Mad River ID?

Just bought a Mad River canoe. Which I believe to be fiberglass- due to the fiberglass patch on it. Has a few scratches besides the patch. Seats need re-caning and the gunwales look like they were replaced with wood of uncertain lineage. They are rough and have square corners which are an annoyance while paddling. I have some long straight grained black walnut and wondered if I could use that material for gunwale replacement? Any thoughts? Floated it solo on the Crow Wing for 60 miles in it last summer and it handles wonderfully. Have read several forums here which leads me to believe I can probably get some assistance in learning a little more about this canoe. It is ~16 ft, with a single portaging thwart. Is that the proper number of thwarts besides the seats? Seemed to be enough on the river. It is a sage green color- of what import this I don’t know. It has a HIN number of MAD68449M83E. From my looking around it seems it is likely an Explorer of 1983 vintage. The exterior finish is kind of rough but maybe it can be gel coated to smooth it out? Any help in identifying this would be greatly appreciated? I gave $150 for it. So it is not a big outlay. Thanks, Paul

Maybe a Malecite
It’s possible you have a Malecite which is (in my opinion) a wonderful paddling canoe. A little less freeboard and finer entry (faster) than the Explorer. Both have the shallow V hull but I thought the Malecite was a few inches longer. Maybe someone can definitively identify using the serial number. Good buy!

In Illinois right now, will get the dimensions tomorrow.


– Last Updated: Aug-16-16 10:34 AM EST –

Measures 16'5+ and 35" at the widest. Would like to determine if it is an explorer or malecite? Gunwales have square edges. Approximate weight 45 to 60 lbs( no scale handy) - definitely not as heavy as my standard old Alumacraft which I think is about 70+ or -.

could be either
Mad River used non-radiused, squared gunwales on all of their wood-trimmed models prior to 1985, so that does not help.

Mad River listed a gunwale width of 33" and an overall length of 16’6" for the fiberglass Malecite, and a weight of 62 lbs.

The fiberglass Explorer had a listed overall length of 16’4" and a gunwale width of 34 1/2" with an advertised weight of 70 lbs.

But Mad River usually determined gunwale width at the maximum beam of the molded hull which would not include the additional width of the two outwales. So if you measured from the outside edge of one outwale to the outside edge of the other, you would get a measurement closer to 35" with a Malecite.

The composite Malecite was typically a couple of inches longer than the composite Explorer. Although MRC listed a LOA of 16’4" for the composite Explorer, IIRC my Kevlar early 1980s Explorer was closer to 16’ 3". Length overall can vary a little depending on the style of deck plate. My Explorer has fiberglass end caps rather than the inset wooden deck plates that came later. If your boat has/had inset wooden deck plates with outwales that extended past the molded hull and met at a point, the LOA would be an inch or so longer.

If you can lay a straight edge across the tops of the gunwales at the point of maximum beam at center, measure down to the center of the shallow V hull to the top of the gunwales to get a depth at center measurement. The Explorer is significantly deeper with a depth at center of 14 1/2" whereas depth at center for the Malecite is listed at 13".

I believe that MRC used the first alphanumeric character of the HIN that followed the three-letter manufacturers identification code as a model indicator. In your case the MIC is MAD and the next character is a 6. My Explorer is in a storage locker so I can’t immediately look at it. I’m sure there are some Explorer and Malecite owners here who could check their HINs and see what that fourth alphanumeric character is.

Different numbering system?
My Malicite is a 98, so maybe they changed how they numbered by then? Seems like the last character being “E” doesn’t jive with the usual 12 character format. Mine ends with the year, and then a thirteenth character -K denoting a Kevlar hull. First five characters - MAD6X. Does that help?

BTW - if the gunwales aren’t rotten, I would just clean them up and refinish. If the corners are truly square, it’s a simple thing to radius them with an inexpensive hand tool. I use these a lot, and they work great…


HIN model year format

– Last Updated: Aug-16-16 5:52 PM EST –

If we had no other info we would know that the OP's boat is a pre-1985 model because of the non-radiused gunwales.

The "model year" format was one of the HIN formats used prior to August 1984. In this format, the 9th character is always an M. Characters 10 and 11 indicate the year of "certification" (build year) and the last character indicates the month of certification starting with "A" denoting August. The "E" at the end of the HIN denotes the month of December, not the Explorer model.

The last four characters of the OP's HIN denote a boat built and certified in December of 1983. The boat would likely have been sold in 1984, or possibly later.

The 5 alphanumeric characters between the three letter MIC and the last 4 characters of the model year code could be used by the manufacturer in any manner they wished. MRC may have changed their system over the years, but for most of the MRC boats I am familiar with, they used the first character (number or letter) as a model code and the next four as a serial number. If that is true for this particular boat, then the 4th character (6) is the model code.

But some makers just applied serial numbers sequentially to the boats as they certified them regardless of model. In this case, the 4th character would have no special meaning.

Steve, the fact that the 4th character of the HIN code of your Malecite is a 6 suggests to me that the OP's boat is also a Malecite. His weight estimation would also be more consistent with a Malecite than an Explorer. If he measures the depth at center and gets something close to 13" he will know for sure.

depth to V
Will find out depth to the V tomorrow. Thanks.

what would MADA be?
If MAD6 is a Malecite, what would MADA signify? The Mad River I paddle has wood, non radiiused, square gunwales. Were those changed after 1985 or 1991-2? (Believe this is an Expedition)



MRC switched to radiused wood gunwales in 1985. MRC did have a 17 1/2 foot boat model called the Expedition but I don’t believe it was manufactured before 1985.

Could your boat have been rerailed? Or could you be confusing Expedition with Explorer? The Explorer was MRC’s most popular model and was first built in the 1970s.

MAD is the manufacturer identification code for Mad River Canoe and the first three characters of the HIN for any Mad River Canoe will be MAD. I do not know what model the “A” code denoted.

Meant to write "Explorer"
Thank you. I meant to write Explorer (not Expedition). Measured the length at 15 ft 11.25 inches.The gunwales are original as are the caned/ash seats. The HIN is MADA23399M80I - it was very well taken care of and stored indoors all these years. So I’m guessing it is a September 1980 manufacture date. I love it dearly, anyway.

Please forgive the thread hijack…(while the original poster measures his LOA).

Thanks again,


depth to V
The width was from the outwale to outwale. The outwales I believe are replacements. A woodworker that examined it thought that it was made of pine and it had several knots along its length which might indicate a replacement. But maybe they would use gunwale material with knots but he didn’t think they would. So if subtracting the 1" material from the measure it seems it is closer to 33 than 35". The measured depth came out to be between 12.5 and 13 inches. So I hope this is sufficient info to get a model ID. Thanks for your help.

It is a Malecite
Back in the early 1980s Mad River used only northern white ash for their gunwales and their wood typically was very clear and straight-grained. If your gunwales are pine and have knots, the boat has been re-railed.