Best kind of canoe for the West

We’re looking to buy a tandem canoe which would be used on big water like the Columbia River, mountain lakes, and smaller Pacific NW rivers which typically mix up rapids with float sections.

Leaning towards a Northstar canoe, as that is highly recommended by family back in Minnesota. And the new Northstar Polaris and Northwind models seem great for the Columbia, the Puget Sound, and lakes…but what about all these awesome rivers? We’re interested in doing some tripping, and don’t mind portaging class III, but can a Northwind 17 or the like handle frequent class II? Or will we destroy? Get soaked?

We have experience paddling plenty of rental on lakes and sloughs in the region, but that is all. Should we be considering a prospector type design at all? Argh!


– Last Updated: Mar-20-16 8:31 PM EST –

WINDY ! the lake effect of cool water hot land.

Take a look at the Rio, Yellowstone.

The Columbia:

try WEST COAST PADDLER in trips for Columbia River.

there is a wind festival. Weekend activity above Portland near Hood River ?

The need for tracking with a straight keel conflicts with turning in for rapids leaving you with ferrying.

I would not overthink it
My friends paddled up the Columbia and continued across the US with a hard tracking Jensen canoe.

it had little sheer because of wind. I guess in your case the only ones I would write off would be any Prospector design.

If You’re Leaning Towards…
…a Northstar canoe, the new Northstar 16 is pretty much a composite version of the Royalex Bell Northwind according to the two dealers I’ve talked with.

I owned the royalex version and it worked very well on flatwater and Class I to low class II rivers. Look through the reviews to give you an idea. Not exactly the same, but seems to be an “Upgrade” of an older design? Key in on the reviews that mention “Royalex,” as that was the 16’6" hull that’s closer to the Northwind 16:

Pulled the trigger on a new Polaris in BlackLite layup. Can’t wait for it to arrive!

western canoeing
You may end up with two canoes to cover the bases. One approach is to go to the streams you have in mind and see what people are using. There is an experience base there I suspect.

Having lived in sothern Montana and Wisconsin with a good deal of paddling in both I am guessing Northwind does not make a canoe tough enough to take to the rocks. We tried several canoes in our billings years from Mad River and a couple from Wenonah. The best all round was the Mad River Royalex Explorer. The Easy Rider Ouzel is very similar. They are slow but not huge in the wind, very forgiving and tough and nimble enough for cl 2 with rocks.

How big you are makes a difference. Care to tell us your weights?

We ended up with a small cruising canoe (MRC Malecite ) for the flattish and windy yellowstone and the Explorer for the rocks and river camping.

Royalex boats are still kicking around in the used market.

We recently proved our Kevlar/nylon/epoxy canoe too frail for real rock sliding (no problem with gravel) and it is tougher than the Northwoods.

If I was getting a laminate canoe for rocky whitewater it would be an Inegra “expedition” layup from Clipper or Novacraft.

Thank you for the details! We are 6"1’ 200 pounds and 5’4" 120 pounds.

We decided that the Polaris would be the best all round canoe for the kind of paddling we would be doing right now, and that, if we get into the WW stuff, then we’ll want to go get a second boat. So we’re in alignment on that. The recommendations are very helpful, thank you. We have a lot of fantastic but rocky rivers out here, such as the Deschutes, the Santiam, the Umpqua, the John Day, and so on.

good plan
When the time comes for a ww canoe your size should not be a problem for any of the tough, manouverable, high volume 16 footers. Good luck.

Good choice
Per Bear Paulsen at Northstar Canoe the Polaris is basically a Bell Northstar stretched by three inches. Trying to save up for one myself. Will replace my Bell Northstar with this. The Madriver Explorer in royalex is our other canoe for when conditions are not right for the Northstar. No canoe can do everything.