Tandemfor Ozark streams

I am in market for a 15’ - 16’ tandem Royalex canoe for use mostly on Ozark streams which are often shallow and rocky. I also would like to be able to padlle solo at times. Would use for occasional overnight trip.

I have “narrowed” my list to the following models all which seem to have good reviews by their owners on paddling.net reviews.

OT Camper

OT Penobscot

Bell Morningstar

Bell Yellowstone

Mohawk Nova

Mohawk Intrepid

Nova Craft PAL

Nova Craft Bob Special

Any further help incompleting the selection would be greatly appreciated.


Have you looked at
Buffalo canoes http://buffalocanoes.com/ …they are made, I believe, in Jasper, AR and are tough boats…similar in design to the old Blue Hole designs which we used to use for everything from whitewater (solo or tandem) to multi-day river camping in the Ozarks and elswhere.

Or maybe??
The NovaCraft of Bell Prospectors? Like a Pal but bigger and with enough freeboard that it could be used with confidence on bigger waters. They’re big but manoeverable and can haul more camping gear than anyone should need, tandem or solo. Could be poled for upstream stuff. (Soloing one is work in a big wind though. I’d avoid soloing a Prospector on large lakes in the wind unless its a tail wind.)

I have a friend who solos a Bell Morningstar. That’s a boat that might fit your needs. That, too, is a tandem that solos well and carries a good load.

The Mad River Freedom/Guide is popular with folks I know who paddle in the Ozarks. There is a two-seater Freedom. Very manoeverable, stable feeling, predictable, and carries a load well. I’d buy one if I didn’t already have a Prospector.

The Buffalo canoes that were mentioned earlier are popular with the liveries down there. I usually think of that as a pretty good recommendation at least as regards their durability and value. They’re sturdy but heavy as I understand it. Never owned one.

I bet a used Buffalo livery boat could be found at a very low cost at this time of year if you don’t mind buying one thats pre-scratched and may have hastily-installed skid plates.

See, isn’t this the way it goes… you’ve got a nice list there and I’ll bet you’re looking to narrow it down. So what happens? The list gets bigger rather than smaller! LOL

Happy hunting! Its a fun hunt, no?

Wenonah Adirondack
I use a Wenonah Adirondack. Works well tandem and solo (sit backward on front seat) for what you want.

Hemlock Eaglet
depending on your budget or the Bob Special. I was working with the same guidelines and decided to go with the Eaglet in the premium plus lay-up. You may also want to take a look at Mohawk canoes, they seem to get a lot of favorable comments. Good luck with your search.

There are oranges among the apples

– Last Updated: Dec-20-07 3:54 PM EST –

You can paddle just about anything on the Buffalo. I have paddled a fifteen foot Kevlar solo, a sixteen foot solo (royalex) and a kevlar boats from Bell and Wenonah..a Merlin II and an Odyssey. Fiberglass is OK too.

I would go test paddle something and compare it to something else that you can paddle.

I like the Bobs and the OT Penobscot in the old 15 foot length. 16 feet is going to be a bit of more work solo.

The Yellowstone and the Morningstar are so different. The Yellowstone has been out solo; havent tried the tandem, should be more maneuverable than the YSolo.

Mohawk Odyssey is a good solo and tandem. The Nova is going to get you wet in the upper reaches of the Buff. Again thats alot of canoe to horse around solo.

The list narrows

– Last Updated: Dec-20-07 4:26 PM EST –

Well this is really helping.
Since I will be on smaller streams mostly and often solo I am now limiting my list to 15' models.
So that eliminates the Mohawk models.

I also am not adding the Mohawk Odyssey 15T to the list due to 500# capacity.

My list is now
Nova Craft Bob Special
Bell MorningStar
Bell Yellowstone Tandem
OT Camper 15

All are about same price (Hemlocks are nice but a bit above my price range - My wishlist though will now include the Nessmuk Solo)

Keep your thoughts coming.

Many Thanks


New or used?
This question is easier to answer when you provide a target price range. Also, are you just going to a paddle shop to buy a new one; or are you watching the classifieds for a quality used boat at the right price?

I think you have a pretty wide range of handling and performance characteristics in your list right now. What were your priorities so far in narrowing down your list?

personal experience
I tried a Bell Yellowstone tandem enough times to form a decent impression of the boat. It does fine as a solo, especially if you rig up some way to sit or kneel in the center. From the factory, it has a thwart pretty close behind the front seat that makes sitting backwards not practical (plus the seats are angled for kneeling from the factory). It’s small but workable as a tandem. Either solo or tandem, it would be right at home on Ozark float streams. I had no trouble horsing one around ‘solo plus’ (IE myself plus a 60 lb child) on a local river.

Used Nessmuk
Did you notice the used Nessmuk on Hemlock’s website? If you have any questions about the boat give Dave Curtis a call. Great guy.

Narrowing the list…
I think you made a wise decision eliminating the Mohawk Odyssey 15 from your list. I’ve paddled one of them as a solo extensively. It was never intended to be used as a tandem canoe(especially not for 2 adults), and it has less than stellar performance as a solo.

It does however make a fair tandem (if rigged for tandem use)for a couple of “energetic” kids.

I’ve owned 2 Mohawk Odyssey 14. In my opinion a good, multi purpose, solo, that will take a lot of abuse, and does fine up to class 2+. Great for banging along down Ozark rivers.


As an Ozark paddler…
who floats and fishes a lot of very small Ozark streams, I’m not sure you NEED a 15 footer. The Penobscot 16 is pretty good. I like it on any of the streams that have longer pools, like the middle and lower Buffalo and a lot of the Missouri streams (Big Piney, Gasconade, Meramec, etc.) It does okay for the solo paddler as long as you can rig a seat just back of center.

But if you’re planning on MOSTLY paddling solo, it sounds like the Yellowstone might be a better choice. Or possibly the Wenonah Solo Plus.

Actually, my suggestion, if you can afford it, is to look for a cheap used tandem boat, maybe from one of the liveries, and then buy a purely solo boat as well. NO tandem canoe is as pleasant to paddle solo as a good dedicated solo canoe. For a good solo, I don’t think you can beat the Wenonah Vagabond for Ozark waters.

my price range
is up to about $1300

My priorities are tandem big enought for weekend river camping, but that I can solo occasionally.

Will use mostly on small rivers and able to navigate shallow rocky streams. Prefer Royalex due to lighter than Poly & tougher on rocky streams and cheaper than Kevlar.

No whitewater >I-II, if even that.

By skill level is intermediate. Number of river trips and few BWCA trips.

Starting to lean toward the Bell models.

Have checked classifieds but nothing has come up that is close by.

Appreciative of the help here.


500 lbs isnt enough?
Look at the MorningStar specs again. You are at the top of the performance range. There are many maximum load ranges. Performance, capacity and maximum are all interchanged freely on alot of advertising.

MorningStar performance range is 250-550 lbs. Max is 950 safely.

Mohawk I believe gives more of a performance range capacity in what they call max capacity.

Bottom line is these figures can be as clear as mud.

Dedicated solos usually top out at 350 for perf cap. What are you carrying, lead?

Some Good Imfo So Far…

– Last Updated: Dec-21-07 3:17 AM EST –

....so now I'll add my two cents worth. I have been paddling Ozark streams since the late '70's. Not quite as many years as Al_A and theBob, but I've paddled a fair bit on our MO rivers and spent my first two decades paddling tandems both solo AND tandem before finally buying a few dedicated solo boats the last 6 or 7 years. Here's MY thoughts and remember, opinions are like rear ends, we all have one!

MarkK mentioned the Wenonah Adirondack. I've owned 3; two tuffweave and one royalex. I found the royalex flexed and dented more than I liked. Also, mine was olive, and, for gosh sakes, DON'T BUY AN OLIVE ROYALEX BOAT FOR SUMMER PADDLING IN THE OZARKS! Wenonah's olive boats, Mad Rivers, Bells, et al are all Olive on the inside, instead of cream colored like most royalex boats. They will "Cook" you in an hour on an Ozark stream in August. Getting back on track after my rant, I really liked my tuffweave Adirondack's and disliked the royalex model. I found the tuffweave (fiberglass) held up remarkably well on rocky streams with just a little bit of care. It turned well enough solo, and held plenty of gear for solo and tandem tripping on the river. The royalex model of the Adirondack just seemed much more sluggish. With two averaged sized adults and a bit of care, you won't have a problem with overnghters. BTW, you'll find the weight in a boat for a 3-4 night trip and an overnighter is pretty much the same. Here's some reviews on the Adirondack and mine is from 6-28-04.

Another boat that does well as tandem/solo is the Mad River Explorer 15 (14'8") and 14TT(14'6"). They are essentially the same boat except the 15 is royalex and 10 lbs lighter, and you'll pay about $500 more for the decrease in weight. I Have spent probably 1000+ hours in these two models both tandem and solo and they work well for both. Only thing is, 15' is a bit short for the stern paddler to fish. Use some caution not to hit the bow paddler in the head. If you're not fishing from the stern, this boat is not too small for two people on an overnighter unless you're both XXL! Here's my review on the St. Croix, which was what Mad River USED to call the Explorer 14TT. A few years ago Mad River went on a tangent naming EVERYTHING Explorers so the reviews get a bit confusing. Anyway, you didn't mention Mad Rivers, but these are excellent Ozark paddling boats and you have an excellent dealer in Springfield to work with. BTW, they have an Explorer 16, but definitely too much boat to solo comfortably. Here's two links for these canoes.

Now, as for Bell. I don't own a Morningstar and never paddled one. I DO have a Northwind, but have only owned it since August. I LOVE that boat and the 16'6" size of the royalex model DOES NOT "Feel" like it's that big. Turns better than the Wenonah, though not as readily as the Mad River (The Mad River models I described actually start turning when you THINK about turning) but I think with a center seat I could be perfectly happy with that one boat. Here's the reviews for the Northstar, be carefull to make sure the reviews are for the 16'6" ROYALEX models, since the 17'6" composites are lumped into the same reviews.

I would add that the best way to figure out the right boat is to paddle a few. I live on the other side of the Ozarks, but could meet sometime and let you test out the Northwind and the Explorer 15. We also have a Spring Rendevous in April where I'm certain you could try out a few boats. I always bring extras and would be happy to loan you one. Here's the link to the next Ozark Rendevous:

Hopefully I've been a bit of help even though I mentioned a couple canoes not on your list. And BTW, if you're interested in more imfo on solo paddling the Northwind, Osprey here on P.net has paddled one for years. GOOD LUCK! WW

My two cents - for what it’s worth
Can’t give you any better advice on tandems than those posted above, but solo canoes are a good thing. You might want to even consider two used solos instead of a new tandem. Most of the people I paddle with started out in tandems, now most paddle solo canoes. Seems the marriages and relationships last longer that way.

Since you are an Ozark river paddler take a look at the Spring Ozark Rendezvous 2008 thread on the Get Together and Go Paddling Board. It’s a great bunch of people. You’ll get chance to try out many solo canoes. Tandem canoes are also welcome. Hell, we even welcome kayakers :slight_smile:

Small tandem vs two solos
As a person who likes to tandem with DH after 30 years, I wanted to say “It ain’t necessarily so” to the old husband’s tale about tandems as divorce boats. Now that I have several solo boats and am getting a little better at staying inside and Darryl has a couple too, I’ll admit that sometimes I want to solo. However, I still enjoy paddling tandem with my favorite paddling partner. That way I get to lollygag a lot more without getting totally left behind.

I’d go used
It takes a little more time and trouble (although, personally, I don’t find much of anything more fun than shopping for canoes), but I think you could get both a decent tandem and a solo for your budget.

They aren’t in your area but should represent where the market price is, and currently on the P-Net classifieds, you can find:

  1. Yellowstone tandem–$750 (Pennslyvania)
  2. Old Town Camper–$500 (South Carolina)
  3. Old Town Tripper–$600 (New Jersey)

    Solos are a little thin, about all that’s for sale right now is a Wenonah Rendezvous ($500, Virginia), and that’s probably not what you want.

    Even down here in the canoe wasteland of Texas, I’ve picked up three solos over the past three years for about $700 each.

    I would guess you could find two boats, a solo and a tandem, and still stay within your budget by spring.

I treat my husband better in the canoe
than in the house!

And we communicate MUCH better in the boat.

Tandem practice (FreeStyle) is a joy. Perhaps since we understand the separate job descriptions of bow and stern.

HE does not understand dishes.

Thanks for all the fantastice input. My brain hurst form bouncing back and forth on the Web among manufacuters sites.Late last night as I surfed more on the web my wife said I have OCD - Obsessive Canoe Disorder.

I think I’ll let my brain rest a little and start looking harder for something used.

WW THANKS and I may take you up on your offer. I WILL mark my calendar now to make it to the rondezvous. Thnaks all for the invite.

I am starting to think the few extra pounds of a Poly boat might be OK for the price and get a solo too.

Nice bunch of folks here, thanks again!