Shallow river kayaking

I use an old town loon to traverse the brandywine river in SE Pennsylvania, it bloody shallow most times and is as tame as it gets, I weight 150 lbs wet! And just wanna have fun, can you suggest a better kayak that won’t bottom out as much and will take the punishment from rocks ?

Thx in advance

The Brandywine is not an all-weather
stream, even for a solo canoeist poling.

I’ve paddled a Loon, and for a kayak, it is better in shallow water than most. But it sounds to me like you need to go and get on some larger rivers.

old school slalom boats?
Have you considered trying an old school slalom boat? They can be had cheap and the low profile and smooth hulls are easier to slide over gravel bars, they turn well to avoid rocks and you can slide over ledges in them. The fiberglass ones get beat up but you can patch them easily. I used to have an old Augsburger Olympic slalom home-built glass one and it was good for shalow rocky streams here in PA. They don’t track worth a damn in deeper water, but you’ve already got a boat for that. There are a few for sale cheap in your area. One is even an Old Town:

High volume, flat bottom
In general, you’d want to go either longer or wider, or both. And the volume should be pretty evenly distributed, i.e. not only wide at the middle, but wit the volume carried towards the bow and the stern. And avoid any kind of keeled, semi-V or multi-keeled hull…a flat or round bottom is best.

This is why canoes are generally (but not always) better shallow-water boats than kayaks.


That Old Town
That Old Town in the first link! That is the boat I have. I have been trying forever to identify it. It had an old P&H sticker when I bought it used.

But to stay on subject, that boat has been very good for me. I take it in everything from extremely shallow water to deep water, lake and river paddling. I had to put a fixed skeg of my own design on it, since it liked to “spin out” on me. Very fast boat as well. I think it is something you would be happy with, with the addition of a skeg. Super light weight. I normally carry 20-30 lbs of gear and I weigh 170, so at 150 lbs, you should be just dandy in it.

one proviso
If you get an old school slalom boat you will most likely have to get inflatable flotation bags for the bow and stern – they often don’t have any bulkheads. But for a $200 boat it is not a big deal to drop $40 or $50 on float bags.

These old Olympic style slalom boats can be fun to play with. My beau has an ancient bubble gum pink Perception Dancer that he still likes to take out in rocky creeks.

another option

– Last Updated: May-06-13 2:18 PM EST –

Another option would be to look for a used Mad River Adventure 14 rotomold plastic canoe. We have the bigger tandem version (the 16 footer) and find it very kayak-like in moving water. It has lower gunwales than most canoes and can be paddled with kayak paddles (we use a 230 cm in the bow and 240 cm in the wider stern). Both sizes have a molded in middle seat and you can use that for solo paddling or sit in the stern with some ballast in the bow. Heavy but very durable. We had ours out on a stream with some shallow gravelly sections and rock gardens the weekend before last -- it handles low water nicely having a flat bottom and shallow draft. I've seen them used on Craigslist for as little as $200 -- even new I think they are only $399 to $499. Dick's used to sell an identical version called the Passage 14.

There is a 16 footer for sale on your regional CL for $400 (same one we have):

Having one of these would also give you the option of tandem paddling.

Cobra Revision SOT

Those are not slalom boats, though the
Pirouette is often used as a substitute in the “cruising” class.

Generally, slalom boats that old have not survived. They get hammered to death in use.

Early slalom designs are less easy for the general public to paddle than general purpose river runners. Recent slalom designs are very easy to paddle on class 1-2, but not that suitable for shallow water.

Nice, heavy boat for when he gets stuck
anyway, and has to get out and lift it over the obstacles.

What happened to my original advice? I lived in Philly for five years, and always knew where to go for water deeper than the Brandywine?

Paddling streams in garbage-low levels is like fishing for four inch trout.

Dunkle! Listen up! Put the Loon on the
car and go find some deeper rivers! Don’t persist in paddling rocky shallows. There is no boat solution to your issue. NONE. The Brandywine gets too low.

Scratchy can be fun

– Last Updated: May-07-13 1:05 AM EST –

The Brandywine can be scratchy. What section did you paddle as Corcoran's Bridge to Shaw's Bridge Park should be OK to paddle and I had friends that just did that this weekend.

Still I weigh maybe twice as much as you and have run local rivers in my Axis 12 without that much problems in a few inches of water. I would think someone lighter in a big wide Loon would have even less issues.

You have to read the river on lots of our local creeks as there can be large shallow sections you need to avoid but a deeper channel you need to find that will allow you to pass. You just can't expect to go any where on the river at all times. This is probably more your issue then the kayak.

The Schuylkill has some nice places to paddle. There is a bar called Fitzwater Station on the canal that rents kayaks and will list a few trips -- so take the friends. A nice simple one is the Loop. You start at the bar and kayak up the canal to the lock house and then there is a short portage to the Schuylkill then back down river. The take out is a pretty long drag back to the canal but is a nice simple trip when starting out -- less than 2 hours. Also any trip that starts and ends at a bar is good...

We are getting rain this week so after it calms down a bit it should be better for a brief while.

A good site to find local places to paddle is run by the Philadelphia Canoe Club. You probably want to stick to flat or moving water. They will list launches as well as pull outs and give you the gauges you should be checking out before a trip.

But reading the river is a skill you need to paddle around here. Otherwise you need to do the lakes or like g2d said drive farther to find deeper water or kayak in the early spring or late fall.

No float bags
He won’t need float bags if the water is only a few inches deep…

probable misnomer, I admit
Yeah, technically those boats don’t meet the formal definition of “slalom” kayaks (a good friend was a Canadian national champ slalom racer and I know what his boats look like). But “slalom” is what we called that style of semi-Olympic spec low profile 12’ pointy whitewater roundbottomed boats around here back in the 70’s and 80’s (might have been a linguistic regionalism). My outdoor club had a couple of venerable molds that were referred to as “the Augsburgers” that we would use to lay up our own three piece “breakaway” fiberglass shells. I think we called them “slaloms” to distinguish them from the short fat play boats that were starting to take over the ww scene. Mine (always stored in the dark) held up extremely well for having been built in 1982. I last used it on the Yough in 2006 and sold it shortly thereafter for $140 after concluding I no longer enjoyed Class III and up whitewater. I still regularly see similar craft pop up for sale around here. Several clubs had molds and a lot of the ones I see are clearly home-builds.

I also agree the OP should seek out deeper streams, but sometimes the one closest to your back yard is the only one you have the time or energy to paddle. Hence my own frequent gravel dragging outings on the West Branch Susquehanna at low gauge.

Your friend was not labeling boats like

– Last Updated: May-07-13 2:38 PM EST –

the rest of us back then. It is true that boats designed for slalom sometimes showed up as river runners used by the general public. The Hahn c-1 raced at Augsburg in '72 and later became a standard river runner for many of us.

But before the Noah Jeti appeared and opened the spud boat market in the 80s, nearly all river runner kayaks were 13' long, round, and pointy. The Dancer was shorter, but still round, pointy, and a lousy slalom boat.

Here are pictures of my '82 Noah Magma, rather flat bottomed, swedeform, aggressive. Vladimir Vanha used to race it, but he'd be the first to say it was not a slalom boat. I've raced it, but because the stern is too fat to sink, it won't turn well. Fast. Very fast, faster than my slalom c-1. That's about as far as Vladimir went in that direction, before offering the Jeti and Aeroquatic, still classics.

What's been frustrating about this thread is that the OP's Loon is probably as good as any other kayak he can buy for low water work. I lived 5 years in PA, and the rivers get low in summer there, just like in Georgia. I still go through, hoping to get water to run the Delaware or Lehigh, and all I've been able to do is the lower Yough.

Sounds like the 13’ OT Loon I tried.

Dagger has brought back an old school
design. Can’t remember the name of it right now but I’ll amend it here if I can find it.

It’s the RPM, and it is NOT suitable for
shallow rivers. The OT Loon he has now is a much better shallow stream kayak.