions.

The Argosy does have the option of an adjustable seat. For some people, that is a nice feature. My YS is set up for kneeling with the short seat drops, so you are up pretty high sitting on the seat. It can feel a little unstable until you get used to it.

I am about your size and don’t think that you can go wrong with either boat. Hopefully you will be able to paddle them yourself before you buy.

Argosy/Yellowstone Solo
I own both an Argosy & a Wildfire(in Royalex).

I’m 6"4" in height & weigh about 200 lbs(we are close).

I am not an expert, but have no doubt in my mind that “either” the Argosy, or the Yellowstone Solo with suit your stated purposes.

As for me, I prefer my Wildfire over the Argosy if I am going to be paddling fast moving water, and occcasionally dodging a few boulders & root wads.

It seems more manueverable, in my opinion.

I prefer the Argosy if I will be doing very short sections of moving water, and long flat water sections. It seems easier to maintain speed, in my opinion.

That’s about as technical as I get when assessing 2 boats, that are in “my opinion”, quite evenly matched.

Go to Bell/Wenonah websites; see what “you opinion” is after comparing differences in length, depth, weight, width, rocker, and suggested load.


I agree, just reinforcing the above

– Last Updated: Aug-22-08 6:16 PM EST –

I paddled the Argosy extensively on Class I-II water for nearly 200 miles with 70 pounds of gear and my 5' 10" 200 pounds, and enjoyed its playfulness and quick turn of speed. Once I started kayaking more I sold the Argosy to a good friend who is enjoying the heck out of it and running primarily Class I-II rivers on day trips. He's well over 6 feet and maybe 170-180. I have GPS results that are close to what mjamja has.
The Yellowstone solo is also a fine boat and much more attractive in my eyes than the Argosy which is sort of slab sided and industrial looking and I've never cared for the Wenonah seat hangers, I took mine out and installed a tilting hanger. I owned a YS for a while and just never used it very much. I wish I had tried tripping in it before selling it, I might have a different opinion of it.

My opinion, if you're covering miles and miles and need an industrial machine for greater speed I'd go for the Argosy. If you're noodling around on the local creeks and small lakes and weekend trips on Class I-II rivers I'd favor the YS, especially with wood rails, its a sweet boat and just looks more like a "canoe" and it's a satisfying ride. Let's face it, we're probably only talking about a 10% difference in speed.
Just out of curiosity, have you weighed the Argosy compared to the YS? I swear the Argosy feels 10 pounds lighter.

YellowStone not a WildFire
Royalex Bell Solo’s, whether named WildFire, early production, or Yellowstone, later production, are not WildFires.

Those rubber boats have lowered and reduced shoulders to come out of a one piece vacuum forming mold, and have significantly less stern rocker, to aid tracking. Rubber Bell WildFires and Yellowstone have come out o the same mold.

Real WildFires are composite hulls, and are faster and turn more readily than any of the rubber boats mentioned.

Argosy’s drier
I’ve paddled both boats a lot. In fact I just took the two off my truck from yesterday’s river trip. The Argosy, with more tumble home and a sharper chine is definitely the drier boat. With the continuous elliptical curve on the Wildfire, there’s no hope of carving a turn while surfing and it rolls down to the water real quick. I definitely prefer the Argosy for all around paddling. Since I’m not selling my Wildfire anytime soon though, you can surmise that I like it enough to keep it. Once Dan Cooke is building decks again, I will definitely be adding one to it.


– Last Updated: Aug-23-08 1:21 AM EST –

When I bought my Wildfire; it was made out of Royalex, and it was labeled as a Wildfire.

Look in older Bell Canoe catalogs, and look in older Paddler magazine & Canoe & Kayak magazine Buyer's Guides for a Yellowstone Solo in Royalex, or any layup.
Can you find one?
Why not?
There were none.

There were Royalex Bell Wildfires, and composite Bell Wildfires made by Bell, but there was no such thing as a Royalex, (or any other layup) Bell Yellowstone Solo a few years ago.

The Bell dealer who sold me my Wildfire called it a Wildfire, and on the sales receipt it says he sold me a Royalex Bell Wildfire.

Flash forward; Bell sells out.
Now there is a Royalex Yellowstone Solo made by the "new" Bell, but there are no Royalex Bell Wildfires. Another company (not Bell) makes & sells a composite boat called the Wildfire, but they are not Bell Wildfires anymore. Wildfires have to be composite layup not Royalex. Bell did make composite Bell Wildfires, but they don't make them anymore. Some of them can still be found however. The company which now makes the Wildfire doesn't make Royalex Wildfires. They don't make Yellowstone Solos either.A new composite Wildfire is not a Bell Wildfire, nor is it a Bell Yellowstone Solo.
No other boat can be a Wildfire; only a composite boat can be a Wildfire. Bell doesn't make or sell Wildfires, but they used too.
Bell sells Yellowstone Solos! Yellowstone Solos can't be Wildfires because they're Royalex.

So now an older Royalex Bell Wildfire, labeled as a Wildfire, and sold by a Bell dealer as a Bell Wildfire is no longer a Wildfire. Now it's a Yellowstone Solo.

All Royalex Bell Wildfires are really Bell Yellowstone Solo. Even when there was no such thing as a Yellowstone Solo, Bell Wildfires in Royalex layup were really Yellowstone Solos.

I guess the old Bell Canoes was trying to cut costs.
They probably knew the Royalex Wildfires were "supposed" to be labeled as Yellowstone Solos, but they had all those Wildfire stickers they hadn't used, so even though they were selling Yellowstone Solos, they continued to put Bell Wildfire stickers on them...... and the dealers wrote em up as Bell Wildfires. Even though they were really Yellowstone Solos. Because as we all know; a Royalex boat can't be a Wildfire; only a composite boat can be a Wildfire. If it's Royalex; it's a Yellowstone Solo.

Is an old Bell Wildfire, in a composite layup a Bell Wildfire? Or is it a Yellowstone Solo in a composite layup. Must be! Bell don't make Wildfires; either Royalex, or composite. Somebody else does, but it's called a Wildfire, not a Bell Wildfire. But there are no Royalex layup Wildfires available; only Royalex Yellowstone Solos, and composite layups Wildfires that aren't made by Bell.

Does Bell owe me some Yellowstone Solo stickers for my boat?
I mean my boat is labeled a Wildfire but it's "really" a Yellowstone Solo.

I think I've been swindled..............
I think somebody owes me a composite Wildfire as restitution. I bought what I thought was a Wildfire & got a damn Yellowstone Solo with
Wildfire labels on it.

Any of you guys own an old Chevy Vette? Better check it might really have a Chevy II labeled as a Vette.

Your Tilley may be an Army surplus boonie hat, and your QCC is probably just a Pamlico 140.




Letst simplify
The WildFire was commissioned by by c e wilson from David Yost in 1993, mold built by Blaine Fiberglas and paid for by c e wilson in 1994. Boat placed in production that year.

RX version of WildFire conceived 1999, CE Wilson suggested skegging the stern to make a more entry level hull easier for beginners to track.

New plug designed by D Yost; shoulder lowered and softened to allow removal from one piece vacuum forming mold, stems rounded to maintain strength. Nameplate WildFire applied.

Cew leaves Bell Canoe, sues for equity, including licended use of WildFire nameplate.

RX WildFire renamed Yellowstone Solo immediately.


I understand…

– Last Updated: Aug-28-08 12:20 AM EST –

I'm sure you know better then anyone, what is, or what is not a Wildfire, but when you state, "an early production Wildfire is not a Wildfire", I'm not sure everyone is still "on the page" with you.

Was the younger CE Wilson not "really" CE Wilson?

I'm kiddin'..........

I get it!


P.S. I wish all the people who reviewed a "Royalex" Bell Wildfire on pnet's product review would please delete or revise those reviews. They are misleading; there are no "Royalex" Bell Wildfires! They're all Yellowstone Solos. Right?

Would love to paddle a “real” Wildfire
When I bought my YS a few years back (yes, mine is a YS) the dealer also had a Wildfire in stock - beautiful boat. Don’t remember the lay-up, but I do remember the wood gunwales. Dealer wouldn’t let me do a demo – didn’t want a scratch on his pretty boat.

Well I couldn’t justify spending the extra money, so I bought the YS. I continue to tell myself that the YS is a more practical boat for me, but I’d still love to have that Wildfire.

Oh well, the kids will be out of college in 10 years…

So who screwed up the YS?
So the story goes, since the Yellowstone Solo in Royalex came first, the lines for the composite version were taken from the RX boat, but done incorrectly. There wasn’t consistency in whether the measurement were from the outside or the inside of the hull. In a composite boat, that may mean a negligible 1/16" difference but in this case, some places have 3/8" difference. Of course the stems were inferred from the measurements and not a direct replication but it was the hull that suffered. The YS composite does not have as nice of a hull shape as the royalex version, more so than the average “need to get it out of the mold” allowances. I find the composite YS to be much more lively on edge and it lacks the final stability on its side that the RX version has. Quite a few folks have added longer thwarts to their RX Wildfire/Yellowstone Solos to make them drier and add rocker. This makes the difference even more pronounced. If were in the market for a composite YS, I try to get my hands on the freshest, just out of the mold boat I could and add longer thwarts before the hull totally cured.

Looking at your profile…
It seems you like to spend more time on flatwater, more laid back rivers, and not so much rock dodging. I’m a sitter, not a kneeler and have paddled the Bell composite Wildfire, Bell Royalex Wildfire, and Royalex Yellowstone, Wenonah Vagabond and Rendezvous on flatwater in the wind, without a load. The Royalex boats were less sensitive and took more effort overall. However, they performed well and I know several people who trip with them with light loads.

I have not paddled the hubby’s new Argosy, but he just finished 50 miles on the upper Current River(MO)with a heavier load than we would put in a Wildfire. He fished out of it and putzed, and kept up with the tandems in the flat areas. It did everything easily and it is lighter than a Yellowstone Solo. He kneels, uses a single blade and the total load for this trip was about 300lbs. Optimum load for a YS is less than that. The Argosy didn’t bog down and had plenty of freeboard with this load and the hubby had no back fatigue after 50 miles of mild classI river paddling. It has a shallower draft, loaded, than the Yellowstone, which is very important if you don’t want to walk. :slight_smile:

We weren’t sure how an asymetrical boat would ferry and play, but the Argosy looked right at home. I think you would have less adjustment to be comfortable in the Argosy than the YS when you switch back and forth between your flatwater boat and river boat. Just my hunch and this is coming from a person who has never been a big Wenonah fan for river boats. I’m working on getting the Argosy away from the hubby long enough to paddle it myself, next week. I’m very happy with my Mohawk Odyssey for heavy river hauling with a double blade, but a lighter daytripper for lakes and classI-II rivers is on the list.

Try to test paddle in conditions that are as close to your majority use as possible. The Paddlin’ Shop in Madison, WI has Yellowstone Solos and Paddle and Trail in Rockford, IL has an Argosy to test paddle on a lake. I don’t know of any shops closer to you that carry these boats and allow test paddling.

That said
some folks love the Yellowstone for extended trips and some love the Argosy and those that have a WildFire love that.

I am talking some trips of a month or more and in northern Canada with the usual boreal mix of lakes and rivers ( sometimes sans portages but you sometimes have to bushwhack through blowdowns). These trips often cover several hundred miles.

In my mind when you get to this level its a personal preference and the material is more important than the boat.

Price does help!(Wish I had nailed that new $300 Argosy with the Cooke cover! aargh…but I know where it is!)

Yellowstone is a little skegged stern for those who need assistance going straight…same for Argosy… WF requires a little more skill…but thats been said before.

Websites state…

– Last Updated: Aug-23-08 6:22 PM EST –

Bell/Wenonah websites/literature state:

Yellowstone Solo 47 lb.
Argosy 45 lb.
I don't view 2 pounds of weight difference as even remotely significant. The difference is approximately the weight of a nalgene bottle full of water........

Argosy is 6 inches longer.
Argosy is 1/4 inch wider than Yellowstone Solo at max. width.
Yellowstone Solo bow depth 1/2 inch more than Argosy
Yellowstone Solo center depth 1 inch more than Argosy
Yellowstone Solo stern depth 1/2 inch more than Argosy.
How much "more" gear can an Argosy carry because it is 6 inches longer? All depths on Yellowstone Solo are deeper. Are the depths of the Yellowstone Solo enough to offset the extra 6 inches in length, and the extra 1/4 inch max. width of the Argosy?

I don't view the difference in carrying capacity of either boat as even remotely significant. Either boat will carry more gear than any individual "really" needs. I have tested that theory in both, and found it to be true.

A highly skilled paddler may note "subtle"
differences between the two boats. The same paddler would be able to do "anything" with the Yellowstone Solo that they can do in an Argosy, "and" vice versa.
Any lost effort required to get one boat to match, or out perform the other, in any test, will be so insignificant as to be of to no consequence.

If I were a buyer seeking to buy one or the other of the boats discussed; I'd look for the "best buy".

I seriously doubt that a highly skilled paddler would consider an Argosy an "upgrade" when/if they decided to sell their Yellowstone Solo.
Would have the same doubt about someone who considered it an "upgrade", to go from an Argosy to a Yellowstone Solo.

I like having both of them, but I "really" like the Royalex Wildfire best. Reason: I got it for $675.00 (in wood trim), and in very lightly used condition. Wish I could say the same about the Argosy. Neither of them will probably be for sale in the near future.


P.S. Wenonah literature states, "The Argosy has more bow flare and deeper ends to help keep the canoe dry in moderate whitewater". Anyone ever heard of quartering a wave to deflect water?
Yeah, I know; the effort required to do a forward or reverse sweep to get a solo boat to quarter a wave is just "so damn tiring".

If you take either of those boats into moderate whitewater(especially with a load), and have no skill or technique; you'd better bring a sponge, a bilge pump, or both with you.

right on BOB!
At this point money talks…go find that dealer that is in a market that is not selling solos.

Thats how I got my Raven for four hundred new. Nice boat…wrong market.

But I have visions of Robin paddling upwind in May in heavy seas in Quebec hitting and switching and staying dry(in a snow and rainstorm).

He did 20 portages and 55 miles in three days with the Argosy…

So in my mind the Argosy is a pretty sweet boat. I have a WildFire…no YS though.

Agrosy is six inches longer overall, than WG/ YS but more than six inches shorter at waterline, which is the only length measurement that effects forward speed.

It turns out that increasing bow layout helps bring tumblehomed boats out of the mold. All cool, but Over All Length becomes a meaningless term, excepting wind resistance.

Bell Wildfire on classifieds
I have a friend in Pensacola, FL who has her Wildfire listed. She no longer paddles due to health problems. If I didn’t have three already, I would buy it. It is in great shape. I love my Wildfires. Thank you C.E. Wilson for this wonderful canoe.


Six-inch length difference?
If the Argosy in question is Royalex, don’t bet on it being half a foot longer than a Yellowstone Solo. I know for a fact that a Wenonah Vagabond in Royalex is six to seven inches shorter than the “same” boat in composite, so I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if the same is true of the Argosy. Building with Royalex does not seem to be Wenonah’s forte. Has anobody with a Royalex Argosy actually measured its length?

I’m glad its in FL
I really don’t need another boat. Then again, there’s that Esquif Zoom in NJ - that’s not too far. I’d have to sell one of my other boats, but…

That’s why I try not to look at the classifieds. :wink: