Green as a gourd....

Looking to buy a first canoe for Ozark rivers and creeks. I like the prospector design, as the canoe would be paddled both single and tandem. Boat would be used primarily for day trips, with the possibility of a single overnight once in a while.

Question regarding length: is there an inherent reason NOT to consider a 15’ canoe as opposed to 16’?

My reasoning is that it would se more single usage than tandem, and the 15’ would be more maneuverable for a novice paddler.

thanks in advance


If it was me in your situation…
I would get the 15 footer.

With that said; if you are both heavy weights, you would be better off in the 16.

Jack L

Need to know
the total weight you would carry tandem. As Jack said…

Length of 15 is fine if load is appropriate. Would be better for solo.

…around four bills plus gear
I’m 250, partner around 160. I’m guessing 50lbs extra for gear. So 400-500 loaded.

In that case, you need the bigger boat
As a matter of fact, you should be looking at a 17 footer.

If you want to paddle it solo, just put some weight in the bow, or sit in the bow seat facing the rear and paddle it forward that way.

Jack l

guess I should back off on the biscuits & gravy.

I wont tell my wife you called her a “heavyweight”…

No on the 17 footer
no no no.

Rootwads.You need quick maneuvarability when the water is flowing fast… even at low.

We ran part of the Buffalo last week and the water was so long a 17 footer would have swunq wide at the end of the chutes and the stern would have whacked the trees.

Rule of Thumb?
we were on a small White River trib last weekend, and I had the same thought regarding the handling…17 footer woulda been pretty cumbersome

So, is there a rule of thumb as far as what percentage of the load rating is optimal? For instance, if a canoe is rated for 850lb capacity, is there a load at which you should be looking at a bigger boat?

Those load ratings only give
Six inches freeboard. That s not enough in wave trains

Figure 550 lbs for your hypothetical load. When the water is low less load is better

Ask some of the Ozark Rendezvouers. General hatred of the Hasty launch/takeout

so you’re saying…

– Last Updated: May-05-16 8:04 PM EST –

max load gives you 6" freeboard?

so, in theory, 60-65% capacity should give plenty of freeboard?

it sounds like that Hasty takeout is a bit of an uphill trudge....

For what its worth, in my opinion the Prospector 16 is about the most versatile canoe I’ve ever paddled. In royalex, if you can find one used, its almost perfect for the Ozark streams. There are faster canoes, canoes that are more maneuverable, canoes that can carry a heavier load, or handle wind better… but as an all around compromise of all these things (well, except handling in high winds…) the Prospector 16 is hard to beat. I like the Nova Craft one, but Wenonah, Bell, and others make very similar hulls. The Esquif Mistral is close as well.

The 15 would probably do for just you and be a bit more maneuverable solo, but if you’re thinking of using it tandem in those shallow streams I’d say the 16 would be better. And for such a big wide boat the 16 is amazingly maneuverable, especially when heeled. Its not like a full zoot whitewater boat, but it can do about anything you should have to do in any of the Ozark waters I’ve seen. It just bounces over large wave trains solo and will run dry through them tandem as long as you hit your lines about right. Loaded and tandem I’d expect to take some splash in big wave trains, but nothing to worry much about.

If you were thinking of Boundary Waters uses and the weights you describe the 17 might be better. I’ve never paddled a Prospector 17 and it might be turny enough to get you by in the Ozarks, but IMHO Kayakmedic’s right, threading through some of the rootwads you’re sure to encounter eventually in any 17 footer in fast current and the fast shallow gravel approaches that are common down there would take an unusual amount of finesse to pull off consistently.

In royalex they’re not light boats but they’re not impossible. I managed to get mine up that Hasty take-out on my shoulders. (I was puffed, but then it was the first real outing of the season and I’m always a little out of shape on the first few outings.) Folks have humped Grummans and wood/canvas canoes for a long time and a royalex P16 is lighter than any of those…

Go For the 16 for Tandem Tripping

– Last Updated: May-05-16 11:48 PM EST –

I'm afraid you underestimated your gear load, because 50lbs is about what your cooler will weigh. Add another 50-75lbs for your total load on an overnight trip, and that's with light weight gear.

I'm a big guy and paddle Ozark rivers. My current boat I use most is a Wenonah Prospector 15 tandem. I paddle it solo and can pack a lot of overnight gear in it solo. I can also tandem paddle it, but with TWO and an overnight load it will float too deep if water levels get low. A 16 will float higher. Also, when the stems are deeper, you lose maneuverability.

Wenonah also has a Prospector 16, and Novacraft makes a nice Prospector 16 that you should be able to handle solo. Hope that helps?

One size fits all?
I guess, but to me a 15’ Prospector is too big for a solo boat, and too small for a tandem. I’d look for a cheap 16’ tandem to paddle with your wife, and a dedicated solo boat in the 14’ range. I know that there are lots of people who paddle tandem boats solo all the time, but I’m not one of them.

Good luck.

Please note that I said:

– Last Updated: May-06-16 8:43 AM EST –

"if you are both Heavyweights" !
IF, IF, IF !

Regardless of what others say below, I'll stick by I think you would be better off in a 17 footer.
My wife and I have canoes ranging from 14 feet to 18 feet six inches, and my favorite all around for any depth river is our 17 footer

What Eric says below, (getting two boats) might be the way to go

Jack L

Uhhhh, The OP SAID…

– Last Updated: May-06-16 8:15 AM EST –

....he was big AND wanted a tandem. I thought my advice was "Sound" and based upon experience of someone the OP's size? And I DID recommend the 16 if tandem?

It’s not just freeboard
As Kim said, 6" freeboard capacities should be used only for relative comparisons. Few people would or should choose to load a canoe to 6" freeboard capacity on moving water.

Canoes tend to have a maximum performance weight range. If you load the boat beyond that capacity you will sink enough hull to increase drag and decrease performance. Furthermore, many Ozark streams have shallows that will cause a canoe with more than a few inches of draft to hang up repeatedly which sort of detracts from the enjoyment of the endeavor.

I have paddled the Wenonah 15’ Prospector solo a good bit, paddled a Dagger 16’ Legend solo a lot, and briefly paddled an Esquif Mistral 16’ solo. All are doable for someone with decent arm and torso length. There is no doubt that the 15’ Prospector would be better for you paddling solo, but I agree with Terry that the 16’ boat would be preferable for tandem use, especially with any added load.

I agree with Kim that a 17’ boat is not the preferred way to go for Ozark streams.

Yours was a 16 footer right? Or was it a 15 on the Buffalo?

Wow. I wonder how we tripped for 19 years in the Boundary Waters and Quetico in a 15 foot Grumman. With a small kid, for a week at a time

yes, 60-65%
of the often stated “industry capacity” (6" freeboard) is your “performance” or “real” capacity.

Depending on how often you expect to go solo vs tandem, you could also get a dedicated solo boat and rent when going tandem.

Sorry WW
You did answer the OP’s question, and a lot of people would agree with you. I was just giving an alternative view.

for all of the replies and good advice, an all fronts.

As luck would have it, I found a guy who is rotating his rental fleet and got a smokin’ deal on a used Discovery 169. I know it’s a tank, but for the price I figure can’t go wrong…and still leaves room/time to scope out a smaller boat for solo and smaller streams.

again, thanks for all responses and comments