Yellowstone vs Wildfire. Same difference

A really good friend owns a glass Wildfire and every time I paddle it, I like it more and more. To my strange luck, I found a Yellowstone in Royalex for a fantastic price. A real steal. I was told that it paddles almost identical to the Wildfire. I may not have time to test paddle it, so I need users reports. I hear that it’s a little “jerky” and more responsive. So, what should I expect? I will use it to paddle springs and lakes but a trip to Nantahala may be in my future one day…but not anytime soon. Your advice may be my make it or break it advice.


– Last Updated: Mar-17-14 10:24 PM EST –

Totally different boat, in spite of the fact they once shared the same name. The Yellowstone is detuned compared to a Wildfire, IMO. E.g., less stern rocker in the Yellowstone for easier tracking.

ETA: Still a good boat though, ppl like them. Plus with RX checked out, they are going to show up less and less.

Yellowstone Solo straighter tracking
and has a bit stickier stern.

A glass Wildfire will be more
responsive than a Royalex Yellostone. Jerky I don’t know about.

And unless you’re really good, don’t try the Nanty in either one.

I wouldn’t paddle glass in the Nant
But only because it would come out all dinged up. The Nantahala is fun, but it really only has one rapid of any note and even that isn’t that bad if you just run right through. If you try to surf and play in a touring boat you may get dumped, but I canoed it about my 2nd or 3rd time in a canoe and it was not difficult.

Owned one
I agree with the rest-they are different boats. To me,the Yellowstone felt in between a Wildfire,and a touring boat like the Merlin II. For me,It was jack of all trades,master of none-I didn’t like it.

Just my experience,Turtle

Buy the Yellowstone
I love mine, but I would REALLY love a composite Wildfire. As said above, two different boats.

I’ve put bags and thigh strap in my Yellowstone and taken it on easy whitewater (class I/II) - works out nice when the rapids are easy and there are long flatwater sections in between. Don’t confuse it for a whitewater boat though. It definitely submarines in big waves.

But paddle before you buy
I just noticed the part “I may not have time to test paddle it”. I love my Yellowstone, but there are a lot of people who get in it and really don’t like it. Paddle before you buy.

I have both.
They are different and similar. In my opinion the com posite Wildfire is a little more elegant, quicker and predictable. The royalex version has a sticky stern, but that is an advantage for people that haven’t refined their paddling technique yet. (i.e. you can daydream once in awhile) Small twisty pine barrens streams I would opt for the composite version. Boney stuff, I would use the royalex. Big flat rivers it would be a draw.

It’s unfortunate that the early YS were tagged WildFire.

Wild is fun to spin heeled to the rail 2.5 inches of stern rocker (symmetrical )

I’d like a YS for bumping down rocks

I would buy it
It is a popular boat and you would have no trouble selling it.

Yes it is different from the Wildfire but there are a lot more similarities than differences.

The main difference is the result of different materials. Royalex has more flex and weight and simply doesn’t paddle as well as a stiffer composite boat.

Beyond that, far and away the biggest difference is the differential rocker of the Yellowstone Solo. Having lesser rocker in the stern might be good or bad depending on your intended usage and experience. The Yellowstone Solo wants to track a bit harder and the stern does not swing through turns as easily when paddled relatively flat.

The good news is that the two hulls pretty much share the same elliptical cross-section and most people (with a few exceptions) find that the Yellowstone Solo can be very confidently heeled to facilitate turns.

The shoulders on the Yellowstone Solo (where the flared portion of the hull sharply recurves back to the gunwales) is a little lower and less sharp than those on the Wildfire as a result of limitations of the Royalex molding process. I don’t think this would be a factor unless the boat was heeled to the gunwale line, and maybe not even then.

I have a Wildfire and have paddled Yellowstone Solos. I like them both.

As for the Nantahala, I agree that it is probably not the ideal boat due to its limited depth and sharp water entry. You could probably run from below Patton’s Run to just above Lesser Wesser uneventfully but you will probably have to dump the boat after some of the wave trains. The Yellowstone Solo is not going to dodge rocks as nimbly as a real whitewater boat, so anticipate banging into some.

Actually DY made some changes in
Cross section hull shape. I thing they were in bow and stern fullness and the shape of the ellipse

Charlie would know better than I. Also the intended market was different. To me they don’t paddle at all alike but in both I am a kneeling paddler. I think that stance allows a little more feeling of hull nuances vs sitting in flat boat

I’ve paddled a glass WF for 18 years and
paddled the Yellowstone when it came out. They are different, because Royalex must be molded rather than on form. The glass model is more responsive and a bit faster. BTW, neither of these are appropriate for the Nanty. HTH.


Most of my Nanty runs, and my Ocoee
runs, have been in “glass” boats. A composite boat designed for whitewater is very controllable, and even when one screws up, the boat has the shape and volume to keep impact energy to acceptable levels.

I’m not sure that I remember ever having to tape a “glass” boat on the river. But repairs will be needed more often than when paddling Royalex or polyethylene.

what if you buy it
If it’s a great price and it’s in good shape you should be able to resell it if you don’t end up liking it. I’ve ended up buying and trying and reselling a number of canoes, which has given me the chance to see what I like and don’t like at my own pace, rather than the short time a test paddle usually affords. I call it the Craigslist Rental Program. This assumes, of course, you’ve got the space and the money to tie up in trial canoes.

I don’t see either of those models come available out here on the west coast. I envy the variety of manufacturers folks have in other parts of the country.

I hope it works out for you.

One of each
I have two Wildfires one BlackGold and the other Royalex. My Rx boat must have had short thwarts installed because it was almost too squirrely to paddle. I put longer thwarts in it and now it handles almost as well as the B/G version. I’m told it’s now at the stock dimensions. Anyway, I agree with the others that the Rx version tracks a little better. It also has only about 90-95% of the B/g version’s secondary stability, which is still pretty good. I’ve set mine up for whitewater (similar to another poster).

The Rx boat has done the Wolf River several times, all without a dump. It isn’t a thoroughbred play boat, but it’s responsive and reliable. The B/G boat is reserved for playing around and sometimes a tight, twisty stream.

Your size. Test paddle.
You don’t say your size. There may be better choices if you are very big or small.

Why can’t you test paddle? You’re going to drive to inspect it, aren’t you? I wouldn’t drive somewhere to inspect a prospective used boat without test paddling. There’s surely some sort of water near the seller.

As others have already said, the composite Wildfire and Royalex Wildfire/Yellowstone are different boats. The Yellowstone will track easier, but that’s not particularly important to a paddler with a solid correction stroke. The composite Wildfire with turn easier, but that’s not particularly important to a paddler with solid heeling and turning skills or a paddler who’s mainly a straight ahead lake paddler.

If the Yellowstone fits you, is a good price, and you don’t mind having a Royalex hull, then I’d buy it. It’s a popular hull. The carbon versions of the Wildfire from Bell, Placid or Colden are not often on the market and will be much more expensive.

I “uglied” a glass boat a long time ago
When I first started kayaking, a guy loaned me a glass boat he made himself in a class to learn how to fiberglass; he really wasn’t that interested in paddling. It was red on the bottom and white on top. Every rock I hit even slightly showed on the red hull. I felt really bad when I brought it back. No structural damage but it looked awful and need fresh gel coat.

My size? I should have mentioned it
I am between 165-170 (depending on the holiday food available) and 5’8". I currently paddle a Mohawk 14 SOLO which is a wide canoe. I do alright with it, but it’s time for an upgrade. I have paddled a glass Wildfire and a Rockstar and loved them both. Sadly, due to reasons to long to explain, I will only be able to purchase the Canoe and depend on the advice here since I will not have the time or opportunity to paddle it. It’s nearly 150 miles away which makes it slightly tougher to arrange. It’s just a good deal and since RX canoes, specially Bell canoes are getting harder to find, I figured I should jump on this deal.

Thanks EVERYBODY for your feedback.

Go for it
The Solo 14 is wider. Rockstar is way too big for you

YS is a good candidate. If there were a rubber version of FlashFire that would be ideal. But there isn’t