Bill Mason's Prospector?

Does anyone know what companies are making prospector canoes close in design to what Bill Mason prefered?

He paddled a fort model correct?


Chestnut Pal
Mason owned many red Prospector style canoes. I read he favored the Chestnut Pal.

Bill Mason’s favorite
On my copy of Bill Mason’s “Path of the Paddle”, he states:

“For me it’s no contest. When it comes to choosing the perfect canoe, the Chestnut sixteen foot Prospector canoe wins on all points.”

This would be Cherstnut’s “Fort” model I believe.

Elsewhere in the book Bill Mason stated that while he favored the old fashioned wood-and-camvas Prospector,… which he noted was becoming a rara avis, boat made of a tough synthetic lay up in a mould taken from the hull of an original Chestnut Prospector might be the ideal contruction, (aesthetics aside, I presume.

I am not familiar with all the many Prospector knock offs now being made, most in synthetics, but not all are exact copies. Clipper Canoes of Abbotsford, BC, which has a close connection with Bill’s daughter, makes synthetic fiber lay ups of Prospectors, and you could choose getting a lightweight version if you wish last time I checked.


Bell Canoe…

– Last Updated: Sep-25-06 9:20 PM EST –

has a "special" anniversary addition of the Chestnut prospector. It states it's the original specs given to them by Chestnut Canoe Co. Not sure if it's thee one Bill Mason liked but .... and it's not wood/canvas.........

Here is a link to a Chestnut Canoe Company off shoot - they were still making Chestnuts, including a Fort on what I believe may be original forms. There is however sad news on the website and it seems like they may not be building many canoes recently.

I restored a 17 foot wood and canvas Prospector and it is my favorite tripping canoe. It is a remarkable paddler.


Those wanting to duplicate the feel
of Mason’s Prospector should keep in mind that his wood-canvas boat was fairly stiff. Attempts to make Prospector clones in ABS or composite may give sub-optimal results if too light an ABS or composite layup is used. Mason and other Canadians often paddled their Prospectors heeled over to one side, and that is where stiffness will yield somewhat better performance.

Nova Craft??
I think they are making a copy also.


– Last Updated: Sep-27-06 7:31 PM EST –

I've paddled the Bell, Wenonah, Novacraft, and Esquif Prospectors.

The Bell was a black gold and was really flexible, plus it had pretty tiny flotation tanks. I believe that boat came from pretty early in their production run, so they could well have eliminated the flex since then. It was pretty efficient on flatwater for a Prospector design. I didn't spend much time in it on moving water.

The Wenonah was a kevlar flexcore model that I owned for a while. It was plenty stiff and performed well on both moving and flat water. It was also a pretty efficient design.

For the Novacraft, I've paddled both the blue steel and the royalex. Both are very solid boats. The design seemed to me to be oriented more towards moving water usage - very agile, but not as efficient on the flats as the Bell and Wenonah.

The Esquif was also a very solid, well-built royalex boat. It performed well on both moving and flat water. Not as efficient as the Bell, but moved along at a decent pace. I thought it was a very well-balanced design.

So as far as stiffness goes, the only one that was lacking was the Bell, and that would well have been fixed by now.

…although old Bill said that about the Prospector 16-the canoe he paddles in most of his films is a Chestnut Pal-not as deep in the centre as the Prospector and a little less rocker in the ends…

happy paddling!


you might ask his daughter becky at