Solo Decision

I am looking into purchasing my first solo canoe and I think I have narrowed my decision down to two boats. Since I paddle a lot of rocky streams, I think royalex would be better for me. The two boats I am trying to choose from are the Bell Yellowstone solo and the We-no-nah Argosy.

I have been a whitewater kayaker since 1981 and have spent considerable time on class V rivers all over the U.S., but I have a new paddling partner and I am getting older and getting more interested in the class I-II rivers. My partner and I purchased a Dagger Reflection 3 years ago and paddled it about a dozen times that year. She decided she was ready to move to a kayak. We paddle about 15 times a year, but I really miss the canoe so we decided that I should get a solo canoe. Sometimes we paddle some fairly tight creeks so I think a shorter (14’) boat would be best.

OK, now I know there many of you that have paddled these boats because I have read the reviews. What I was wondering is, have any of you paddled both and how do they compare. Or, if you have paddled one of then, would you change to the other and why or why not. Thanks!


many previous comments
Have you searched the archive? Both of these boats are mentioned here a lot.

I paddled a Royalex YS for a few days on flatwater and found it perfectly competent but not that exciting. If I were going to paddle class I-II and didn’t expect to hit many rocks, I think I would be happier (but much poorer) with a carbon/kevlar WildFire from Or, if you’re smaller, a FlashFire. Both are more responsive than a YS.

– Mark

My opinion…

– Last Updated: Jun-04-08 3:16 PM EST –

My opinion is that you are on the "right" track with Royalex.

Either the Bell Yellowstone Solo, or the Wenonah Argosy would be well suited for shallow/rocky/class 1 & 2 rivers/streams.
A kayaker who has frequently paddled class V water will have no problem whatsoever in getting either boat to respond. Don't think you'll have any problem adapting to either boat quickly.

Another boat you might consider is the Mohawk Odyssey 14 in Royalex. Check out the thread titled Mohawk Odyssey or Bell Yellowstone on page 2/posted June 3rd, for some additional opinions.

While there are slight differences in the specs of the Yellowstone Solo, and the Argosy; the way they handle, and the spec. differences are "not" significant. Price is also similiar.

In my opinion, the Royalex layup would be the better option for the rivers you plan to frequent. What you described is very typical of the rivers I frequently paddle.

Either boat is fun to play around in on a day float,and both are quite capable of carrying my 200 pounds, and all the gear I even think I might want/need for multiple day river trips.

I own and frequently paddle a Bell Wildfire(Yellowstone Solo), a Wenonah Argosy, and a Bell

I think it is noteworthy that I paid a total of $2,450.00 for my wood trimmed Royalex Wildfire($675.00 used), my Royalex Argosy($825.00 new), and my composite($850.00 used) Flashfire. I believe the MSRP on the Placid boat that was mentioned is approximately $2,595.00. Don't know about you, but to me, that is one damn expensive boat to be banging down a shallow, rock filled, Alabama river on a day float, or an overnight.

I do "not" question the quality/beauty of Placid boats in "any" respect.

Try to test paddle the boats before you choose, and keep your eye out for a used boat, and save yourself some bucks.

Want to see photos of the Argosy & Wildfire side by side for comparison? Email me; be glad to send you a few photos.


P.S. I know my ass from a hole in the ground.........
I'm a caver too.
Lake Ozark Missouri Grotto
NCRC Cave Rescue trained.

Have you considered the Mad River
Guide, now known as the Freedom Solo? It has somewhat more whitewater capability than the boats you are considering, but it will stay close to them on the flats.

I dont have either and
have paddled both. I frankly dont like the YS and do like the Argosy for its capacity, its decent beating against the wind speed and its nice acceleration. Its a wonderful exploring boat for twisty rivers.

I am not a Wenonah person at all and do usually like Bells but the YS simply is not exciting…Its sticky stern works against me …I dont need it for going straight. Its kind of like training wheels that you cant get rid of. Reversing tunrs out of tricky spots is something it does not want to do.

As always try before you buy…

I have a FlashFire love it and yes carbon fiber and Kevlar will endure rocky streams.

If you promise not to wrap the boat.

Most people would prefer Royalex though.

I paddled the Bell WildFire RX and the YS…not the same. I believe the WildFire RX was just made for a short time…could be mistaken.

My gawd I have never paid full price for any boat save custom built ones.

of picking up another solo myself. Anyone have any thoughts on paddling differences between the Argosy and the old Wildfire in composite(symmetrical)? Kayakmedic? My Wildfire seems a bit sluggish to me or maybe its just that I miss my Swift Osprey.

you are missing your Osprey
Load,no load?

The WildFire slows down alot if you are paddling with 300 lbs.

Gimme more info.

day trips
with myself(170Lbs)and maybe 20 lbs of gear. Downcurrent paddles with into the flow returns. Narrow river with lots of sharp turns. Aging paddler with average technical proficiency. The Wildfire is an old fiberlar model in great shape. The Ospreys I have owned have been the expedition kevlar and the ultralight. The ultralight had way too much flex for my liking but the expedition was solid.

Argosy/Yellowstone Solo Specs.

– Last Updated: Jun-05-08 11:15 AM EST –

Significant spec./handling differences?

I'm not sure how/why either boat would significantly outperform the other in "any" respect, based solely on the specs. I believe any significant difference in the handling of these boats would more likely be because of the skill/ability of the paddler.

Length: Argosy 6" longer

Weight: Yellowstone 1 lb. heavier

Rocker: Bow Yellowstone 1/4" more
Stern Yellowstone 1/2" more

Depth: Bow Yellowstone 1/2" deeper
Center Argosy 1" deeper
Stern Yellowstone 1/2" deeper

Width: Gunwale Argosy 1/2" wider
Waterline Same width


where is the rest of the story
waterline width at various burdens?

I believe that YS has more flare
The Argosy struck me as more typical Wenonah with flat cheeks.

Like rocker, flare is your friend.

No rest of the story

– Last Updated: Jun-05-08 12:30 PM EST –

That info. is not provided on their websites.

Whatever the load; will the "average" paddler be able to discern a "significant" difference in the handling of these two(Argosy/Yellowstone) solo canoes? I don't think so.

I am not saying there are "no" differences; the specs I noted say there are differences.
Consequently, there will be "subtle" differences in the way they handle. Just as there will be subtle differences in the way that "either" boat handles with a 175 lb., or a 200 lb. paddler. There will be subtle differences in the way that either boat handles with a beginner, or an intermediate paddler aboard. There will be subtle differences if the load is the paddler & 50 lbs of gear vs the paddler & 70 lbs of gear. There will be subtle differences if the wind is blowing.

Is the Yellowstone better than an Argosy, or vice versa? I don't think so. I think both will handle shallow/rocky/class 1/class 2/rivers/streams just fine, with or without a load of gear, and a 150 to 200 lb paddler aboard.

If someone said there was a "quite a bit" of difference in the handling between those 2 solos(Yellowstone/Argosy), and a Mad River Guide, or a Swift Osprey.......I would agree. I own, paddle, and enjoy both of those too.


three things the specs don’t tell you
Specs don’t speak to flare or the shape of the bottom or the nature of the chine. Some things are harder to describe with numbers than others. To me, specs can give you maybe 55-75% of the picture. Supplementing the specs with opinions of paddlers you trust has always worked out pretty well for me.

not talking about "average"
The original poster is a Class V kayaker and paddles 15 times a year, hence is presumably rather more enthusiastic than the average paddler. No way to know if he cares about the subtle differences that have been discussed, but if he doesn’t, he can ignore them. He did get a couple of responses that were squarely responsive to his question, plus a couple that suggested alternatives he didn’t list, which is the way.

In response to an earlier criticism: I admit I missed the word “rocky” in the original post. I wouldn’t choose carbon/kevlar if I were going to hit many rocks.

– Mark

I have a Yellowstone
A guy that I paddle with has an Argosy. We’ve switched boats a couple of times. He thought my YS was faster than his Argosy. I didn’t notice that, but I did think that the Argosy turned a little better than my YS. Who knows? The Argosy does have the adjustable seat. My YS is set up for kneeling with the short seat drops, so you are up pretty high sitting on the seat.

Very similar boats, but there are some subtle differences. I don’t think that you can go wrong with either, but hopefully you will be able to paddle them yourself before you buy.

Class I and II fun
If you are really interested in having a lot of fun on class I and II rocky streams I’d heartily recommend that you consider more of a whitewater hull. I had a Yellowstone and sold it. It is just OK. If I could predominantly paddle class I and II, I’d opt for something like a Bell Prodigy or Prodigy X which are rated well for acceleration and glide. Or even find a decent used WW open boat and try it before buying a Yellowstone or Argosy. It would certainly be a better transition for you from a shorter WW kayak. I think you, with your WW paddling background, would be bored in a Yellowstone or Argosy on class I and II water. And if you can find a used Bell Blackgold Flashfire, it would also beat a Yellowstone or Argosy hands down in the fun department. That boat is made for paddling!

I think yes and no
Either of those boats will do class I with no issues whatsoever. Class II should not be a problem. In fact a class V capable boater may have more fun in an Argosy or YS in class II than in a dedicated WW open boat. The challenge of having to manage a boat a little is considered “fun.”

I think once you get into class II+, the Argosy/YS class of boat can get pretty wet. But, in the middle of summer on a hot day, with pool and drop runs, wet may be just the ticket to having a bunch of fun. For class III, I really don’t want to be in a Argosy or YS regardless of the temps.

I am still not clear on
whether he needs a boat that is efficient for extended tripping or just day play.

The Argosy seems to do better on the first point and is becoming a wilderness tripping favorite.

YS is good for a Cliff Jacobsen sized paddler in a wilderness setting.

I dont do much day play in tripping boats.

All Fun, But…

– Last Updated: Jun-05-08 5:12 PM EST –

Snapping eddy turns into small eddies, eddy hopping, peeling out, ferrying, surfing, playing in holes, etc. is going to be much more doable in a WW boat equipped with saddle, thigh straps, and float bags than in a longer boat with minimal rocker. And navigating really rocky streams would also be much easier in a WW hull. I have seen a good paddler "manage" a Yellowstone in pretty challenging class II water. I am sure that he was having as much fun as I was in my WW boat, but I was glad to be in my boat and not his. For those who have paddled the Wolf in WI or the Saint Francis in MO, both class II rivers, I'd like to know who among these paddlers would choose either the Yellowstone or the Argosy? The subject here was rocky, Class I and Class II rivers so I think I am on target.

As an afterthought, the Flashfire does not fit with this train of thought either.

There is so many differences among what can be called Class II that it is really difficult to make any kind of blanket statements about the suitability of these boats. Class I+ would definitely be OK. Mostly fast riffles plus small wave trains with the occasional class II short rapid or drop, still probably OK. Long class II rapids with a lot of rocks or bigger drops, then I'd be in a WW boat for sure.

good points all (NM)