Bell Morningstar vs Wenonah Heron

-- Last Updated: Nov-30-09 11:08 PM EST --

I am going to buy one of these this weekend. Unfortunately I am not in a position to be able to actually try them ahead of time. Most of my canoeing is done in the Florida Panhandle. Blackwater rivers with moderate current, fairly curvy. No rocks just underwater logs and occasional gravel. I do extended trips up to 3 days. I am leaning towards the Morningstar. I am 6'2" 230lbs. I have family but have a four person mad river for family trips. The majority of the time in the new canoe will be solo but do want choice to occassionally use it tandem. Any suggestions. Thanks alot !!


Bell’s tumblehome
The bell’s tumblehome is key, especially for solo , but the NorthStar, with a kneeling thwart replacing the third thwart, is far better solo than the MorningStar. AT 36"wide, MS is just too damn fat for solo paddling!

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Read the reviews here
Both boats have several pnet reviews.

Like you, Joe, I haven’t paddled either. I would believe Charlie Wilson concerning the Morningstar vs. the North Star.

However, if it’s got to be between the Morningstar and Heron, which is also a fat boat, I’d pick the MS based on the reviews, specs and my general preference for Bell boats over Wenonahs (except for racing boats).

Hopefully, someone else will have more hands on experience with both boats.

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Ditto on Charlie’s suggestion
Where are you buying the canoe?


heron vs morningstar
living in alabama there are limited places to buy a decent canoe. there is a place in wetumpka(coosa outdoor center) and alabama small boats in birmingham. I am looking at these two boats based on the fact that Bell and Wenonah are carried by the two dealers. There are other brands and boats I would consider but just are not available within reasonable distance from far southeast alabama where i live.Remember this most of my canoeing has been done in big heavy grummans and my mad river adventure 16…neither of which would be considered easy to handle solo boats so out of the two i am looking at either will be a step up…course none will turn like my tarpon 14


Morningstar RX

– Last Updated: Dec-01-09 1:51 PM EST –

You can see the tumblehome, which is knuckle-friendly. The beam isn't terrible if you're back on the kneeling thwart(I'm 5'9") but would be a stretch if you used a center seat. If you'll always have gear when you solo, an easily-removeable aft-of-center seat might be a reasonable compromise with your gear(or a water bag) forward for trim.

It's an asymmetric hull, so paddling backwards from the bow seat doesn't work well.

Very stable, easy to turn. If you like paddling Canadian-style she does feel solid with a gunwale a couple of inches off the water.

Haven’t paddled either.
But based on the specs, I’d also take the Morningstar over the Heron - although I don’t think it’s a bad boat if the price is right.

But you seem to be shopping for new with access to either brand, right? In that case and based on your stated intentions, I think you should listen to Charlie and seriously consider the Northstar.

the northstar would be good but at least on the bell website it is twice the price and out of my budget

I would suggest a 42 pound Millbrook
AC/DC, or possible a Millbrook Souhegan, but you would have to shop on faith… There are no local dealers. The AC/DC is a fast, easy paddling solo/tandem, with good secondary stability. The Souhegan isn’t as fast, but is good for poling, something you should want to learn anyway.

alabama small boats
Alabama Small Boats used to be in Helena with access to the Cahaba River. Three years ago I drove up there from S.W. Fl. with a few boats in mind (bell yellowstone, bell morningstar, wenonah heron, novacraft pal). They let me take whatever I wanted to the river and try out.I was a beginner and just trying to figure out the best boat for my needs and price was an issue also. I came away with a wenonah prospector 16’ and have no regrets. I’m a xxl size guy that goes solo most of the time sometimes takes wife,dog,or son.I camp and canoe wherever I can get to within the constraints of my weekend. Many rivers and creeks, lakes, and even the gulf (wind can be a problem in open water).I heel the boat a bit and paddle off one side using a corrective type stroke. Just trying to give you an idea of my type of paddling and what worked for me. Don’t know if A.S.B still lets you “test drive” cause I know they’ve moved but to me the more you can try the better.Hope this helps.


Agree with Charlie
I paddled both the Morningstar and the Northstar, and ended up buying gthe latter. It might look like a bigger boat on paper, but it is much easier to solo with the narower beam and tumblehome.

Sorry, can’t comment on the Heron.

May be too late but what about Wen’s
Solo Plus set up for both solo and light tandem and fairly narrow. Also comes in a variety of material/weight/cost flavors. Never see much on this model. Any wrinkles associated with it?

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I’m reviving this old post. I’ve owned and used a Heron for several years, including some tandem but mostly solo paddling and poling. It does everything decently but doesn’t excel at anything. It’s a very light royalex but still heavier than composites at around 50lbs. It is also terrible in the wind when being soloed, and gets twitchy when overloaded with 2 adults, a large dog, and camping gear. It’s also pretty slow on flat water.

I have a chance at a used Morningstar in blackgold layup. I’d be interested in it as a lighter solo alternative to the Heron (I have an even bigger tandem), but one that can still be poled effectively, as opposed to many dedicated solo boats which are too narrow.

Does the Morningstar pole well? I realize blackgold won’t hold up like royalex, but is it reasonably durable in moving water class I and below? I rarely have head-on collisions but learning to pole does lead to some scraping over rocks when depth is slightly misjudged or your nose gets pushed by the current.

Morningstar is a sweet boat and if you have a shot at a nice black/gold boat I’d grab it. It’s basically Bell’s signature Northstar but a foot shorter and an inch wider. Efficient, handles great, broadly capable, can carry a big load but fun to solo, stable and friendly. The older black gold Bells have a thicker gelcoat than the newer Northstars plus a very strong lay-up and they were rated for light whitewater.


Awesome, thanks TomL!

Agreed on the Heron being a terrible solo in the wind. I much prefer to solo my Reflection 16 in the wind. People who say that skegged/asymmetrical rockered hulls don’t paddle well backwards don’t appreciate how much that skeg (turned forward) can help you keep a line in a crosswind!

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