Solo Canoe for river use.

-- Last Updated: Jun-13-10 6:56 AM EST --

I am researching a solo canoe to buy that will be primarily used for Central IL rivers like the Salt Fork, Middle Fork, Big Vermilion, etc.

These rivers are fairly mild, with gradients in the 2 to 5 feet per mile range. No whitewater, but some little riffles and rock gardens to negotiate, sometimes some waves to play in.

I'd like a boat that will do well in these conditions, but maybe also be capable of up to mild class II, if I get good enough to try slightly more intense rivers like Stony Creek, Big Bureau, Big Pine (IN), Dupage River, Wildcat section of the North Vermilion (portage wildcat itself).

I have been looking at (online only) the Wenonah Argosy, the Bell Yellowstone, the Mohawk Solo 14 and the Mohawk Odyssey 14. All Royalex versions.

The only solo canoe I have paddled is the Old Town Pack, which is fun, but somewhat limited. You can get down the river in it, but that's about it.

Thoughts? Thanks.

Freedom Solo

– Last Updated: Jun-13-10 7:30 AM EST –

Hello Highlander, I have a freedom solo by Mad River that I purchased about 6-7 years ago and it has been fabulous. I paddle on rivers 99% of the time, flatwater- easy rapids and the Freedom solo does well. It isn't so wide as to be a barge, but it isn't so narrow that you can't fish out of it. It would help to try and paddle a few before you buy. When I purchased my first solo, it was a Bell Wildfire. It is a good canoe, but it just didn't work for me. I weigh about 200 pounds and my skills weren't very practiced when I bought it. I never felt comfortable enough in it to fish, and the kneeling postion didn't work well for me in that canoe because the seat height in mine made it difficult to get my feet under. I sold it and bought the Freedom solo, and that has worked great for me. As far as solos, those two are the only two I have paddled for comparision. I will tell, you, I really enjoy having both a tandem and solo, but I find that I take the solo most of the time. Good luck!

…to mention, I am 5’10, 200lb.

Mohawk Odyssey 15…
My solo boat for rocky rivers is a Mohawk Odyssey 15’, plenty of room for gear, long enough to get satisfactory speed, enough rocker to manuever in Class 2-3 whitewater. I’ve had mine since 2006, I would reccomend the Mohawk…

Second de MR Freedom Solo / Guide

– Last Updated: Jun-13-10 10:39 AM EST –

Outstandin' "all-round" river canoo. Use it fer 90% o' me paddlin' since ah' bought it back in '97 (de Vermont-made Guide version). Ah's jus' about yer size, too.


You don’t talk Vermont.

My picks…

– Last Updated: Jun-13-10 12:57 PM EST –

Have never owned an OT Pack, or a Mohawk Odyssey 15, but I have paddled both, and was not impressed, in any way, by either.

Have owned & paddled a Mohawk Solo 14; it was ok, but nothing special as far as I was concerned. Was never a fan of Mohawk's R-84 layup, and still am not.
My wife loved it. If she loves a canoe; I typically find it to be ok or boring.
She paddles a Wenonah Vagabond; I rate it somewhere between ok & boring.

Based on your usage & your weight (We're close; I'm 6'4" & 207 lbs) my top picks would be:

Bell Yellowstone Solo/Wildfire
Mohawk Odyssey 14
Mad River Guide/Freedom Solo
Wenonah Argosy

I prefer the Bell to the Wenonah.
Consider the Odyssey & the Bell a toss up.
Love my Guide; found the Freedom Solo I had to be poorly made/finished. No comparison to the Vermont Mad River Guides.

I am of the opinion that the Odyssey & the Guide are dryer boats in bigger water than the Bell & the Wenonah, but the Bell & the Wenonah are a little better trackers.

Also think the Guide & the Odyssey are a wee bit more manueverable, particularly with a load of gear on board.

If I could have only 3 of those listed above; I would not have an Argosy.


I agree with 100-percent with…
…what Bob says about the particular boats in his list that I’ve actually paddled, those being the Bell Yellowstone and the Odyssey 14.

My Odyssey 14 is my go-to canoe about 90-percent of the time. It’s not particularly fast, but it is versatile.

I have not paddled the Odyssey 15, but it used to be marketed as a tripping boat for lakes, while the Odyssey 14 is more of a river boat. The Odyssey 15 has less rocker than the Odyssey 14, and when combined with its greater length, I doubt it would have the kind of maneuverability that would even come close to what the 14-foot version provides. When it comes to paddling moving water, I always hear good things about the Mad River Guide from people who are familiar with them.

Argosy and YS are pretty close
in river running.

Argosy has a skegged stern but oddly enough give it a good stern draw or cross draw to set a backferry angle and she holds it while you set your line.

It is a pear shaped hull and hence is less friendly to heel over than YS…so watch those eddy turns

But its OK to Class II…not enough for Cl III and wet with big standing waves in II (we have some II monster wave rivers here)

Its more of a fit, especially if you use a saddle. You have to be able to fit both knees in the chines and be able to reach across the boat for both on side and cross draws and cross forwards.

Dimensional size as well as weight has alot to do with fit.

We had some guys in MR Guides this weekend and the smaller guys with shorter arms (like under six feet tall with proportional extremities) found cross strokes awkward.

I have a WildFire adaptation and of course favor it, but in wood dacron I have to watch the sort of water I run it on. Bony is not good.

You can try my YS Solo sometime -
if you can get your feet under the seat when kneeling. Maybe the next time we connect for a trip on the Salt Fork.

any of the above would work fine
for your intended usage. It is really a question of your style and comfort level.

I agree with Bob (which I seem to be doing with alarming frequency these days) that the Odyssey is a better choice than the solo 14. I think the Odyssey, Solo 14 or MR Guide would feel a little friendlier initially than the Yellowstone Solo or Argosy.

The skeged stern on the Argosy does make its rear-end a bit stickier so it is harder to skid the stern to make a snappy eddy tern than on the other boats, but as Kim said, it does add quite a bit of directional stability on ferries so it is a matter of style and preference.

Rock Star
I have a YS. I’ve not paddled any of the other boats mentioned so have nothing constructive to add— except to say you might also want to consider the Bell Rock Star if you’ll be carrying gear.

East Central Illinois River boats
I’ve spent thousands of hours on the Vermilion and it various forks, Big Pine, which isn’t big, and other rivers in the area. I’m trying to remember when, if ever, I paddled a rubber boat.

They are heavy and slow, which I find to be a bad combination for gun dogs or canoes. I’d suggest a used composite hull if you are focused on a given price point. A Bell white or Black Gold, a Curtis, Hemlock or a Mad River will hold up well. Ultra lights like Wenonah of Bell Kevlar hulls are a little fragile for the work at hand.

If you’re new to solo paddling your first boat should

probably be a solo tripper - something with a length/width ratio above 6.5 that will help you track.

More maneuverable hulls are only helpful after you’ve developed a working C/J/forward stroke. Look for a Bell Merlin II or more rarely, a Curtis/ Hemlock Nomad/Peregrine. A Mad River Slipper would work too.

If you’ve got the forward stroke down, look for a used Bell WildFire or Curtis LadyBug.

The major concern with fitting a solo canoe is triangulation when kneeling. With your sitz bones on the seat you want your knees to spread to fill the chines. At 5’10" smaller hulls will raise your CG too high and keep your knees a little too close together, but you’ll rattle around like seeds in a gourd in the larger hulls like RockStar, Wilderness and Guide/Freedom Solo. They fit folks with long thighbones.

My only solo canoe paddling experience is in an Old Town Pack. I do have a pretty good J (or at least I think it is a J) in that boat. I do not usually kneel in the Pack. It IS horrifyingly slow. My other canoe is even more awful—a Pelican 15’6 tandem. Oilcanned all to heck, plastic contoured seats–just awful. But I have paddled the entire Vermilion system with it, basically learning what little I know of moving water by just going out and getting on the river with my equally inexperienced bow paddler friend and co-adventurer. I usually paddle in the stern when we go out with that boat.

I also paddle a Necky Manitou Sport kayak with a 230 cm cheap paddle.

The friend that had loaned me the Pack indefinitely took it back, so my only solo options at the moment are the kayak and the tandem beast paddled from the bow seat backwards. It seems to me that even a rubber solo hull would be vastly better than anything I have, but I would be willing to go used in a composite hull if I can get something for under 1300 or so.

If I go royalex, I am leaning towards the Odyssey 14.

i have both an argosy and odyssey
since i bought the odyssey i have yet to paddle the argosy again… i paddle creeks and rivers bout your height and 20 lbs heavier…mohawk odyssey would be a a good choice…

Hey High
Second or third the original composite Bell Wildfire. There is a used white gold in the classified from NY.

May be hard to find.

Try out Dave’s Yellowstone. Chuck has a 14 ft. Odyssey. Of these two, I’d favor the Mohawk for BP or Stony. Just about anything will “work” on the local water. Depends on how much you want to get that amphibious feel out of your paddle and boat.

I am about your height. After paddling the Sandpiper and the Flashfire, the MR Guide feels like a big boat.

Most of the boats discussed above are in the area. Across the Wabash, a trip with the Hoosiers or Muskrat’s Expeditions or attending the Wildcat Rendezvous would acquaint you with the world of solo canoes.


Hey gremmie!
Did you know that Chuck is paddling one of my old Mohawk Odysseys ?

I tried to sell it to him when it was much newer, but Chuck being a “kayaker” asked me to “ride it down”, and “gentle it up” a little for him before he’d buy it. Does Chuck still have those outriggers he put on it to help keep it upright?


Hey Roberto
Yeah, Chuck had to hang a pair on it since you made a gelding of it. Calls it “ole doggy”. It shivers when it hears the name “Bob”.

I wish…
I wish I could get Chuck down here to work with that Perception HD-1 of mine a little. I haven’t even taken time to put it on the water yet, but that is definitely on my agenda in near future.

Have taken the Lotus Caper out a couple of times, and it is a fun boat to paddle. Pretty thing too.


Try it before you sell it. Great boat. Some boat builder should make it again, maybe with slightly less rocker.