Cheapest flatbottomed canoe?

Here is the oportunity:

The river we paddle in our Spirit II Kev Flexcore has some very interesting feeder creeks that I would love to explore. I assume that they will be on the shallow side with both muddy flats and gravel bars. If I were looking at picking up the least expensive used/new canoe to use just to explore these feeders what should I consider in a tandem. Is my thinking correct in looking for a flatbottomed canoe? I figure it would float in the least amount of water-correct?


Are you poling?
I recommend that.

Your paddle typically takes more draft than your boat. You will run out of water to dip your paddle in before you run aground.

Both of you may need to stand and pole.

Try a pirogue…they are narrow.

Canoes tend to wallow and sink in shallow water…its much slower paddling…You want a craft that has a relatively high length to width ratio and a flat bottom and thats a pirogue…Used alot in shallow water situations like clamming.

Consistently Shallow Water

– Last Updated: Apr-19-08 4:39 PM EST –

I think that by the time the water is shallow enough that one type of canoe scrapes bottom and another doesn't, it's time to just get out and walk your boat. I'd be surprised if the difference in draft between your Spirit II and a flatter-bottomed canoe of similar size would be as much as 1.5 inches. Chances are, your Spirit II is only drafting about 4 inches with a fairly big load right now. For me, bottom-scraping time is walking time! As far as a boat becoming slower and less efficient in shallow water, that's more closely correlated with length than anything else (the longer the boat, the more its speed potential is reduced when entering the shallows, but in water shallow enough to severely bog down, a little length difference probably doesn't matter). I have a Jon boat that only drafts about an inch when I'm in it, and it bogs down something fierce when rowing in water that's 8 or 10 inches deep. Once the water gets really shallow, you have to figure on going pretty slow in any boat.

We run a 169 Discovery
through 3" of water in many places just to go explore them … I’m 170 and she’s a bit heavier up front , we skim right over gravel bottoms and never touch in 3" (hardly) … what I’ve always thought is that the larger the foot print of the bottom , the less weight per sq. inch on the water and thus the shallower the drafts draw per pound ( a longer canoe has a lighter footprint I think )… alot of this is up current on the way in , but on the way out downcurrent , you’d never know you were in 3" of water except for the paddle being used as a pole when quick manuvers are required !! … boats will displace exactlty the same amount of water weight wise as the gross boat load , so think about that displaced water being in less sq. inches (boat runs deeper draft) or more sq. inches (boat runs shallower draft) … a nice ie. plastic boat it great for beating up , but I would not want to do that in finer kevlar or fiberglass crusier … an old bay boater once said , if we keep getting all these recreational boaters out on this bay during the weekends , the water at the shore will rise into peoples yards , lol … ( put enough icecube boats in a bowl of water and watch the bowl over flow )

We will take the Spirit II
and see how it goes once the water calms down & warms up. It doesn’t take much water to float her but the thought of grinding her hull on gravel makes me cringe. It does make sense to get out and walk if it gets too shallow but no way if we are in the mud. We hit a rather large mud flat not far from the creek I want to explore first and ended up poling along with our paddles. That was some deep mud! Both my wife and I have knee issues and attempting to “walk” though mud like that is out of the question.

I just got a GPS with topo map and discovered that not too far up a creek mouth we go right past may be quite the hidden gem. Looks like there are some sheer cliffs that rise well over 100 ft along that creek and we had no idea they were even there. I can’t wait to get in there!


You are a kindred spirit
I love exploring places most people would never think to. I don’t have a GPS which incorporates maps, but I do frequently look at topo maps and also air photos on-line when initially searching for possible “gems”. It’s good to see that somebody else out there is doing this too. With the potential for such cliffs, it might be worth the hike if your boat runs out of water on the way there!

Topo GPS Map.

I have a “few” paper topo maps that just don’t really show the same amount and detail that I now have on my Garmin Topo 2008 CD. Who would think that such sights can be hidden just up that creek! It’s things like this that really grab my attention and get one’s blood flowing. Almost like finding a small piece of paradise hidden right under everyone’s nose.


Map Detail

– Last Updated: Apr-20-08 2:17 AM EST –

It would really surprise me if map software for any GPS was based on anything other than already-available maps (what private business organization has the resources to make their own topographic maps of the entire U.S.?). Map detail depends on scale, and maybe your particular paper maps are not the most-detailed available (there are at least four or five different scales for printed topo maps). The most-detailed maps I've seen in other people's GPS units have been direct copies of USGS topo maps.

Here's a comparison you can do. Find a spot on your GPS map, then find the same place on a USGS 7.5-minute map online. I use Terraserver. Go to

and click on "advanced find", then click on "place", and fill in the name of the nearest town. Zoom-in to to near the maximum magnification level and you will be looking at a small portion of a the same 7.5-minute map you can buy printed on paper. I bet it's the same map as what's programmed into your GPS. It would be interesting to check, anyway.

In any case, I think you might like Terraserver (or other sites with the same features) because you can convert the map view to an air photo, and at the higher magnifications, you can actually see individual trees (they aren't crystal-clear, but at least they are visible), which means you can usually tell if a small creek is passable, or blocked by strainers (just bear in mind that the photos are several years old and these details change with time). Other on-line services do the same thing, but all the ones I've seen so far use the same air photos as Terraserver, so I haven't bothered to use more than just this one service.

Did the comparison
and the Terraserver maps are much more detailed than what I have on paper. Whats on my GPS is quite good but not as detailed as Terraserver. You can squeeze only so much on to a digital screen and expect to be able to make sense out of it I suppose. I had forgotten all about Terraserver and had not been there for a couple of years but I put the link on my desktop.



I’ve been told the Chipewan I rebuilt was the predecessor to what Old Town sells today as the Camper. It has a very flat bottom, which, in general I don’t like. However, I have found that the Chipewan excels as a poling boat in shallow water. It will float over obstructions on which I know other boats will hit and grind. I also think the boat slows down more when you are going through shallow water.

I’m not sure I’d go out and buy a boat like this just for shallow water. But I do notice my Chipewan gets over things on which my other boats would catch. I’m always preparing for impacts on things I think I am going to hit and then being pleasantly surprised that the Chipewan floats over them.


shallow draft
Bottom shape does make a difference. I use a shallow vee hull while Doug D has a flatter bottom. He can glide over stuff that I get hung up on. But definitely, footprint area (and your load) makes the most difference.

First 2008 paddle/OH YEAH!
My wife and I went out on our first paddle of the year this afternoon and headed straight for that creek. It went pretty well actually. There ended up being very little mud to deal with and the water depth was adequate. We used the Spirit II and the water was crystal clear, which helped in avoiding the limestone rocks that dotted the bottom along the bluffs. No doubt this would only be a go during the higher water of spring though.

We paddled along with a fella in his yak and we went just as far upstream as he was able to. Had to stop at a small ledge, followed by a 2nd, which had a huge strainer not to far past it. We stepped into the creek and had a refreshing lunch while standing in the icy knee deep water. A very beautiful little spot indeed!