Kayak or canoe advice/suggestions


My family and I live in western NC. We have two boys, 11 and 14 and we’d like to explore and fish more of the rivers, lakes, etc that WNC has to offer.

Do you think we should buy a canoe(s) or kayaks for the family? Lets assume it will be the boys and I for the majority of the time with my wife joining us from time to time. Also assume 50% fishing and 50% paddling/exploring.

We’re all basically beginners. Any suggestions or advice for canoe(s) and/or kayaks?

Thanks in advance!

Has the 14 year older expressed
any interest in one or the other?

If you are not too far from Asheville, go the Asheville Outdoor Center on the French Broad river and rent either a canoe or kayaks and try them both.

He will take you up river and drop you off, and then you paddle back to the take out.

Jack L

Try before you buy, find out how each
member of the family feels. Different interests abound with varying age groups. Some people like to be in control, others not so much. Some are more reliable and safe, others not so much. Take some time to see how each person performs on the water.

The one thing that seems likely from the ages of the people involved is the the need for two boats. I doubt one really big canoe is going to do the trick.

I would include some basic lessons
for all when you do the variety of rentals. Will give you all a better idea of what you each like/dislike of each type and combinations. Also, moving river water can be a very different experience from flat water lakes. My Grandson’s really liked the freedom of their own yak or tandem canoe at similar ages and still love paddles over power. Just thoughts, R

Number of boats, transport
Before the wife, you have three paddlers all at or close to adult size. The 11 year old is not far from a growth kick. Two tandem canoes, or a solo canoe plus a kayak or two, or three kayaks.

The occasional wife makes it four, possibly 2 tandem canoes depending on if there both yourself and one of your sons is interested in being the lead paddler in her boat. Or more kayaks.

I see a transport issue here for any combination involving canoe(s), unless you pick up a trailer or the 14 year old gets s driver’s license real soon. Canoes are simply wider and can only be carried gunnels down.

Kayaks, on the other hand, can easily be carried up to four on top of a car if you invest in a third party rack system with good long cross bars/rails and use a stacker in the middle. That way the boats are carried on their sides and can be put against each other, two on a side. (J-bars will pretty much lose you a boat, by the way, compared to stackers.) We have often carried 4 sea kayaks that way, all fiberglass as well as a mix of fiberglass and plastic.

I can’t say exactly what width our current rails are, but they are at least 58 inches. They are a bit wider than the wheelbase of the 2007 Subie Outback. We had the next width up at one point, I think 5 inches longer, and in going down to the current length that seemingly little 5 inches lost us the ability to put up both the Merlin canoe and a kayak at the same time.

A note for vacations with young 'uns, if you have generous width it also means you can snug a secure bike rack up there outside a boat on each side.

Thank you
Many good points here that I didn’t consider. Thank you for the thoughts and advice.

Ive seen rack systems that carry two canoes.

One thing to consider, the three of you can go out in one canoe. Four probably not unless you get a long canoe canoe, but that won’t handle well when it is just you, or you and one kid.

For family situations a canoe has a major advantage. You’re together and working as a team. It’s great for bonding. The kids will be going off on their own soon enough, so spending time with them in a canoe where you can talk and work together is nice.

Length of cross-bars?

– Last Updated: Apr-05-14 2:02 PM EST –

Just curious. The ones I have seen that can carry multiple canoes, at least family sized rather than pack boats, are usually on something larger than the typical family sedan.

That said, I think the best advice of the above (not mine) was to get everyone into boats and see what they respond to most favorably, before committing to a purchase.

Outfits like NOC in western NC
offer introductory day trips for canoe/kayak, whitewater/flatwater, and some supervision and basic instruction may be included.

NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) may have their own opinions, but I recommend trying both boat types, on easy whitewater and flatwater, before you allow yourselves to get “hooked”.

I recall at least one large Asheville outfitter that provides similar options.


Endless River Adventures is another good training and introductory outfit on the Nantahala.