Best type of Boat for Paddling Upstream?

I am trying to carve a new route to a glacier up here near Anchorage by going upstream on a large creek for about four miles. I went about three quarters of the way by accident in my Prijon kodiak when I decided to paddle upstream from the bay. I’m going to try it again, and I have three boats in my garage. The 17 foot kodiak, a 13 foot Dagger Catalyst, and a 10 foot innova inflatible. My question is, when paddling upstream against a decent current, does the waterline equation still work, so would the Kodiak still be the fastest boat, or would the Catalyst or the Inflatable work better for these purposes (if nothing else they’re a hell of a lot easier to portage). Has anyone every tried anything like this before?


The Longer Boat…
would work better, provided you got the horsepower to keep it up for four miles. In white water, I find attainment (going upstream to different features) is much easier with a longer than a shorter boat. Make use of shoreline features and midstream rocks. Better to ferry over to a helpful feature than to try to battle straight against the current. Alot of times, you’ll be engaged in series of hard throbbing sprints. Tiring work.


The only trouble you might have with the longer boat is that the current might grab your bow and ferry you where you don’t want to go. IMO the ideal upstream boat would have a narrow beam, a long waterline, and enough rocker to let you easily turn back up into the current. Trimming your boat bow light might help with that too.

Sounds like fun!


A rudder can be an
asset when padddling extended distances upriver.

I used to paddle Prijon Seayak up the North Platte on a regular basis. Excellent conditioning practice and the rudder really helped to maintain progress without all the correction usually necessary.

Of the three boats mentioned, I would also select the Kodiak. (I’m not familiar with the Catalyst)

Good luck.


and make sure you use a big, honkin’ paddle too.

How wide a creek?
Upstream paddling on the Columbia River below Priest Rapids dam involved a lot of eddy hopping for me. The disadvantage of a long boat (Tempest 165) was that the bow tended to get pushed out into the current as I pushed past the end of an eddy. Then you have to paddle hard to get around back close to shore. There is a delicate balance between paddling as close to shore as possible to stay out of the current and paddling in too shallow water to paddle efficiently. Then near some gravel bars the current accelerates into the shallows and you are better off staying out in the deep.

So if you are just beating against a current, you might go for a longer boat, but if you can use the features something a bit shorter may be better, I think.

paddling upstream
My 17’x19" Sisson Nucleus kayak works pretty well for paddling upstream my local rivers and creeks, some of them with samll rapids and tight turnings. I really need semi racing kayak to go upstream through some spots. My 20’ Xtreme canoe used in Texas Water Safari was definetely too long for that type of paddling. I am also trying white water kayak for upstream/downstream paddling but only in low water conditions.

Cache la Poudre River:

Big Thompson River: