I am looking around for my first canoe and don’t really know what to get. Most of my canoeing will be 1 to 2 day trips with some fishing on a slowing moving river (Brazos River, North Texas). I am looking for a tandem but will probably be solo most of the time but have to get a tandem to justify the purchase. Typical situation! I am hoping to find a canoe for under $1000. I am open to buying used.


– Last Updated: Feb-16-07 9:01 PM EST –

The solo/tandem question gets asked here a lot. One of the canoes most often mentioned is the Old Town Penobscot 16. Paddles nicely, reasonably light, fairly easy to find used or discounted. A center seat is an option, or you can add one yourself. It might seem unstable at first if it's your first canoe, but the wider "fishing" canoes can be awkward to paddle solo from the center. There's usually a tradeoff between paddling ease(speed) and stability. With any canoe, if you drop the seat(s)a bit it'll feel more stable.

The Mad River Explorer 16 in Royalex is also a popular solo/tandem canoe. Wenonah makes a model called the Solo Plus that might work for you. The Wenonah website & catalog has a lot of good information on choosing a canoe.

If you're always going to be carrying a load, you can paddle from one end, and width won't be so much of an issue. Tandems are typically paddled "backwards" from the bow seat for better weight distribution.

As for materials, aluminum is noisy and cold but lasts forever, polyethylene is rugged but heavy, composites are light and stiff but expensive. Royalex(ABS)is a good compromise between weight, stiffness, and durability for river use. Don't rule out a used composite boat if you're not going to be whacking many rocks.

For what you're describing almost any decent small tandem would get you started. The best thing to do is to try out a few. A lesson might also help get you off to a good start.

Another vote for the Explorer
but in your price range, look for a used one. If it is in decent shape (even well-used), it is worth it.

My first boat was a 14’ Mohawk Sportsman. Slow, but Mrs. Riverstrider and I had many enjoyable tandem trips in it. And if you face the other way in the bow seat, it paddles solo very nicely. And it is a nice stable platform for fishing. Won’t handle anything bigger than quickwater or Class I without flotation tho! Looks like Mohawk will soon be back in business, and the MRSP for a new Sportsman is below $1000.

For what you want to do, you don’t need anything fancy, but if you think you may want to do more advanced paddling eventually, look into a boat in the 16’ range.


bell morningstar
sure, it’s a few-hundred over your budget (in royalex), but when I got mine a few years back I quickly learned it would be my “last” canoe as it was the first one (of five) that I usually choose for nearly all of my paddling activities.

Solo, tandam, flatwater, whitewater, whatever … it’s pretty close to that elusive and perfect “all-around” canoe.

Postscript: life is funny in that the Morningstar was not my “last” canoe as last spring fate dealt me the opportunity to buy a too-pretty-to-use, custom-built lapstrake canoe for an unbelievably low price, and as a result, the Morningstar is now the first one I choose out of six!

a great place to start
Get the wenonah canoe catalog from a dealer it has so much information in it on how to pick out a canoe. its really helpful no matter what brand of canoe you end up with…jack