Stepping It Up

My son and I have been enjoying our new-to-us river tripping canoes: a Dagger Legend 15 (for him) and an Old Town Cascade (for me), the latter of which I picked up with advice from the forum here. They’ve been great boats for overnight to long weekend runs on the middle sections of the Buffalo in Arkansas, the Eleven Point, and the Toccoa, all of which we’ve paddled in the last year along with day trips around middle Tennessee.

In order to increase our skill level, this spring, we did two days of whitewater canoe lessons at NOC with a great instructor. Instead of our personal boats, we used two new Esquif Prospecteur 16’s (owned by NOC). We had such a great time training on the Tuckasegee and the Nantahala that we’d like to return and continue to develop our skills for beginner to intermediate whitewater.

But’s there a complication. My son now says he’d like to get something more whitewater oriented that still gives the option for overnight trips. So, the bug has bitten and I’ve got a challenge ahead of me and lots of questions. What boats will do both day trips on the Tuck and Nantahala as well as overnight trips on water like Clear Creek in Tennessee or the Saint Francis in Missouri ? The latter are probably the most difficult streams we’ll try to do anytime soon, and I’d like to build our skills toward that class of water.

I’ve read as many of the archived threads that contain info on this subject that I can find, and among the boats that seem like good candidates are the Dagger Impulse and Mohawk XL 13. (I’d like to buy used as I really like the old boats, and they’ll end up being learning boats anyway). My immediate question is whether or not these boats will offer enough performance improvements over what we already have. Or should I just bag out the boats that we currently own?

As well, to complicate matters, we’d both like to continue using bench seats over saddles, at least for now. I’ve seen XL 13’s on the used market with them, but I’ve never seen an Impulse with one. I have read that kneeling thwarts were used with that model occasionally.

More pertinent info: We’re both 6’ 1" and from 190 to 200 lbs. Beginner whitewater skill levels. Playing in rapids is less important than handling a load of gear for tripping. We both kneel to paddle through anything challenging but like the bench seat for the flats.

Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.

As I recall, both the Impulse and the XL13 are pretty beginner friendly WW canoes. Shorter with some rocker so reasonable manuverable copmared with the 16’ hulls. Depending on how you pack you can multi-day out of most anything other than play boats. I have a Dagger Rival & have done multi-day runs with it (Dog River in Ontario with a 16 mile paddle out on Lake Superior). Gear with in dry bags strapped under the air bags. That canoe is set up aith a Mohawk saddle & you really don’t want to sit in it. I also have a Wenonah Rendezvous that I have taken on up to 10 days with some class II rapids. Mine is in their ‘Toughweave’ layup but they also made the hull in roylex. Mine still has the tractor seat in & I can bth kneel & sit in it. I think that the Roylax ones did have a bench seat.

The Rival is fun on the Nanty and on Clear Creek (Obed Emory watershed) but I’d think twice (at least) before taking the 'Vous down them. Partly due to the composite construction & my current skill set.

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I love whitewater paddling, and I love wilderness tripping, but I wouldn’t do both in the same boat. Sounds like you are happy with your tripping boats, so you need dedicated whitewater boats. Trust me, once your son catches the bug for whitewater paddling, you will be doing a lot of daytrips on progressively more difficult rivers. You will quickly grow out of your dual-purpose boats and move into dedicated whitewater boats. I’d say skip the middle step and just get whitewater boats outfitted with pedestals for whitewater paddling.

At least for me up here in the northeast the decision is easy. There are a few tripping rivers that are known for rapids (St. John, Machias, St. Croix up in ME), but even on those you will spend most of your time paddling on flatwater. A dedicated whitewater boat is no fun in those conditions. A bench seat would make the flatwater sections a little more bearable, but adds to the risk in rapids.

A friend of mine had a bad experience in his Swift Osprey (great tripping boat) on one of the more technical rapids on the Machias River up in ME. His boat swamped, got spun around, and he was pinned against the bench seat in the current – couldn’t get his feet out. He vowed that he would never paddle with a bench seat in rapids again.

I haven’t taken it that far, but I’m pretty careful about the rapids that I paddle in a boat loaded with gear. I consider myself to be a class II+/III- boater, but I wouldn’t want to push my limits. Short easy rapids are one thing. Long technical rapids where there is a chance of pinning the boat is another.

In terms of boats, you’ll be looking for used, so you will have to take what is available. Any of the old school royalex boats would be fine – Mohawk XL13 or Probe, Dagger Encore or Impulse, Mad River Outrage or Outrage X. I have an old Encore that was my first whitewater boat, but I now paddle an Outrage.

There is also a whole class of solo boats that are designed for river tripping – Mohawk Odyssey or Solo 14, Bell Wildfire or Yellowstone Solo, Mad River Guide or Courier. There are also composite versions like the Opsprey. They are a little more friendly in easy rapids, but I wouldn’t take them on the big stuff.

Anyway, good luck with your search.

A tripping canoe for overnight.
A whitewater canoe for day trips.

“Depending on how you pack” usually gets me into trouble, rival51. I’m never over the gunnels, but I do pack heavy. My luxury items sure have expanded in number since passing 50.

He has caught the bug, eckilson, or at least a mild variant, so I’m trying to facilitate it as safely as possible. That said, there are limited options for day tripping on whitewater here. We’re at least three hours away from those kind of runs and only looking to do two or three trips a year around NOC (or the southern Apps in general) to have fun and develop our skills.

I thought the next step up would require more boats (as you hinted at in one of my previous threads), so, after a bunch of reading, the Impulse and the XL13 seemed to be easy boats to jump into and ones suited to the kind of water (beginner levels of intermediate) we’re looking at. I’m probably good with stopping at that level, but the boy is just getting started with lots of whitewater kayaking friends at college. I could easily see him moving on to a more maneuverable canoe.

The bench seat/saddle issue is a bit of a worry for me, but none of the rivers we’re looking at in our immediate future have what I would call long, technical rapids. The bigger question for me is when to start that transition. Sooner is probably better, I would imagine.

Your Encore in a beauty. Those old school boats really appeal to me: they were young when I was. An Odyssey for solo Ozark trips is already on the long-term list as is a pocket tandem loaner boat for the easier rivers around here. Our current trippers will never get sold; they’ve been too good to us so far.

Looks like I’ll be building a new canoe rack this fall.

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That happens to the best of us!

Or you may lose him to the dark side. That’s OK, kayakers are good people too. :wink:

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It’s possible. You can only raise them right and then hope they’ll use the force for good. :wink:

Seriously, though, after starting out in the bow of my boat as a little one and moving to a sit-on-top in grade school, he asked to learn how to canoe a few years ago during Covid. His college has a robust whitewater kayaking community, and he tried it during his first semester there and didn’t enjoy the experience the way he thought he might.

Working in his favor, he has a deep respect for the lost wilderness tripping and OC-1 subcultures of the 1980’s and 1990’s, especially in the South, and loves the look of the old “retro” boats. I would bet that I’ll be looking for used Outrages or similar boats in a year or two for him so that he can keep up with his friends, and I’ll be on here asking about outfitting. He’ll probably end up at ALF with his buddies soon enough (it’s not that far away), and he’s already taken them on an overnighter (in canoes) on a nearby river. It’s going to be interesting to see who infects who.

It wasn’t lost on him that the original NOC logo featured a canoe and not a kayak.


I still havent gotten the hang of using the right boat for the right water. Sometimes i just make do with what i got.

Making do with what you’ve got is another good way to learn. A need to have everything perfect is a good way to get into difficulty when it’s not.