Canoeing shallow rivers

Total newb here. Just wondering how much water depth do you need to use a canoe? I live just a couple of miles from a river that is about 2.5 feet deep right now, I think it gets a lot more shallow in the summer. I would guess that a big canoe with 2 adults, a kid and some gear is gonna bottom out much sooner than a solo canoe?

You will be amazed
how little water dept you need. This is the most wonderful thing about canoes. What a terrific craft.

Should be similar
Solo canoes are more than half the length of a tandem, but the relatively small extra length of a tandem is within the main body of the boat (both styles of boat have two ends, but one has more “middle” than the other, so that extra bit provides plenty of displacement as the boat sinks deeper). That’s a crude way of looking at it, but you get the idea. To use the boat you are thinking about getting as an example, the Bell Website says that the Eveningstar’s three-inch and four-inch waterlines correspond to loads of 395 and 550 pounds, respectively. I took a quick look at the waterline-load relationships for the Merlin II (a solo canoe) and at a glance (I didn’t do any math in my head) they seemed to correspond to a roughly similar gear load in addition to an average-weight paddler. In short, there won’t be a really huge difference between the depth needed to float one person with gear in a solo, and two people with gear in a tandem. The thing I always see in group river trips that makes more difference than anything is how big the people in the boat are. For both the solo canoe paddlers and the tandem teams, it’s the big paddlers who run aground in the riffles while the average-size folks float on through.

you just got to go and find out …

– Last Updated: Jan-26-12 10:18 PM EST –

...... 2.5' is way more than enough .

So what happens when you run into a shallow section that bottoms ?? What we've always done is get out that shallow section and move on . Just remember , staying in the canoe as opposed to falling out is your 1st priority . Accomplish that and everything else works out OK .

Now if that 2.5' river you're contemplating is flowing strong currents that show white water and small pillows over numerous rock structures that's another story altogether . Chances are in a heavily laiden tandem you're going to not just bottom , but hang on one of those rocks , spin and capsize sooner or later as you attempt to dodge the showing pillows to stay in deep enough water to pass along downstream . Not a big deal in warm water , you get wet , stand up or crawl your way to shore , pick up the pieces and try it again .

In solo canoe (shorter, lighter, narrower, more agile) you will most likely be able to run through river conditions as just described , but a heavily laiden tandem will probably get you in for a swim much sooner .

If the water is as cold where you are as it is here now ... you best stay out of it for awhile until it gets up around 60F. . Cold water is no place for making mistakes as a new paddler .

I had a long layover between flights in a city I knew had a large canoe retailer, so I went there to browse. The salesman saw me take an interest in a boat and tried to close the deal, offering to ship it to my home. I said that I wasn’t sure it would be a good canoe for our shallow creeks. He replied, “Sir, if you get up in the morning and there’s a heavy dew, you can paddle this sucker right across your yard.”

Good line but I didn’t buy. Still, I’ve found that unloaded canoes have very little draft.

A lot depends on the material of the…

A light weight kevlar canoe is good for about three inches of water with my wife and mnyself in it.

An 80 pound Old town Discovery would bottom out in four or five inches.

Jack L

Very little.
You will be too shallow for your paddle before you get too shallow for your canoe. And then you may want to learn to pole.

Find a water gauge for the river you are talking about on the noaa website. Find the one closest to you. Record the depth and take a trip. If all worked out do more test paddles at lower depths. You will soon figure out when its too shallow. Also pay attention to how fast the depth recedes after a rain, so you will know when you can plan trips.

Ryan L.

It depends
This is an area where flat bottomed canoes shine. A shallow arch or shallow V perform much better in deeper water,but draw more. Also inaddition to it’s toughness,the flexability of a roylex,royalite boat also turns into an advantage enabling you to “worm” over rocks. I have a royalite Wenona Sandpiper that I widened by putting in wider seat and thwarts. This created a wide,flat bottomed boat which performs poorly everywhere else,shines in shallow,narrow,twisty creeks.


Only a few inches
The exact depth the canoe draws will of course depend on the load and size of the canoe, but also its shape. Relatively flat bottom boats draw much less water than those with arched or more rounded bottoms (just like a raft does not draw much water).

A highly rockered canoe will displace less water toward the ends and will thus draw more water amidships than will a similar size boat with less rocker.

In most cases 5 inches of water will probably be enough to float your boat.

Better manufacturers give waterline
depths with various weights in the boat. Most boats perform best with the boat loaded to 3-4 inches in the water. Look at the figures…for typical tandems sunk to four inches in the water…that is five hundred plus pounds.

You cannot put more in a canoe than its midship depth. Otherwise it would be called a submarine. Most canoes max out at 12-13 inches.

Flat bottomed boats are preferred for shallow streams. Look at the Miramichi River in New Brunswick…they use shallow tandems solo for fishing because they often have less than six inches of water to paddle in.

You real limiting factor is NOT the boat but the propulsion device. A canoe paddle has a blade 20 inches or so long. You will not be able to use it efficiently in water shallower than that. Poling is the preferred method of propulsion in shallow rivers. Its a shame that it is popular only in the Northeast .

as long as there’s algae
on the rocks, you can pole. Try poling, then you’ll love skinny water as much as big water.

Link to my shots in my bio. got some poling albums in there.

good answers
I might have missed it but it does make a difference how the weight is distributed in the canoe If you and you child are paddling aand you weigh 200 pounds and he weighs 60 pounds the stern will sink a lot more than the bow. In this case the bow will miss rocks that the stern will scrape over.

its assumed you have trimmed out the
boat. Its foolhardy to paddle with an adult in the stern and a child in the bow and nothing else. For one the kid cant help…at sixty lbs they are able to paddle. For two its darn unstable to wave the bow in the air.

Most people learn to paddle backward from the bow seat and so the boat is more level.

Where does that depth come from?
As said above, about five inches of water will typically float your canoe, but if your talking about river gauge depth, there’s a creek I paddle that turns into %90 hiking when the gauge get’s below four and a half feet.

Here’s a link every paddler should know

Many paddling clubs will have web pages that give recommended gauge depths for local rivers.

But when it’s hot, tie a painter at each end and go barefoot. When you hit the gravel, get out and the boat will usually start floating again and you just hold onto the line and walk alongside.

River depth
I found the USGS real time water data for the river. For the past 90 days it has run between 1.75 ft to 3.5 ft. Looks like I should be good to go? Their are no rocks in it, it’s a sand bottom. I’ll check it out without the kids first, just my wife and I.

Here is the water data…

Discharge rates
I know discharge rates effect streamflow, but don’t really know what to look for. I’m seeing around 200 cubic feet per second most of the time. Going back 120 days, we had a lot of rain in October. The depth was up to 6 feet and the discharge was around 2000 cubic feet per second for a couple of days. Then it dropped off real fast.

17 ft canoe, 28 in beam roughly 2.4312 inches of water for total weight of 850 lbs…canoe and people…add .438 for every 100 lbs. Not considering waves/chop…

Paddle faster ie Sprint and less h2o required since bow will rise on forward wake of canoe due to not much room between bottom of canoe and river bed.

Can’t tell till you been there

– Last Updated: Jan-27-12 12:01 PM EST –

OK you found the graph with stats, that gives you an idea if it's relatively low or high. As to wether the whole thing is paddleable or not you can't tell from the data. That just gives you a reference point. One Creek I paddle I need 4.5 on the gauge, another needs 6 to paddle the whole way but it's doable at 2 if you don't mind dealing with the shallows.
If you play on google you may find a paddling clubs recommended depths.
If it's warm enough that you don't mind stepping out of the boat from time to time, or if you got rubber boots, then go exploring. some people may not like it, and you may cringe if your bottoming out a fiberglass boat on gravel, but to me that sounds like the greatest possible way to spend a weekend.

Go and post back.