newly obsessed wannabe canoer

Hey everybody. Found this site about a week ago, have been reading and reading. Just returned from the Tetons, where we rented a canoe one day and paddled around and had a great time. Now would like to continue doing that in our “real” world. We intend to try to find some places around here we can rent, just to make sure that we really like it, and weren’t just influenced by that wonderful mountain air and that magnificent Teton outline.

Right now though, I feel like I could go out tomorrow and buy one. But I won’t. I’ve been doing lots of reading though, and wanted to ask the experts about “first canoe choice”. My paddling partner is also a beginner (novice); we would definitely want to find calm waters, lakes, ponds, slow rivers. No whitewater at this point. If we do get interested in that we will work on that then. So, for beginners in lakes, which almost always have some boat wakes and wind around here, what might be some of your suggestions of canoes to take a closer look at?

I’m interested in the Old Town Charles River RX right now for some reason; I like its looks. I also have read about initial and secondary stability, and have started thinking about that more. This has made me wonder if a flat-bottomed canoe might not be what we want. I just don’t know enough yet to make an informed decision. So, I’m posting this, because I’m just so excited at the thought of canoeing again.

Thanks and have a great day.

Don’t forget to try out some kayaks as well.

You may discover you like them even more.



to the world of canoe obsession…an easy disease to contract with no known cure. When I began (many moons ago) some of the best advice I got was that once I was certain I would use it, buy a more advanced canoe–not an entry level one. Unless you like to buy canoes over and over again (another often incurable disease for another discussion) starting out with a good one will help make you a better paddler…it will train you well as it will respond to correct and incorrect techniques the same way every time. Canoeing is much like other sports…relatively easy to do, but harder to truly master. You will pick up the basics easily enough and a well designed and built hull will keep you from outgrowing a beginner’s model in a relatively short time. I’m sure you will get suggestions for specific models if you provide a bit more info…height, weight, overnight camping, kids, dogs, are you comfortable kneeling, etc? WELCOME!

trying out a kayak…
Thanks Bill. We do intend to do that. We aren’t in an area that is very prolific with canoes or kayaks; there is one place about 30 miles away that says it rents kayaks. We will do that, maybe next weekend.

No single canoe is good at all things. That is why any sensible person will tell you that you need to get at least a dozen or so. To start with, after that you can branch out.

Well, being more realistic, you need to start with some fundamentals. Do you want a solo or a tandem? It sounds as if you envision primarily paddling tandem, but will you ever want to paddle the boat solo? Do you ever see yourself using it for overnight tripping?

Every canoe company has sn “all-arounder” that is advertised as such. Mine happens to be a Mad River Kevlar Explorer that measures about 16ft 4inches long. Good for tripping but not so huge as to be a burden for day trips.

Look at weight, especially if cartopping. Don’t get a canoe that is so heavy that you have to struggle getting it on the car, especially if you see yourself paddling alone. Obviously, for tripping where portages are the norm, weight becomes very important.

Think about storage and maintenance. Wood trim is nice, but requires some maintenance. Aluminum gunnels require no specific care. Cane seats are comfortable and look nice. They last a long time, but not as long as plastic seats or nylon webbed ones. Canoe materials can become brittle if stored in continuous UV exposure. Hopefully, you will have a protected storage area long enough for the boat.

Royalex is a good material for river bashing, but can’t be shaped to as fine lines as composite (fiberglass, Kevlar, and/or carbon-fiber) boats. It is also heavier.

Think about all of the stuff besides the boat you will need when budgeting for the canoe. Paddles, PFDs, car roof rack, maybe a hoist in the garage, etc. You may or may not want to invest in clothing specific to paddle sports such as wet shoes, paddling jackets, hats, etc. You can often find excellent deals in used boats if you bide your time and stalk bulletin boards like this one.

It is important ultimately that you like the looks of your canoe in addition to how it paddles. Some of the other well-known canoe maufacturers besides

Old Town are Wenonah, Bell, Swift, Mad River, Souris River, Clipper, Sawyer, Nova Craft, Hemlock, Vermont Canoe, (the list goes on a long way).

Canoe info
You’ve received a wealth of great advice already - gotta love the fine folks at this board!

May I suggest a couple of worthwhile references:

Go to the Wenonah web-site and request a free catalog. In their catalog you’ll find a very good run-down on various canoe hull materials and a very informative discussion of hull shapes. You’ll learn, for instance, why you may very well want a more rounded hull (as opposed to a flat bottom) for increased secondary stability (a bit counter intuitive, but true). I suggest their catalog as an information resource - you may also want to consider their canoes. I’m not necessarily “pushing” that brand… but Wenonah produces a far broader selection of canoes than any other builder I can think of. There are many other quality brands to choose from.

Whatever you do please do yourself a HUGE favor and stay away from cheap/cheesy box-store canoes… If the label reads Coleman, Pelican or Rouge River (as examples of truly nasty tubs) you can do far, far better. ‘nuff said.

Another fine reference for beginning canoeists is the book: “Paddle Your Own Canoe” by Gary and Joanie McGuffin. This book is very well written and beautifully illustrated this is the best introduction to canoeing book available today.


Thank you all!
I’m glad I found this board; y’all are very helpful. And so quick to reply! I really appreciate all the good suggestions so far.

As far as more info, we are both women, I’m about 5’2" and around 125 or so pounds. My friend is both taller and heavier. We are baby-boomer age, 50-something and 60-something, but are moderately physically fit. With much room for much more fitness. The weight of the canoe would need to be a primary consideration, for lifting it to the top of my SUV. If we decide to car-top, which I would like to be able to do. We would have to be able to lift one and would most definitely check this out before buying.

As I said before, we are envisioning relaxing quiet paddling, knowing that conditions won’t always be such. I like the idea of getting something we can “grow” into. Our biggest obstacle will probably be that where we live, canoeing doesn’t seem to be very big; we’ll have to hunt for places to even go and look at canoes. There probably won’t be a very wide selection of types or brands. That said, we could also make some trips to see others if we needed/wanted to.

What else? Well, we aren’t planning on overnight trips and such, no boundary waters expeditions for us at this point. Though, one never knows. But not a primary factor at the beginning. I do like the idea of having something that can do more than we ask it to, which is basically the same as having something to “grow into”.

Thanks again for all your replies. I have much reading to do and much information to gather. Just my thing.

The Wenonah catalogue
I couldn’t agree more with arkay about the value of the Wenonah catalogue as a learning tool. I know of no better source of (free) information about modern canoe design and constuction practice. Well-written and surprisingly unbiased (as to brand), too.

Charles river model
would be a suitable size it seems, but it is an older (early 1900’s) design and the very high curved ends will catch more wind than more modern designs. That being said, there is another component to this canoeing disease which is the fact that all of us simply fall in love with the look of certain canoes…perhaps the Charles River is your “one and only”. Play the field a bit and do your best to test paddle as many as you can…there’s no substitute for “stick time” in a boat. And always remember the quote from Rat in “The Wind in the Willows”…“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing-absolute nothing- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats”.

more info here
Make sure you demo a few boats. They may take the price off the demo/rental from your purchase. A lot of places do this. Inquire if not.

Any of the Old Towns I feel are good canoes and a good price. The 169 comes to mind.

Also check out the canoe info and other forum at

as well as the Canadian Canoe Routes forum for other input on canoe choices

good luck


thanks for website links! nmsg

A small addition
You are getting great advice. I would only add in addition to the Wenona site you check out Bell Canoe works. Wenona go me started, I love my Jensen-18 for tandom tripping. I have a Bell Magic for solo trips. These canoes were selected for specific functions. This speakes to “no single canoe” can do everything. Also paddle as many types of canoes that you can. Demo days are great for this! Also many outfitters are located on the water and will let you padle their canoes.

thanks again, this is a great site!
I’ve enjoyed very much reading your replies and investigating things based on the suggestions made. Since I live in an area where motorboating/waterskiing is much more common and popular, where might be some places in this great country that we could plan a short vacation to, where we could see and demo several different makes/models of canoes?

I’m not sure
where in OK you’re located. I’m from Ft. Smith, AR. There is a great place in south Kansas City - - the prices are average, but the service is good and you can “test drive” a good variety of boats there as well as kayaks. It’s about a 3.5 hr drive from Ft. Smith. Also, closer to you there is Lewis and Clark outfitters in northwest AR- -. I’m sure you could find some OK paddling stores online that might be closer to you.


I, too, am obsessed. We started out with an Old Town Penebsot 16. I soon bought a Mohawk Solo 13. We have a Wenonah Spirit II. But mostly we paddle our Bell Wildfire and Bell Starfires. It gets in your blood. I’m sure there must be some Paddling Clubs in Oklahoma where people might let you try their canoes. I’m a member of the West Florida Canoe and Kayak Club and we often offer to let people try our canoes to see if they might want to buy that kind.

I have paddled about a dozen flatwater canoes made by the bigger name manufacturers and have found each to have a unique feel, yet each was also more than enjoyable. Some of my paddling has been long haul tripping in Ontario and Quebec - still I did not seem to ever develop a preference. I think that a canoe is something that grows on you. You get used to the feel of it and pretty soon the relationship seems like a good fit. I think that the best place to make a decision is in the boat on the water. Look for a demofest in your area and try them all. Good luck and happy paddling.

Give Some Thought To Used Canoes…

– Last Updated: Sep-23-07 9:12 PM EST –

...especially for a first boat.
In this neck of the woods, they usually go for 2/3 to 1/2 of retail in good condition - and you can usually resell them for about what you paid as your needs change. If you go thru 2 or 3 canoes before finding a real good fit, that's a lot of money saved. You can also meet some really knowledgeable folks while looking - great info sources, and most are nice folks to boot.

Our canoes - first was a cedar and canvas Trembley, $200. Then a home-built fiberglass 16', real nice hull but HEAVY - cost two bottles of Mateus Signature white wine, $42.50, from a friend of a friend. Then said friend's 18' Oneida -$350 - still have that, very fast and comfortable boat, and it's always gonna be our favourite tripper. Then we hit the jackpot - a 16' BlueWater Prospector, in kevlar (45 lbs.!), brand spanking new but scratched up pretty good in shipping, for $800 - about 1/3 of retail on an insurance sale.

You can check the classified ads to get an idea of what's available and the prices. If you spot a design that interests you, do a post here asking folks about how it handles, etc. - people here are really knowledgeable and helpful.
Welcome aboard, and take care out there.

With your stated height and preference for a canoe you can load on an SUV, the Charles River in Oltonar/Royalex may be at the top end of manageable for you. In the less expensive polyethylene construction it will too heavy. Likewise any of the Discovery series will require a serious bodybuilding course for you to develop the strength required.

Find a good kevlar hull, spend the dollars on a good canoe and save the chiropractor and orthopedic surgeon bills. And canoeing is a fun activity, its not supposed to be work.

For your stated usage, look at the Wenonah Aurora and Kingfisher in Ultralight Kevlar. They are stable, easy paddling hulls that will be at, or under 40#.

more thanks…
Thanks for the suggestions. As for used, I would not be opposed to that; so far, I have found none in this state, and just a handful in all of the neighboring states. Lots of bass and ski boats though!

I will continue to look through the ads, and try to learn more so that I would be able to make a wise choice.

And, thanks for the advice about the weight of the Kevlar canoes; definitely a factor for us.

Dagger reflection 15-16’
If you can find a used one, the Dagger reflection 15’ or 16’ would be good choices too. The 15’ weighs in at 53#. The 16’ a few pounds heavier. Made of light weight royalex, it’s a good flat water/ up to class 2 boat. Tracks good and works well tandem or solo.