New to Paddling Moving Water

Hello folks, I’m a newbie here, and new to padding moving water, having made my first trip a few days ago. I have some experience paddling on lakes, though. I own an OT Camper and use it on Minneapolis area lakes.

My question is this: I rented a canoe this past weekend and canoed a section of the Root River in SE MN. During the 16 mile trip, I occasionally ran into skinny water and banged bottom. Not hard, I certainly did zero damage to the rental Alumicraft canoe. But are the occasional bangs on my OT going to be troublesome? Are occasional bangs and bumps even “normal”, or was I being careless? With still water paddling I’ve always been careful about not hitting bottom, not running the canoe up onto gravel beaches, etc. I don’t really have a “guage” on what is normal during the course of a day on moving water. Any input would be most welcome. Thanks!

Occasionaly hitting bottom
is a fact of life on most “pool and drop” type rivers. A royalex boat like your Camper can handle occasional bumps just fine. BUT, if you are constantly paddling shallow rivers with lots of sharp rocks sticking up like we do here in Texas or Oklahoma, you may want to consider protecting your boat with skid plates. Just depends on how much bottom scraping you expect to do.

Old Town
I’ve owned a OT Discovery, I think it was 17’+, and I belive it was made of Royalex, as your Camper may be.

This goes back a couple of decades, but the damn thing was TUFF! I don’t think your going to hurt this boat.

My brother and I landed ours on a mid stream boulder, keel facing downstream, water pouring in so fast you could scarcely move in knee deep water.

Took six of us to get the boat off the rock, and it did not break it’s back. I’ve lost a fiberglass canoe in a heartbeat this way.

Sure, it’s a bit worse for the wear, but going on thirty years later, she’s still tough, heavy, and reasonably manuverable. My brother still has her up north, as I did not need a battleship like that in the deep south.


If it is plastic or crosslinked poly
there is no problem at all scraping rocks.

My twenty year old OT Disco has been used in white water more than in flat water, and you cannot do a class I river without a bunch of scraping.

If it is royalex then some scraping won’t hurt it.

You can’t do WW without hitting rocks and gravel bars.

All the scrapes just add to the character of the boat.

I’ll never forget the first day we put our brand new glossy bright red canoe in the water.

It was on the roof racks and I was chatting with a guy who was also putting his older scratched up boat in the water.

The guy looked up at the canoe, and said: “nice boat”, and I proudly replied: “Thanks, it is brand new”

Then he replied, with a grin: “Yes, I know!”



Scratches and scrapes are normal.
When you get better at reading the river, you can pick your route to avoid a lot of the rocks and gravel. Your Camper is a good river boat and will slide better than aluminum.

Washing the boat and rubbing in some 303 will improve the appearance. I’ve used ShooGoo on gouges and wear areas. It’s basically clear and works as an intermediate step before applying skid plates.

We enjoyed the Root and hope to paddle some of the other driftless area streams.

scratch, ding & dent, no problem
Royalex and plastic boats were MADE to be banged off rocks, scraped on nearly whatever comes along, and just generally used without worry.

After 20+ years in beater canoes, when I finally broke down and bought a brand new OT Penobscot I wanted to keep it pristine. After just 2 lake trips and 2 river trips, I realized that I could’ve saved 50% by buying used, since even by that point, it was quite scratched. That was then. Dozens of trips later, it looks quite well used, as do all 7 of my boats. Scratches don’t matter, and Royalex and poly are so tough that I can’t imagine what type of hit it would take to actually puncture the hull. I’ve banged my boats off rocks so hard it would’ve definitely punctured fiberglass, or dented, if not punctured aluminum. But, the Royalex and poly boats just bounce off.

This past long weekend, a woman with our group wrapped her plastic rec kayak around a rock so hard it bent the bottom of the boat. Once drained, it was flexed almost back to normal. We told her just to set it out in the sun upside down for a couple days, and I’m betting that when I see her again this weekend, the boat will have resumed it’s normal shape. (Assuming we’ve had enough sun to do the trick, here in rainy NC.)

Don’t even worry about bottom scratches. If you routinely scrape it against concrete boat ramps, you may want to get the bow & stern skid plates. But, even that can wait until you’ve got a little bit of wear on them.

Thank You!!
Thank you everyone for your replies. I’m much more confident that I won’t damage the canoe after your information. I read back through the archives and see that my OT Camper isn’t the best for moving water, since it has such a flat bottom. If I stick with it I’ll need to get a canoe better suited for moving water.

I beg to disagree.

– Last Updated: Jul-06-06 5:14 PM EST –

Even the most minute scratch in a canoe totally ruins the integrity of the hull. Said vessel must be IMMEDIATELY DONATED to yours truly, so that I can put it out of its misery in a sympathetic, thorough manner. The Disco's mentioned above are most likely Old Towns proprietary SUPERLINK material, much more initially abrasive resistant than Royalex, roughly 15 pounds heavier, with a foam core between polyethylene type skins. A rental staple in the Northeast where rocky rivers rule the roost.

More than half of my boats are
"composite," or “glass,” though most of those include other cloths such as polyester or Kevlar. I have banged, scraped, and hammered these craft on many rivers, and in 98% of the rocky encounters, no significant damage has occurred. Occasionally, maybe once every year or every other year, I have had to add a glass patch. Big deal. “Glass” boats are easier to repair than ABS boats, much easier than poly boats. And the trade-off is that MY composite boats are really light, and really well designed, so that they outhandle boats made of poly or ABS. I also own a few ABS and poly boats, bought not for their construction, but for their hull design.


– Last Updated: Jul-06-06 6:53 PM EST –

thought you were the guy(or girl; why not let us know who you are?) who paddled the country and never hit a rock in preceding threads. Also, I never see a composite boat doing whitewater. Old town disco at $800 brand new last time I looked compared to 3 times that for a composite to run into rocks???... Most everyone I know uses royalex due to weight advantage over the Old Town materials, but if you're strong enough to handle an 80 pound canoe the disco gives a lot of bang for the buck. Last open house I went to I checked out a Bell "prospecter" hulled canoe in kevlar.No way I'd come w/in 10' of a rock in that canoe, way too pretty. I'll take putty and paint over glass and resin anyday.

I agree, up to a point…
with all the other people who have said not to worry about scratching a Royalex or other plastic canoe. However, if you use one enough, and aren’t real careful, you may eventually accumulate so many scratches that the vinyl may get worn off down to the substrate. At that point you’ll need to add skid plates or otherwise repair the canoe. It takes me about three years of use to get to where I have to do some repairs, but I float and fish a lot of VERY shallow, rocky and gravelly streams, and I don’t baby my canoes at all.

Yep, and when…
…your trusty Old Town starts feeling more like a Wenonah when you carry it, that’s a pretty good indication that the hull is pretty badly worn!

Get some paddling-time under your belt and you’ll appreciate those shallow riffled streams for what they are. …and Don’t worry about not achieving perfection in your moving-water skills in a “Camper”…it just doesn’t excel in much of anything…to a great degree. Get some control while in it and you’ll have a blast in a stiffer-hulled boat with some rocker and secondary stability…


My chuckle for the day!
but I think the OT Disco will outlive me before it gets that light.

Every so often I portage it around the yard, and yell to my wife to come and see that I still can do it.