Canoe questions - for wild ricing

Hello All,

I am a new member to the forum. I live in Wisconsin and enjoy canoeing on local lakes and larger rivers. In the fall, I harvest wild rice when time allows. Up to now, I have always used a canoe of a family member or friend. It’s time to take the plunge and buy a good canoe. Right now, the canoe will be used mainly for short day trips on the water with fishing gear. In the future, it might be used to carry some heavier loads, but that would likely be the exception, not the rule. I will usually be paddling with one other person, and maybe a third, being our young daughter. On occasion, I could go alone.

What is a good canoe for my intended uses? Here are the complicating requirements: it can’t be too heavy in case I go alone or with Grandpa (who is not able to help load/unload the canoe from my car), and it must meet Wisconsin regulations for wild ricing. Basically, the canoe cannot be longer than 17 feet and 38 inches wide (more info can be found here: Since the canoe will be used for harvesting wild rice, the person who sits in the bow seat must be able to sit facing the stern of the canoe. Many canoes have a thwart directly behind the bow seat. This is can very uncomfortable for the person sitting in the bow seat and facing stern because their legs have to rest on the thwart. Other canoes come with molded seats, and if used for wild ricing, would have to be replaced. I would prefer to avoid canoes that have a thwart directly behind the bow seat and have molded seats.

Because this will likely be the only canoe we buy for many years, I am interested in something that will likely last awhile.

I apologize if this issue has been discussed to death before. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!


I suggest the Wenonah Spirit II in
their Tufweave layup. Not as light as Kevlar, but cheaper, durable, easy to repair. Get aluminum gunwales. I think seat type is an option you can arrange with your dealer.

The Spirit II has good primary and secondary stability. It has some glide and is easy paddling. It is maneuverable enough that you can wind through the wild rice easily. I believe the foam core bottom is flat enough that you will not be chasing wild rice from between nooks and crannies.

On the thwart issue, thwarts can be moved. Wenonah’s website may have an overhead picture, but they’re easy to move, or pad a bit.

There may be a few Spirit IIs still around in Royalex, but Tufweave is stiffer and lighter and costs about the same.

So many choices
You have so many boats to choose from. Assuming ricing isn’t the only use you’ll have for the boat, you’ll want something fairly versatile. That excludes any boat with a beam greater than 36". That said, the Spirit II is a good choice (but not in Tuf-Weave unless you like to heft 65 lbs). So is the Mad River Explorer 16 in Kevlar, the Bell MorningStar (15’6" x 36"), and other similar craft. Get clear about your weight limit and that will help you decide. Suggest you also look into poling, since as I’m sure you know it can be hard to paddle through wild rice beds.

From what I’ve seen in MN and N. WI it’s mostly Alumacraft and Grumman boats used for ricing. They can be heavy (60-70 lbs) so that may be an issue for you.

I find
my old town penobscot 16 to be quite versatile

Find one that
meets your size and weight specifications and make sure it has a symmetrical hull. Thwarts can be moved, but more often depending on their placement, the canoe can be paddled “reversed”, especially if the reversed-bowperson weighs less than the stern paddler. I paddled my Dagger Legend 17 for many years as a solo WW boat…reversed. We ran some big stuff that way!

Uuuuh, the way I read it, the Tufweave

– Last Updated: Apr-21-14 2:57 PM EST –

Spirit II is 58 pounds, not 65. That's a very liftable weight for me.

Wherever you read "65", I don't believe it. We have a very similar Bluewater Chippewa glass/nylon/Kevlar layup that comes in at 50. The proportions of glass, the heaviest cloth, are similar. Both foam core designs.

The way I see it, even on a bad day, Wenonah couldn't pack enough glass/polyester fabric into a vacuum bagged boat to reach 65 pounds.

The Morningstar is too small for his stated uses. The Kevlar Explorer is rather slow, no more maneuverable than the Spirit II, and whatever MR claims (I've owned 3), I doubt they can be lighter than a Tufweave Spirit II.

What’s the issue with a symmetrical
hull? (You don’t want to answer that, because there never has been a real issue, only imagined.)

Thank you everyone for the input. I wasn’t aware that thwarts could be moved. That opens up a lot of options.

I agree that many people use aluminum or other heavy canoes. I have riced with some of those, and it can be difficult.

Regarding poling, I do that almost exclusively while harvesting the rice. We use a push pole that has a duck bill attached to the end. It allows us to push the canoe better though the thick rice and muck. Some of the rice found along the river’s edge can be easily harvested with using just the paddles.

One person mentioned weight. For most uses, the weight of the people plus any gear would likely be 400 pounds or less. On rare occasion, it might go over that.

Again, thanks for all of your input. It has helped greatly.

  • David

Wenonah Boundary Waters !

– Last Updated: Apr-23-14 10:32 AM EST –

Light in Tufweave, no thwart in the way, though you might want to move the thwart near the stern seat. Maybe a dealer would do it for you. Depends partly on where you stand to pole.

17', rock solid, low ends won't blow around in the marsh. Already used by Ely outfitters, so you might be able to get a good used one at the Piragis yearly rental sale.

AND THE BEST PART! So far as I can ascertain, it appears to be symmetrical!!

Probably Wenonah was ashamed of it being symmetrical, so they didn't mention it.

rice canoe
Any canoe can be used. Wood canoes would be awkward because of all of those pesky ribs in the way and heavy. Any reasonably light weight fiberglass or Kevlar boat will work fine. If the bow thwart is in the way take it out.