your favorite canoe shop....

Have come to pick brains again. Let’s say that I could go anywhere in the lower 48 to actually look at, and demo, different makes and models of canoes. Make a little vacation out of it. Where would you suggest? And, when would be the best time of year to go?


Carl and Johns’s
Carl and John’s in Madison, WI

While Carl and Johns (now simply called “The Paddlin’ Shop”, I believe) should definitely be on your list if you come to Madison, I honestly think that Rutabaga is the best paddling shop in America. Period. Huge selection, beautifully presented, great staff, never a hassle testing boats (May-Oct?) right out their back door. I am totally biased; I bought my new first canoe (a Jensen 17) from them in the 70s and don’t live that far away today so I get to visit regularly. There are certainly other wonderful places to shop all over the country (and I have visited many), but Rutabaga really is top shelf. And only Rutabaga gives paddlers that wonderful event that brings winter to an end, Canoecopia. Check 'em out on-line at to see what I mean.

Madison is Paddleshop Mecca
The Paddlin’ Shop and Rutabaga’s are different but I could spend the whole day, open to close, in both shops. Almost anything you might want for paddling can be found in one or the other of these two shops. You have to visit bothif in Madison. I have to give Rutabaga’s a slight edge IMHO because they have a few more boats and “Toys” to play with. WW

Places East too
Mountainman in Old Forge and Inlet ought to be on your map.

Paddlefest in May is the biggest on water demo in North America. It rivals Canoecopia for attendance but is less hyped.

Collinsville Canoe and Kayak in Connecticut has quite a large stock of canoes kayaks and paddling gesr…the biggest I have seen. If they don’t have it I suspect it doesn’t exist.

Yup, I agree with the last poster. Mountainman in Old Forge and in Inlet, NY have a good selection and the opportunity to paddle various boats. I’ve had good experiences with them.

Canoe Sport

– Last Updated: Oct-08-07 12:56 PM EST –

in Ann Arbor Used to be awesome. Then it got sold to a ski shop. Used to sell tons of boats, and place to demo. Now the are in a strip mall, do one or two demo events, and have about 4 canoes in the shop.

whoops forgot to answer to the actual question. I have been to Rutabaga it was pretty nice. I didn't much like test paddling in a runoff pond though. I have heard good things about Carl and Johns, bummed that I didn't get a chance to stop by on my way through Madison.

Rutabaga and Carl & Johns in Madison, WI
They’re actually that only two “paddle” shops that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. They’re only about 20 minutes from each other and they both have a great selection of canoes.

I spent two days last summer test paddling canoes and kayaks and finally got worn out and ran out of time.

I agree …
I agree with all the comments made about Rutabaga, and The Paddlin’ Shop in Madison, Wisconsin. It’s a good thing that Madison is so far away; otherwise the staff at both shops would probably already be tired of me hanging around too much. Anyone who is passing through Madison, and cares about paddling, owes it to themselves to visit both shops.


ditto on Canoesport
in Ann Arbor…Ned was the best. Shop is long gone, but this thread was a bit of a fantasy trip anyway…drove 7 hrs round trip on many a Sat. to demo boats behind the shop. Met some great folks. Learned a lot and made a great friend in Ned Sharples, deceased but not forgotten.

Paddle Shack
Not in the lower 48 – heck not even in the States… But my personal favorite is the Paddle Shack near Gravenhurst, Ontario. There are also two other Paddle Shack locations in Toronto and Ottawa as I understand it, but I’ve only been to the Gravenhurst store. The owners are paddlers, are nice folks and know their stuff. RK

Adirondacks in general
If you’re willing to broaden your scope to include a small region, not just a single shop, consider the Adirondacks. With Mountain Man, Adirondack Lakes and Trails, Lake George Kayak, Raquette River Outfitters, Mac’s Canoe, St. Regis Outfitters, and Placid Boatworks (their own brand only), you can see a huge variety. Probably a max two hours’ drive between any pair. Probably others I can’t think of right now.

– Mark

Home Depot
Thought I’d throw a log on the fire which you should have expected.

Perhaps you should have said Outfitter or added the word Kayak …unless you were just talking to the Canoeist.

They are all great if they have what I need, especially when I need it.

Jersey Paddler
By far the best local shop for me. They run Paddlefest each year here in NJ.

I’ve seen photo’s of Talon’s shop in NH, looks real nice too.


thanks for all…
…the replies. Must say, Madison must be home to lots of paddlers, with two such nice shops. I appreciate all the other names too; I’ve visited the websites of those shops named. Wow! We sure don’t have that down here. Y’all are lucky to have access to places like that.

I’ve enjoyed reading about your favorites and investigating their websites. Fun to think about planning some kind of trip, maybe in the spring. Keep 'em coming, thanks.

I specified canoes because right now I’m still leaning that way; also, there are a few places around here to look at, and demo a few kayaks. Not many, but brands like Dagger, Necky, Wilderness Systems, and a couple other brands I’ve read about here. But really nothing for canoes.

While I visit the Madison shops regulary
and have bought most of my boats at either Rutabaga or Carl&Johns, another great place with on the water demos is Ketter Canoeing near Minneapolis.

I bought a Bell Northwoods from Carl & Johns (now the paddlin’ shop) in madison the monday before labor day, and I was there most of the day trying to decide between different layups and trim options.

They gladly pulled all the different versions out (they had three variants of the same canoe in house including multiples of some) and laid them all out side by side to confuse me (er, to help me decide :).

The staff was very patient and understood my dilema, offering advice and also just leaving me alone. I came away with a GREAT DEAL on a canoe I love (ultralight kevlar with full wood trim) and enjoyed the conversation and experience a lot.

Paddle Shop
Alabama Small Boats, they have the Cahaba River right there beside the shop to try boats.

CanoeSport Outfitters
Central Iowa is not the epicenter of paddling but we have a great local store ( Good people, great advice, nice boats and lots of classes and events.


i’ve been to raquette river outfitter (both stores) and st. regis outfitter (not the floodwood store) and they have very limited stock on hand. of all the shops in the adk, and i went to a lot of them, mountainman has the largest selection and lowest prices. their online inventory is a breeze to peruse.

If willing to build your own, you can
get the materials you need at Home Depot to construct a decent pirogue. So, you are right.