River Kayaking What to buy?

I kayak up the Missouri river. I can make 20 miles upstream in about 10 hours in my Jackson 12’ open kayak. I want a better boat, but I am stuck on what to buy. Few people kayak up major rivers and a lot of people have opions without any real experience. I really think I want and need a rudder for navigating around wing dams, but maybe a rudder and a skeg? How long a boat would serve me best? Any one want to share thoughts, choices, advice?

If there are …
Not too many obstacles and the current is about 1-2 mph (per your description) and not too many shallow rocky areas - you can probably buy whatever you want and it will work for your 20 miles on barelymoving flat water -:wink: So you need to tell us what other things you want to do (e.g., do you plan to portage, do you plan on swift/white water use, your size/abilities, loads to carry, how important is speed vs. stability etc.)…

Barely moving flat water Oh Boy!
The average speed of the Missouri is 2.5 miles per hour according to the corp, but going up the side of the river has many unique obstacles. There are places where the back current runs as long as 200 to 300 yards, and I can make it up streem faster than a man can run along those streches. There are actually a few rapids on the Missouri believe it or not. One set I have never made without crossing the river or portage. There are three strechs I travel between Lexington, and Parkville Mo each around 20 miles long. Getting around the ends of wing dams can be pretty tuff, there are cross currents and whirlpools that turn me out into the main channel.

kayaking on the MO
If you’re in the Missouri part of the river check out the discussion boards on the rivermiles website. The folks running the MR340 can give you all the info you’d ever want about the best kayak for that part of the river. They’re kicking the delayed 2011 race off in just a few weeks so if you’re near KC stop by Kaw point to see the start and look over what they’re all paddling.

Nothing has more thrills for me.
On top of everything else there are floating trees, jagged stumps, refrigerators, and power plants. Power plants have waterfalls, vents, and cables necessitating excursions out tword the main channel. To top it all off there are river barges. The wake of a fast moving barge can swamp a kayak quickly. I once passed under the length of a barge. It was my mistake and my fault. I learned a lesson about pride and stupidity that day and the river took my Iphone, my gun, my camera, my billfold and my paddle. then spit me out alive to tell the tale. Excelerating.

The 340
Sorry but no. People that run the 340 know nothing about kayaking up the Missouri. Nope, nothing at all. It’s the same as saying a man that dates a lot of women but has never been married knows something first hand about marriage.

I do this a lot. On the " Old Floody " or as the indians called the Susquehanna. I think a good # for this is 16-17 ft. long by 22 " ish wide.

You nees a skeg or rudder more for running downriver than up. FWIW I use my Prijon Barracuda more than my Valley Aquanuat for river running.

If you just want speed …
Go long and narrow and no skeg or rudder. Barracuda mentioned above is interesting. I was wondering if you might want to even look at entry level surfskis.

More versatile would be the Prijon Expedition, but it’s not going to be as fast, but it is an excellent river boat.


Up the MO
You’re right - going a long way down surely isn’t the same as going up. Except that a lot of them do train by going up and down. That said, I paddle an NC17 sea kayak that works great on the MO. For quicker turns I should have gotten it with a rudder. My impression is that skegs just keep the boat straight when it might want to windcock. So, I’d suggest something long and fairly skinny - with a rudder.

Up and Down
I like the way you think, but I got to tell you in 50 or so trips up the river I have never once passed or been passed by someone else paddling up the river nor has any boater or fisherman I have met on the river ever mentioned seeing anyone but me paddling up stream between Lexington and Parkville about a 70 mile stretch.

big rivers

– Last Updated: Sep-14-11 12:12 PM EST –

I paddle up and down several large volume rivers, the Allegheny, Ohio, Monongahela and Susquehanna West Branch. I agree a more narrow and longer closed boat with a rudder may be your best bet. I use 15' to 18' touring kayaks at 23" or less width, two have skegs and two have rudders. I generally prefer the skegs (less drag) but don't have wing dams to contend with -- agree that the rudder might be of more use in your case.

Wow, you are fortunate to have survived that barge encounter! Here we have to watch out for massive tandem coal barges and wide diesel powered fake sternwheel party boats as well as flying cabin cruisers and ski boats (often piloted by drunks). I give them all a WIDE berth. At low river levels the rebound waves from their wakes hitting the shoreline shelves can be a real challenge. Human generated clapotis.

I find the boats with higher secondary than primary stability are better able to resist the broadside impact from wake waves, which one is apt to encounter in these "industrial" rivers. A quick brace and I pass over them -- the wider boat I used to paddle got dumped a few times.

Clapotis. New word for me. I had to look it up. Is a kevlar boat worth the money? My biggest problem other than stupidy is wing dams. I can seldom power through. There is always a whirlpool at the end of the dam and often two and they tend to be moving evaporating and reforming. I have to drag my paddle to stop from turning out to the main channel when passing around the end of the dam which of course kills my momentum. This is why I crave a rudder. I just don’t understand the benefit of a skeg.

My suggestions
Sorry but plenty of people paddle up major rivers, certainly in the northeast. If you haven’t seen other paddlers, I suspect it is more about the part of the country you are in than anything else - paddlers in your area may just find lesser tributaries more pleasant.

You won’t like this part. It appears that you find common parts of your paddling range to be challenging - getting swamped by a barge wake, getting knocked out of position by current around wing dams etc. My suggestion is that you need to learn how to handle these things in a boat, lessons or whatever, then get a boat. Otherwise you’ll just have a longer, narrower boat in which you will still not be able to handle these problems.

Lessons would doubtless be good
I never said I got swamped by a wake. I said I did something stupid. Actually wake hopping is fun as hell. It is just one of the many challanges one encounters on a major river. After several hundred miles of paddling I have learned a little something about waves and currents, but I am certain my ignorance is boundless. The most important lesson I have learned? Know the limits of your ability and stay within them. But a guy like me has to test them. I will probably die on the river. I can’t imagine a better way to go out. Perhaps dying of a heart attack while paddling and be found sitting in my kayak miles down stream with my paddle across my lap.

Hey Graceful Horse. When you do make a call let us know what you get and how it performs. I am interested.

In that case
If you plan to die paddling on the river I have just the boat for you:


Casket Boat
Good god. I don’t plan on it. I’m just apt to. That thing looks like an ark. I could pack my livestock and most of my family in that thing.

me too
Glad to here I’m not only one. I paddled up that in 2004 from st. Louis to three forks Montana…17 weeks, then on to pacific. My most miles day was 23, except the reservoirs which were more.

There are about 4000 wing dikes between st Louis and yankton s.d . I think the current is much faster than your 2 mph you mentioned. Lots of slack water at rivers edge and sometimes flowing up. I used a.deck canoe…kayak canoe hybrid and wouldn’t have it any other way. I use to kayak but not any more. With a rudder all your hard earned effort is for forward motion , and not wasting it on corrective strokes…paddling 10-14 hour days you can’t be wasting effort-energy. The current coming off of tip of dikes is really fast so a rudder is a bonus. I wrote a chapter on upstream paddling in the Missouri river guide book - “the complete paddler” by. David miller…no relation. Sometimes i was right next to bank…so a double bladed paddle was useless too, since the one blade would be on land etc. A single blade allows me to be in dead or upstream flowing back eddies as close as a few inches etc. Plus using a 7 oz. Paddle compared to a 23 oz double blade allows for better sprinting around dikes and less fatigue by being 1 pound less…and at 50 strokes a minute adds up to 15-tons more weight you would lift in 10 hours compared to my 7oz paddle…if I had to shovel 15 tons of sand per day more…for 17 weeks paddling up that…I would be worn out. Read about the king of up stream paddling, legend Verlen Kruger, designed the decked canoe for just such.a purpose…during his 28,000 mile paddling trip through n. America, he paddled over 5000 upstream including entire Mississippi and Colorado rivers upstream. Another guy I know who paddled up Missouri in 2006 also used a solo decked canoe. Lots more benefits in my opinion.

How much wind do you guys fight in those decke canoes? It seems you will be fighting wind all the way going Northwest.

I did a 4 day trip
on the Missouri this past spring. Downstream. The current was running about 4 mph. Here in Kansas City, it seems to be flowing at least that most of the time. Upstream would have been “interesting” and outside my idea of enjoyment. I was paddling/pedaling/sailing a Hobie Adventure Island.

I would recommend any kayak considered “fast”, you’ll need the speed to overcome that current. These are generally >15’ long and