solo canoe for small streams

-- Last Updated: Jun-11-09 7:05 PM EST --

This is a GREAT message board that I've enjoyed for a long time. I'd appreciate recommendations and comments to help me choose a new solo canoe for a guy pushing 60, 6 ft, 210 pounds. Currently paddle a Dagger Encore for whitewater, Mad River Courier for small streams.

Boat will be used in twisting, wooded, small, (20 - 100 ft wide)streams and rivers with current, no rocks but sometimes plenty of logs. I want a boat that provides the best balance of quick turning-manuevering ability (the more it spins the better, I can paddle it straight) with reasonable stability for getting in/out on muddy banks and around logs. Most paddling in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas. Would do some light overnights with 30 lbs gear and hope the boat will be playful enough to take out once a week to paddle in a pond, lean, mess around with easy freestyle just for the joy of paddling. Speed, tracking, wind profile not factors. Don't want much, huh? I know there'll be some compromises.

Definitely will get composite to keep weight to close to 40 pounds.

Thanks so much for your ideas.

It sounds like the Courier is nearly perfect. If you could change it, other than weight, would you?

Check the thread on the Novacraft SouperNova as compared to the guide. It might be a lot deeper than you need, but you are also tall enough that it shouldn’t matter.

Maybe a Prospector 14 by Clipper/Western Canoeing.

Check out Millbrook :

I don’t know much about them, except they are well regarded.

You’ve already got the boats
You’re not going to get a flatwater or general purpose solo that gives you more any more twisty performance than the Encore. I say that as a fellow Encore owner.

But if you want a much lighter composite boat that can freestyle dance and track better than the Encore, a good answer is the Bell/Placid Wildfire with symmetrical rocker.

Bell no longer makes this boat, so you will have to look for a used one. Bell skegged the stern rocker late in the Wildfire production and then changed the name of the canoe to the Yellowstone.

Not sure if Placid has the symmetrical Wildfire in current production, but others here will know.

Excellent question. This old Courier (apprx 1985) is 70 lbs plus and is just TOO HEAVY for loading/unloading alone. Other than that it would be fine. It’s so versatile: been down class II - slow bayous, leans until gunwales dip, although I’d like a little more rocker. I had looked at a Millbrook Souhegan some. Any other Millbrooks you’d like to recommend? I like the weight, 3" rocker, length on the Souhegan. I’ll keep it high on my list. I love the specs on the SuperNova, almost perfect, except for the 48 lbs in Kevlar Spectra. That’d still be 20+ lbs less than what I have now, of course. Thanks for the quick response. Nothing is ruled out, keeping all options open.

is perfect for you. Does just what you want. I’m 6’, 250 and the boat is still playful for me, so your weight requirements will fit. Just about the best 14’ hull I’ve found for fun paddling. Check w/Placid Boatworks about building you one…they can make it very light, yet very very sturdy, or as mentioned look for a used Bell one. They don’t come around often as most owners love the boat. I believe Placid has the original mold without the skegged stern…is that right CEW?

I can’t speak to this particular …
model of GRB, but this looks like a great boat for what you’re looking for in the classified ads. I own a another GRB model and I can say their craftsmanship is fantastic.

No, it isn’t my boat and I don’t know the seller other than a couple of emails about the boat. I can’t kneel comfortably anymore or I’d buy it myself.

(SC) 15’ Grasse River Boatworks, Companion II solo, 23 lbs carbon fiber, mahogany gunwhales, wicker seat. In Bluffton SC, email for pics or call 843-298-5687. Deliver to Columbia SC or J’ville. – Submitted by: louisp

I’d recommend…
…a Wildfire - if you can find one. To me this sounds like the perfect boat for your needs. Formerly made by Bell and then later by Placid Boat Works. This boat is not in production at this time. Perhaps PBW will bring it back at some point? Maybe not now that Charlie has retired? It would probably be best to contact Joe at PBW and see what he says about that.

I think a Swift Osprey would meet your needs.

Mine is the Expedition layup and weighs a bit more than 40 lbs. Other layups are lighter.

That boat is still in production.

Most any modern solo, Osprey, Wildfire, Yellowstone (Bell) etc is going to be more challenging to get in and out of compared to your Courier. In the case of the Osprey I can say learn to trust the secondary.


Placid Boat works Spitfire fits your

Old Town Pack

To this excellent list I would add…
…that you should take a look at the Wenonah Argosy. Of course, everyone will say that their recommendation would seem to fit your needs to a T. Me, too!

Vermont Canoe choices…
Indy 15’8" solo canoe

Tupper 12’9" pack canoe


The Tupper
is all that :^) and very adorable, too.

Rob, I’ve been really amazed at how fast my canoe is, and yet as maneuverable as my short rec kayak. And I’m really appreciating how easy she is to pick up and load, all 25 pounds.

Have fun!
I have no other suggestions than those listed, but just wanted to say…Have fun! The paddling you describe is some of my favorite paddling! Just went out with a friend today who had a Wildfire. Gorgeous boat. I have a Yellowstone. I also like the Sandpiper.

I just bought a white water boat,a Probe 11, & it is a blast. When you mentioned no problems paddling straight, I thought I would toss out the idea of adding a white water canoe to your fleet as your NEXT boat purchase after you buy your creek boat :). It really is fun to mess around with white water canoes on creeks. Turns on a dime. Of course, it is not as practical as one of the boats mentioned but is a fun addition.

Tight, twisty rivers…
well dats de Joisey Pine Barrens - say nomore! Ah’ mostly use me MR Guide thaar. Woyks great fer me.


fire boats
Yeah, I’d second the Wildfire/Flashfire/Spitfire series made by Placid and suggest that you go as small as you think you can deal with. (As someone mentioned, the first 2 are currently out of production, but they still have a few of each in stock, some with blemishes and thus discounts. See their website.)

One possible problem with the smallest, the Spitfire, is that it’s a sit-on-floor design with a backrest built into the rear main thwart that sticks up several inches above the gunwale. That design will interfere with two common maneuvers on those little tree-choked streams, the lean-back move where you lay back to pass under an obstacle and the over-under move, where you force the boat under a fallen tree while climbing over the trunk yourself.

You can probably find a fix to that problem if the boat suits you otherwise. I don’t know how the backrest is attached, but if it is not easily removable as it sits, surely you could modify it to make it so. Or, ideally, you could build in a latch that lets the seat lay back at a click, like a car seat. For myself, I might be inclined to remove it and that thwart altogether and spend part of my time kneeling.

All purpose boat
Look at the Hemlock SRT.

Bell Wildfire
I’ve used it on a river trip with gear packed in it, and on smaller creeks for day trips. It’s def. maneuverable and big enough for me and my stuff.

Small stream solo update
Thanks so much y’all for all the suggestions. I’ve read them all and checked into every boat, plus paddled a couple (Yellowstone, Argosy) and it seems everything recommended would work.

Glenn’s reinforcement of my Encore helped me realize just what a great boat it is and helped refine my search. My Encore (1990 Dagger pink “fuschia”) with wood gunwales will not be beat for a day tripper. Lean it til the gunwales dip water, spin it til you’re dizzy (really!), power through a flat stretch, it does it all. I just bought a well used red Encore for whitewater so I can baby the pink one and keep it in good shape. Gets lots of looks.

That means I can now focus on the weekend/overnight tripping aspects. Leading contenders are Swift’s OSPREY, Hemlock’s SRT and EAGLET, maybe Merrimac’s BABOOSIC. I wish the Wildfire was currently available too. Any experiences with those would be appreciated.

Thanks again for all the help. PADDLERS ARE THE GREATEST!!! Maybe this fall I can do a review and comments on my new boat, whichever it is!

I recommend the Osprey too
I also have a Swift Osprey (as well as a Bell Wildfire). I have used it for 4 day trips in the Adirondacks. It has lots of capacity, handles very well, is plenty stable, does well in choppy waters. A bit longer than the Wildfire, (a foot), so a bit more room.

Mine is in fiberglass layup. It’s about 55 lbs, has an added footbrace set up in it that adds a little weight. But, you can’t beat it for enjoyable paddling and tripping.

I equally like the Wildfire, though it’s smaller. But it’s my go-to boat lately for day trips, since it is lighter at about 44 lbs (fiberlar) and I can carry it more easily than the Osprey.