Creek Boat / River boat

Whats the difference between a Creek boat and a River boat. I’m looking at some liquid logic boats and I see they have both classes.



creek boats

– Last Updated: Dec-18-11 10:38 AM EST –

Boats designed primarily for creeking tend to have more volume in the ends, especially in the bow, to help the bow resurface after going over sizable drops and to avoid unintentional back enders. They tend to have very blunt ends to avoid pitoning and reduce the risk of entrapment. Most also have rounded displacement hulls.

River running boats have evolved to more closely resemble play boats than in decades past. They often tend to have flatter hull bottoms with sharper chines and reduced volume in the ends to assist deliberately submerging the ends for play moves like stern squirts or cartwheels. A boat used as a general purpose river runner tends to have a bit more volume, be a bit more comfortable, and sometimes have a bit more hull speed than a full-on play boat.

If you aren't so much interested in playing on the river you can use your creek boat as a river runner just fine.

Here is a brief description of the differences:

another description

the distinctions are sometimes blurry but a creekboat is typically high volume (resurfaces easily) and highly rockered for running steep creeks with technical features and waterfalls, with a rounded bottom that won’t hang up on rocks and ledges, and can turn to eddy out easily. a river runner will typically be medium volume with more of a planing hull, sometimes with defined chines, that can go downriver with decent speed, hold a line better, and even surf/carve/play.

Other comments
A lot of the diff between these boats comes down to how much work you want to do to be ready to tackle moving water with comfort. We have seen a move to using creekers rather than some of the traditional student river runners in WW classes around here that seems to be related to the increasing number of white haired students. Our best guess is that the older folks are also less likely to be able to grab a basic roll as quickly as the young kids, or maybe are unwilling to try, so they are being put in boats that are more protective.

Don’t get me wrong - even mild looking moving water can have you in a world of trouble in a second. But the creekers tend to stay upright in the face of paddler error more easily than a smaller volume boat would. It is a side effect of their being designed to mitigate some of the issues of running higher class WW where drops and holes are all harder.

A lot of current river runners are actually designed to be river/play. They’ll run the green water fine, but also have grabbier edges than pure river runners and the creekers. The grabbier edge allows the paddler to more easily do very controlled maneuvers and catch smaller features. But on the flip side (pun intended), it also makes it more likely it is that a small mistake in leaning upstream will have you testing your roll.

So if you are a white haired guy

– Last Updated: Dec-18-11 1:49 PM EST –

looking to run down through white water in the class 2-4 range that will be comfortable and forgiving and you are not interested in performing all sort of acrobatics but would like to be able to pull off snappy eddy turns etc., what sort of boat should you be looking for? I know a guy that fits this description...

Apologize in advance if I'm going to far off topic.

Snappy eddy turns

– Last Updated: Dec-18-11 6:30 PM EST –

I haven't messed with anything higher than 3, and just moments of that, but I think good eddy turns are within the performance specs for all WW type boats (as long as the paddler can execute things snappily). That's a fundamental thing. Sitting on imperceptibly small standing waves - that's where the playboats excel because having no hull speed helps.

a duckie?

– Last Updated: Dec-18-11 9:43 PM EST –

it ain't Class IV if it's "comfortable and forgiving" in a kayak... lol

having said that, I run up to class III in a LL Coupe (a SOT modeled after the Remix XP10 hull) with the Badass Outfitting.


– Last Updated: Dec-18-11 6:53 PM EST –

As a white haired guy who sometimes wants the headroom, I think a river runner (such as a Diesel) is a good boat for most uses besides park & play or class IV+ drops. For a bit more snap, there are river-play boats. I have an I3 for when I'm feeling more confident.

River runners
So you think the Diesel is not up to a class 4 drop now and again? Those boats do look like what I should be getting in to. But we have many rivers in our area with a lot of nice steady 3 with a 4 here and there. I like rivers like that and run them often in my old tripping canoes.

Well, it’s not a clear cut …
Some local folks run the Great Falls in Virginia/MD on the Potomac in play boats. These falls are typically considered up to class V in normal water conditions. The question is what makes it a class V and what do you want out of your boat…

I paddle the WaveSport Fuse 64, which is play/river design similar to Jackson Fun series. It is very reassuring in small water, like solid Class II. It is also quite good for “park and play” kind of stuff and can play where the smallest playboats can but can also surf a little faster waves due to its slightly longer length. Can’t do all advanced flips as it is long and heavy-ish compared to something a foot shorter, but it is not meant to do it anyway. In Class III (which I’d say in my case is the same Class II stretch with several times higher water flows that form strong currents and wave trains), a boat like that is still very good, but requires some attention as the swirls and eddy lines are now a lot more aggressive and the rear sometimes gets caught a bit and requires quick reaction -;). The front also can submarine relatively easy (it is a feature to allow it to be playful) where a river runner or creeker will not do that in the same conditions. To be honest, I have not recently paddled a river runner or a creeker in the same water, so not sure how they will behave exactly, but watching others do it, the seem “boring” - they are meant for much bigger water or for comfort in learning. Creekers are more stable, less affected by currents, more buoyant, and more suitable for big drops (small drops I think one can run in pretty much any WW boat).

If you like to go downriver and catch eddies here and there, I’d say look for something with more speed. If you want to surf occasionally, something with flatter bottom like a Dagger Approach would be a good choice, but if you want to always be on top, a creeker will be your friend with its more rounded bottom and higher volume all around.

The good news is that there should be plenty of good condition WW boats of all kinds available second hand to buy and try -:wink:

Wave Sport Diesel
A Diesel appropriately sized for the paddler will handle any class of whitewater you are up for.

It gets to be about you

– Last Updated: Dec-19-11 8:51 AM EST –

Talking about specific models of boats for an individual going into a different type of paddling is always difficult.

There are people on this board who could take anything that floats down a nasty run, and a gradual curve of better paddlers being able to come back home safe from going out in a less suited boat. We know of one extremely good WW paddler who didn't even think about getting a creeker until it came to hugely big water in Central America for example - no stinking class 4 and up locally got this paddler out of the teapot playboat that they preferred. But this person is a very, very good paddler.

Fpr rpg, you have as an advantage a higher degree of comfort with the whooshy stuff than most new paddlers, as well as familiarity with how the water behaves. You may find that it all feels like you are more in it, and that your moves will have to be quicker, but you are starting from a much better point than most newbies. So as long as you can manage the recovery part you may be able to worry less about the protective part in a boat you choose.

But overall, the better you have to be as a paddler for the water or the boat you are in, the more you have to handle in the way of discomforting capsizes. Even in fairly easy class 2 I have had to fish for a loop with the back of my helmet hitting rocks or having to feel my way around a tree limb that was up against the same rock as me, without being able to see, and it definitely challenged my mental control. I sooo wanted to have the luxury of panicking, but it wasn't going to be helpful.

So, unless and until you get into these boats, it can be hard for anyone to recommend what will work best for you personally. A lot about running WW while skirted into a small piece of plastic comes down to very individual responses, and it is hard to know where your comfort will be until you try it.

Go for the Remix, not the creekboats
Not knowing the difference between a creek boat and a river boat tells me you will not be running creeks soon. You will find a river boat a lot more comfortable to paddle on more typical rivers and you will not need some of the special design features of a creek boat. There are also other nice river boats – Dagger Mamba series, Jackson hero series, Diesel series, Pyranha Burn series, and the one I own and recommend, Dragorossi Mad Boy.

Thanks for all the good information.


– Last Updated: Dec-19-11 4:17 PM EST –

In the past year I've owned a 2011 LL Remix XP10, 2011 WS Diesel 80, 2011 LL Remix 79, and a 2012 Jackson Super Hero.

The Remix XP was nice, just too big and heavy for my taste, and we decided that we wanted to move more toward WW paddling.

I still have the Diesel 80, have run mostly Class I/II and some II+ rivers, I like the boat, but it can be edgy at times and if you're not paying attention you will be wet in a hurry.

Bought the Remix 79 for a great price used and really just bought it to try out and then most likely resell, which I did. It felt a lot like the Remix XP in a way, still too big for me and after being used to the planning hull of the Diesel, just didn't feel as good to me. I originally demoed a Remix 79 and the Diesel on the same day, and chose the Diesel due to its size and how it handled. My wife decide on a Diesel 60 and still likes it....guess it's a guy thing....I like collecting boats....I have a problem and I accept it :)!

Ended up giving my Diesel to my step son, since he wanted to start paddling with us (and it gave me an excuse to get a new boat.....again).

Can't really say much about the new Super Hero yet....other than it's really "pretty" :)! Haven't had time to get it out on the water yet, but I did demo an '09 model and it was everything I was looking for. Really forgiving, short, comfortable, sporty feeling, can carry decent speed for it's length, easy to roll (even though I was able to roll all of the above with no problems, the SH was rediculously easy). Feels like a good mix of what the Diesel and Remix have to offer, but with more comfort for me personally.

The Diesel, Remix and SH are all considered as river runner/creek boats, even though the manufactures also make dedicated "creek boats". The best I can tell, the dedicated creek boats are heavier (built more heavy duty, thicker plastic, sometimes sturdier center pillars, etc), have more rocker, and less edges to get caught up on rocks. It can be quite confusing, but the way I understand it, all of the boats I listed above are river runners that can be used for light or introductory creek running, yet still are predominately designed to be used on rivers. The dedicated creek boats are build safer for the more advanced paddlers and steep creeking applications, they don't track as well and won't be as enjoyable on river runs. I think the Super Hero is a good comprimise for what I'll mostly be using it for.....we shall see....maybe someday there will be a Villan or Stomper hanging in the garage with the rest of the "collection" :)!

Steep Creek’n
The part missing about creek boats is the adjective STEEP… this class of boat was always referred to as “Steep Creek” boat. Somewhere the Steep has been dropped.

So what’s the difference? Opinions will vary as many ways as there are creeks. I would say any creek, or river, with an average gradient over 100 feet per mile classifies as a steep creek.

Can you paddle a “river runner “ on a steep creek? Sometimes yes, sometimes not so well. Granted there are boaters out here who can paddle some wicked stuff in anything, but they are the exception.

So for examples lets take West Virginia. Two creeks: Big Sandy and Deckers. Both rated in the IV/V range and two different animals. Big Sandy averages like 80fpm with some concentrated areas in the 120fpm area. Deckers averages like 110-150 fpm. Big Sandy is more pool then drop, then pool. Deckers is constant and blind, many of the hazards like strainers and under cuts are not obvious. While there are places on the Big Sandy you don’t want to be upside down, there is room for error and if you have to roll you can. Deckers is not that forgiving, rolling is not an option. Upside down on Deckers almost guarantees hard impact. Even in a Steep Creek boat, to piton a rock is not unexpected.

I would like to point out that steep creeks don’t always fit into the river classification system very well when compared to other creeks or especially rivers with steep creek like gradients.

My personal experience has been that boats like the Remix and Diesel (I’ve owned both) don’t steep creek all that well. Both boats, even though I was paddling one size above my weight range, eventually turned into piton and pin festivals when the average gradients got steep. Right now I’m paddling a Prijon Pure and I’ve owned the Riot Magnum, Necky Blunt, Eskimo Diablo and Salto. All dam good steep creekers.

My advice for people just starting out is to buy something used that fits you well and is your favorite color. Paddle it and have fun.

As an after thought, my Prijon Pure surfs better than the Diesel or the Remix.

class IV+ drops
A Diesel is certainly fine for class IV drops. For above class IV, some would prefer a creeker

Weight matters
Paddler weight matters a lot more when you get into whitewater kayaks. The same boat will have very different characteristics with different paddlers because the amount of boat down in the water changes with weight. The hull shapoe also has a lot to do with the hanldling.

If you weight 120 lbs and but a Mamba 8.5, it is floating you so high it is going to perform a lot like a creek boat even though it’s labeled a river runner. If you are overwight for an Ammo, it’s probably going to feel more like a playboat than a ctraditional reeker. You can surf the biggest creekboats and you can run big drops in the smallest of playboats, so it somes down to what you want the boat to do.

For most people that aren’t doing creeky Class III+ and higher, I recommend a river runner or a river play to start out. The often have more initial stability than the round bottom, higly rockered creekers, they are reasonably fast and they aren’t as loose (and slow)as the rodeo boats. I think most people adapt to the river and river play boats more quickly. The Mamba and Axiom are good examples of what I mean when I say River Runner, The Fuse and Fun Sare nice River Play boats (many others, but these are ubiquitous).

A planing hull with some good edges is great for surfing and carving and throwing some tricks. A river play with a slicey stern can be great fun, but on big water, you find yourself stern squirting at the bottom of every other drop. River runners handle the drops much better, but they tend to stay flat on the water, so enders and vertical stuff is not easy in smaller waves. The lack of edge on the traditional creeker means it is very forgiving in most everything, but it also means that you can’t have the same level of control on a wave using edges – you’ll need paddle skills.

If you want a river runner that can do some creekeing, just make sure you are on the low end of it’s weight range and that the hull is what you want. Virtually every combination exists these days. The Ammo is a creeker with a playboat-like hull. If you want to mostly surf and get into vertical stuff a bit, the River Play boats are great and they can be very stable and forgiving as well. Just lean downstream…


Suggest a few River Runner boats for a good paddler with lots of open boat white water and tripping experience, just starting in Kayaks. Looking to run rivers in Class II III range in New England. Not looking to do much in the way of fancy play boat acrobatics.

It isn’t having no hull speed that makes
a boat willing to sit on small waves. It’s the nature and distribution of the rocker. My slalom boat will sit on small waves, because there’s a noticeable upward bend in the flat tail, just behind the cockpit. The long, narrow bow cuts through the upstream wave face, instead of scooping up over the wave like a playboat.

Where playboat shortness helps more is in throwing ends. But then, they aren’t worth much for those booming enders and pirouettes that used to be admired at rodeos.