Best canoe for...

…small rivers and creeks. I am getting more and more interested in canoes as it gets closer to Spring. There is no question I will be keeping my kayak, but I think a canoe would be great for warm weather.

  1. Mostly solo, but sometimes me+1 or me+dog.
  2. Mostly rivers and creeks. Some open lake paddling.
  3. Needs to be durable. Something that can be dragged over rocks and trees.
  4. Needs to be responsive to paddle strokes so I can maneuver through fallen trees and rocks.
  5. I’m not concerned about the type of seat.
  6. I will be SUV topping it.
  7. Used is better!



OK, I’ll start
Sounds to me like you are looking for a used Royalex Prospector. I know Nova Craft has a very good, affordable design if you’re looking new. Lot of other good Prospector designs out there from various companies.

Wenonah Solo-Plus may also be an option to look at. More of a flatwater canoe than anything else, though.

I have a 16-foot Royalex Mad River Explorer that is set up for both solo and tandem, and it is very durable, very stable, a little difficult to paddle solo in unless you are comfortable paddling Canadian style (boat leaned over to one side), which by the way is also a great way to paddle a Prospector. I solo-ed it through everything from huge lakes to winding streams to Class II whitewater over one 80-mile trip last summer. Other than it’s weight on the lengthy portages, it was great in everything.

I am sure others will chime in here.


Great start! Thanks

Iffin’ yer said

– Last Updated: Jan-30-08 12:56 PM EST –

strictly solo yer might want ta look inta a used Mad River Guide or now-called Freedom Solo.(De Vermont-built Guide waar better). But fer solo+1 or hound, as River said, one o' dem Prospectors might be de ticket fer yer if yer got a bit of experience. Ah' like me RX 16' Wenonah Prospector, but ah' really loves me Muskoka built wood/canvas Chestnut Prospector.


I am not familiar with the materials used for canoes. Explain the difference in this boat:

and the Royalex boat. Pretty significant price difference.



Heavy material

– Last Updated: Jan-30-08 1:00 PM EST –

Royalex is not as strong or as hard as some plastics, but plastic boats weigh a LOT. I don't remember who it was, but someone once posted that the "TT" of that model name stands for "total tonnage". Royalex is "relatively" light, and it's strong enough to hold up to just about any conditions you are likely to encounter. Plastic is really just a cheap substitute.

You are already paddling kayaks, so you probably have some idea how nice it is to have a boat that weighs less. I do quite a bit of bushwacking on little creeks, and a heavy boat is NOT a good thing in that situation. It's so nice to be able to pick the boat up with relative ease for short carries, instead of working your tail off.

Poly Explorer
That’s the poly version. It’s supposedly the same shape as the Royalex version but weighs about 10 lbs. more. I have one that I use primarily for sailing and occasionally for tandem paddling. It’s a bit of a pig to paddle solo on flatwater - particularly if there is any breeze. My biggest complaint with poly is that it has more of a tendency to warp than Royalex. The bottom of mine has a few “waves” in it but they don’t seem to affect the performance that I’m aware of. It is tough though and will take a beating. There is a smaller version available in poly also that might be easier for soloing but is still set up as a tandem

  • Rob

I Have a royalex Wenona sandpiper that is my choice for small shallow creeks with obstructions.It’s short length and shallow draft make it ideal for that use for me.if the dog isn’t too big it should handle it OK too,depending on your weight.I paddle mine with 210# total load.Even new ones are reasonable and used ones can be a steal.This is not a whitwater boat-moving small creeks are what it’s good for.It also does OK for light flatwater trips,but there are better boats for that.


It will be hard to find a “good” …

– Last Updated: Jan-30-08 5:43 PM EST –

... canoe for your purposes, because you are looking at going sometimes solo, sometimes tandem. That rules out any of the really nice little solo canoes that otherwise would do the job for you. Fat Elmo made the comment that a Prospector would be good if your paddling skills are up for it. That's a boat that can do many things well, but to paddle it solo with good control will take some practice. Don't let that stop you from buying one, though. It doesn't always make sense to start with a beginner boat if your goal is to have a boat the does the intended job well (you can always practice). The Prospector will be a bear in the wind when you paddle solo, though. PJC has a Novacraft Prospector which he took out solo on the Wisconsin River on a day with a strong headwind. In spite a fairly strong current in his favor, he had to give up on going downstream, and he virtually "sailed" back against the current, mostly under "wind power". Most other tandem canoes will present a similar problem when paddled solo, though some will be easier in the wind than a Prospector. Not many tandem boats have the ability to maneuver as well as a Prospector when paddled solo, though. The Prospector has a bit of a rounded bottom and a lot of rocker (that is, a lot of rocker for a general-purpose canoe. Whitewater-specific boats are a whole other breed).

small tandem
that you can solo from sitting on the bow seat facing rearward. That eliminates any OT with those annoying plastic seats with the butt shape imprinted in.

The Camper 15 from OT is a possibility. I have not yet seen a Prospector with a low sheerline. Most are made to carry big loads so unless you are prospecting for minerals I think they will be less favorable for you.

Mad River Horizon is another possibility

There is apparantly a shop in Birmingham

go try anything you can.

15 feet long is going to be OK for bayous and dog. Dedicated solos unfortunately have you in the middle of the boat.Add a sizeable dog and no matter what end of the boat the dog is in you have to adjust the trim by adding something else.

The Perfect Canoe for You is…
probably three different boats :-).

Generally, I like the ideas you’ve gotten from others. A prospector or Explorer would work for you and teach you to paddle solo Canadian style which builds character and is darned rewarding.

Kayakmedic’s thought of a small tandem like the Horizon seems really good to me. The Dagger Reflection 15 (no longer made but available used sometimes), Bell Yellowstone tandem or Bell morningstar are all smallish tandems that would all work pretty well for what you are asking.

If weight isn’t a major thing the Explorer 14 TT is a possibility too.

It doesn’t hurt to check out a bunch of these boats ahead of time, then if something hits the classifieds or Craig’slist near you, the research will be mostly done and you can jump on it quickly.

Good luck and welcome to the light side of the river brother!

Recent thread

I appreciate all the info. I will keep all the suggestions in mind. Looking forward to expanding my paddling horizons!


Some ideas

– Last Updated: Jan-31-08 12:54 PM EST –

NovaCraft Bob Special 15
NovaCraft Prospector 15
Wenonah Solo Plus
Bell Morningstar
Mad River Explorer 15

Nova craft ahs the answer
The Bob Special or the Pal. Perhaps the perfect boat for you. They can be great solo boats but can definately have another person or a dog along. they are nimble enough to negotiate narrow places. Kevspec is tough and resonably light material often used in those boats. Give either of htese boats a try, they are awesome!!

Wenonah 15’ Heron
The Heron or the older Saranac are Wenonah’s short royalex tandems. Not the best for solo, but no wider than any of the already mentioned canoes. Better than the Solo Plus for manuevering in tight places and more stable with a dog aboard.

These are used by some liveries as rentals for tight streams and smaller people so they do come up used, a bit scratched, but with a lot of miles left. Even if you find one with bucket seats, they can be changed to web or cane so you can use the front seat in reverse for solo paddling.


NC Bob Special

– Last Updated: Jan-31-08 1:00 PM EST –

I'd say the Nova Craft Bob Special. Paddles nicely as a solo boat, but works well as a tandem.

It's only 52 lbs and nimble enough to handle small streams, but won't be out of place on a lake.

Try alabama small boats
in b-ham or craigslist for a used one

Come get mine…

Come get my 16 foot Mad River Explorer TT if you you want to know how heavy that material is. I bought it just to have something to paddle my kids in and didn’t want to spend much on it. It’s for sale and practically new but not exactly what you are looking for. You are welcome to come try it for the heck of it, I really don’t mind.


Solo Plus
Bought a used solo plus and love it. Use it for everything you describe and more. Really a great all around boat for solo, day trips tandem, and definitely for the dog. It’s only short coming might be it takes on water going thru some light rapids but that can be fixed with a small spray shield. Holds all my gear for camping and quite a bit of my kayak buddies…