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Thread: canoe advice for someone new to Alaska

  1. #1

    Default canoe advice for someone new to Alaska

    Hi all,

    I moved up here back in mid-May. Now that I have one summer under my belt and have had a chance to look around just a bit, I'm pretty certain I would like to try canoeing a trip or two next summer. Basically I'm looking for something me and my wife can take on camping and fishing trips. Though I love to hunt and would love to take the canoe on the occasional hunting trip as well. I have canoed off and on since I was a kid, but am by no means experienced. I'd like to stick to smaller lakes, wetlands, and gradual gradient rivers. Am currently thinking I'd like to try the Swan Lake area on the Peninsula next summer.

    So, if I were interested in buying a new or used canoe, what are some things you'd suggest I look for given my intended use (camp,fish,hunt on lakes/wetlands/some rivers)? I'm not interested in a fly-in trip at this time, so I'm not looking for a pack canoe. Something else I'm considering is just renting a canoe for the one or two trips I may take next year just to see what I like.

    Thanks for any advice,

    Jeff

  2. #2
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    Default Canoe

    I am no expert in canoes, but have done some canoeing in the state, so will give my opinion. Something in the 13.5 to 16.5 ft range should be about right. The wider, the more stable. I like the Old Town predator series due to their width and load capacity. The are not very swift on open water but very stable. Mad River makes very fine canoes, and will be my next canoe. I like the kevlar models. Thay are very lightweight and ideal for portages. You can rent canoes from Alaska Canoe on the kenai, and try some out. I would try to stay light in weight for the Swan Lake area. A popular canoe river is the little susitna. It is a nice two-day trip from the parks highway to burma landing. Has good fishing too. You can find quality used canoes on the classifieds here, craigslist,etc. Good luck and enjoy.

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    Default

    The renting/borrowing idea is a good one until you know what you're after. I've got a old 15' Old Town that is more of a river canoe (flatter bottom and bombproof material) which I used for 20+ years on lakes until a couple of years ago. What happened? As I got older, the boat got a lot heavier.

    Now there's a kevlar Wenonah that's joined the stable and it's a delight to paddle on lakes. But it seems a little fragile for running into rivers. One other thing to consider is whether you will paddle solo or with another person. The Old Town is better at going either way (sit in the front seat, facing the stern so your weight is more in the middle of the boat). The Wenonah seats are such that you're always in the back seat, and so it helps to put some weight up front on a windy day.

    The Nancy Lake loop of lakes is another good spot to try boats for a day or weekend trip.

    Enjoy!

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    Moderator Alaskacanoe's Avatar
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    Default Alaska offers

    So many choices for class one ( 1 ) waters.. many of the rivers in Alaska have almost perfect conditions for canoes. I am looking at either the inflatable or suitcase type canoes as a great option,,, over the years I have rafted a ton of rivers that could have easily been done with canoes,, the problem being that usually they are remote rivers, and strapping a canoe on a airplane is not always the best idea,, even if you can find a pilot willing to do it for you...
    I would consider the investment in a quality take down ( suitcase) or inflatable canoe in the future, as it would open up some great oportunities.
    the weight of canoes becomes a factor when doing portages, so heavy canoes, like Coleman or Old down discovery made from Polylink etc, can weigh in at 80 -100 plus pounds a piece,,, Kevlar canoes as mentioned in a prevous post are no good when they encounter stoney rivers,, yes light,, but kevlar canoes,, are not in the least bullet proof,, almost fragile,, as they chip easily when they run into a rock or running them up on gravel bars etc... the other options for rigid canoes would be Fiberglass,, or the Royalex materials.... Fiberglass canoes can weigh alot,, or a little,, but you will be restricted to unstoney places, as with Kevlar....
    Royalex is a patented material and process that several of the major manufactures have embrassed... its fairly lightweight and very resisitant to rocks and such,, they take incredible abuse and yet retain a fairly rigid form.. this is due to the sandwich technique of layers of ABS, foam and Royalex to create a plywood effect in its strength,, also you will notice on royalex canoes that they do not have bulkheads,, this because the foam in the layup of the canoe keeps it from sinking,, a great design idea,, this makes also for a very light weight canoe,, with the added space you loose with bulkheads,, or seats designed for the canoes floatation... also the foam absorbs sound transfer,, so you don't hear the thumbs when your paddle touch's the canoe like you would with Aluminum, or glass.. or even the polyethelyne canoes ( Coleman ) etc.. they are also a little warmer as the insulation works in this way also...
    they are a little expensive,, but they hold their value really well if taken care of.. are they as fast as a a Kevlar, or Fiberglass canoe?
    NO,,,, do they hold there shape well.?? yes pretty good,,,
    are they tough?? yes..
    So .. deciding what kind of canoe works best for you and fits your budget is often not always easy,, but If I were to just go pluck a canoe off my rack for all around use....
    My pick would be a 15 to 17 foot Royalex like a Old town Penobscot, or the camper model,, similar versions from other manufactures would be the Mad river Duck hunter series... and Wenonah makes a few Royalex that area equal in the multi use catagory..
    One thing I do like is a canoe that weighs less than 60 lbs for portage,, and the kevlar and Royalex canoes will fit that bill for sure..
    the 16 foot Old town camper and penobscot are about 58 lbs..
    with a payload of over 800 lbs...
    If you get a chance to get down on the Kenai this next summer,, we would be happy to show you some of the different canoes we rent out..
    I am not a dealer for canoes, so my bias is based soley on my experience and our customers requests....
    Talk to you soon
    Max
    When you come to a fork in the trail, take it!

    Rentals for Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts, boats serving the Kenai canoe trail system and the Kenai river for over 15 years. www.alaskacanoetrips.com

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    Member alaska bush man's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Gruman Frieigter

    The Gruman Frighter and a small HP motor is good plus it will haul your moose.
    Alaska

  6. #6

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    I'm going to echo the advice from Alaskacanoe, with one refinement. You should pay close attention to every word offered by him.

    The refinement: Old Town Penobscot 16. I have the Penobscot 17. The 16 is fine for everything you want to do. It has the Penobscot virtues of a fast, tough, relatively light hull, plus one advantage over the 17. The 16 can be paddled solo; the 17 is never fun in that guise. Both these hulls are efficient and versatile.

    I grew up in Grummans (the old version, not the recent and poorer quality one) and I have lots of fond memories. The old ones are maintenance-free and durable to a point. That point is a sharp rock in a river. They're noisy and cold compared with a Royalex hull. And they cannot be manufactured to match the paddling efficiency of more modern materials.

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    Default whats better: kayak, canoe or jon boat?

    I want to get a good all around boat to use in Alaska for hunting, fishing, camping and exploring. Any and all thoughts on this matter will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    Default

    How many people and hunting for what game, also lakes and or rivers?

    Personally I'd say the ideal canoe is as light as possible to aid in portages. There are some wonderful lake systems with have alot of portages, so a canoe that is 50# of lighter is important. Also some of the cheaper canoes are both heavy and dont' hold their shape, so they are difficult to paddle.

    I'd say look at Old Town and Mad River. REI always has an end of season sale where they nock 10-20% off the boats, but I believe that is already past and the boats are stored for next year.

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    Default best boat?

    For starters it will just be me as I don't know anyone there yet. I certainly plan on using it for both lakes and rivers. The property I purchased is in Houston and I did see yesterday that there arequite a few lakes close by. The map did not have a scale so I am not sure about the sizes and distances (portage) between them. I will be new to hunting but sounds like alaska is the place for that. I have a shootgun (12g) so duck and rabbit but I also need advice on a good all around riffle for deer, caribou and maybe moose. I agree with the weight factor for portages between lakes but can I go up river without a motor?

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    "...can I go up river without a motor?"

    Lewis & Clark did it, and a few dozen early Alaskan explorers did it, and hundreds of miners did it too, but no, you can't do this. Well okay, you can, but it will like to kill you trying. Unless the water is very slow you will end up lining your canoe along the bank, or dragging it up the shallows. Some rivers are easier to do this than others, and the others are the ones that will be the death of you. With a few exceptions this is a bad idea.

    Canoes work best going across lakes, portaging from lake to lake, and running down stream. Of course, there are a lot of streams you wouldn't want to be doing that either. Canoes have their place, and are ideal for many situations, but they also have their limits too. Adding a small outboard just expands some of the limits.

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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    Default

    Since it's just solo use, I'd look at one of the smaller Old town royalex based canoes. A canoe suitable for o/b use won't be one that'll work well when paddling, so I'd suggest a small inflatable ie zodiak type boat ~14' for motorized use. Don't try to get a do it all canoe, as you'll be unhappy with the results.

    Our deer live on the Islands in PWS, Kodiak and SE, so you won't need a canoe for hunting them. Caribou are mostly a fly out affair, though you could hunt them up in the far North, though you'd likely want to be running a motorized boat up the rivers. Moose are really the best big animal to hunt from a canoe.

    To me where canoes really shine are small game hunting and fishing, and just getting out on a system of lakes to explore.

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    Moderator Alaskacanoe's Avatar
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    Default all around canoe

    the 16 foot camper or penobscot from Old town, or the Duck hunter from Mad river in the 14 to 16 foot range.
    these canoes weigh under 60 lbs and will haul a guy and a moose. or a family of three for short trips.
    the smaller canoes in the 12 foot range are usually for specific single or day use..
    I saw a few weeks ago that REI had a 16 foot penobscot on the floor for $1,000 .. that is a great buy if they still have them out..
    we have talked about materials canoes are made out of and from plenty here, so do a search for dozens of posts on this subject.
    If I were not sure about what I am going to use the canoe for,, etc.
    I would look for a good deal on some of the mentioned favorites that are used,,this way if you don't like it,, you can turn it over without much loss if any,, and you will find the canoe that seems to suit your uses.
    Max
    When you come to a fork in the trail, take it!

    Rentals for Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts, boats serving the Kenai canoe trail system and the Kenai river for over 15 years. www.alaskacanoetrips.com

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    Member garnede's Avatar
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    Default

    I floated the little su twice this summer and did 5 days at nancy lake with a 18 foot coleman. It was a little akward to portage through nancy lake but was near perfect for the little su.

  14. #14

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    I have a Wenonah Spirit II in the 17 foot length. I can say that it is very stable and pretty light for portages. I have the tough weave version and have found it to be quite durable. I would recomend trying several boats out. Some of the better designs like the Wenonah will roll, but not tip. In addition I find that the hull speed is much faster for flat water. Royalex is good for moving waters, but for lakes and slower streams a fiber version will be much faster.

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    Quote Originally Posted by alaska bush man View Post
    The Gruman Frighter and a small HP motor is good plus it will haul your moose.
    I agree ...if you except rivers. A freighter with a narrow square stern is a good all 'round canoe that'll carry your camping gear and/or hunting gear (or the results thereof.) A freighter may not paddle as quickly as the lighter narrower versions, but it'll still paddle with similar effort ...but will just go 'not quite as fast'. But that's what canoing is all about, right? When you're in the canoe, you ARE where you want to be. Having the weight capacity and ability to hold a light motor expands possibilities to a much broader range. The except to all of this is river canoing... in the river, lighter and more maneuverable is the rule and the canoe should be designed for that purpose. But I see that type of use as the exception. I think owning a nice freighter with a narrow transom is priority one for all-around use, then adding a river canoe if you find that you are getting into that type of use is priority two. Just my 2-bits ...one more free opinion.

    Brian

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    Default tananaBrian is right....

    In my opinion, a square stern freighter canoe with a motor, and a good Royalex paddling canoe are the right answer....2 canoes for the tasks described.

    For my own use, I have a Grumman 19' freighter w/a 15hp Yamaha and a lift, and a Wenonah 16' Kingfisher in Royalex. And this season, I took both of them on my moose hunting expedition.....as per the advice I welcomed from the experienced posters on this site, I rigged the two canoes together cataraft fashion with 2-2x4s lashed to the thwarts with 15" separating the boats...worked great, although at 11mph, the combined wakes of the 2 canioes threw a substantial amount of water into the Grumman. (Next season, I'll lash a piece of plywood or a tarp over the linking outriggers to keep the water out of the Grumman.) So, I kept the speed down to about 10mph. Once on our destination river, which is a maze of obstructions normally, but this year the river was higher...we were able to proceed up to the known logjam, w/o separating the cata-canoe. There, we separated the 2 canoes and took the Wenonah upstream for 2 hours, to scout for substantial logjams, etc, before putting the work in necessary to get the Grumman over the jam. It took an hour of paddling to return to the Grumman. The next morning we took about a half hour to get the 19'er over the jam and start back up river, this time I drove the 19'er and towed my partner in the Wenonah...at maybe 3-4mph...it worked well....we could carefully thread our way thru the maze...and it was fun. Up river, we reached our destination and parked the Grumman, unloaded and took the 16'er up the bank. A large lake-side meadow of tall grass was crossed with our camping gear towed in our Wenonah "sled". We then paddled about 3/8 mile across the lake, and set up camp at the base of a hill that rose about 900' above the valley floor. In other words, we used 2 different canoes on the same trip to get to a place that no one has been going to since that large logjam formed on the river. We were alone in a place where the moose were unpressured. The whole trip was great fun.

    The trip from the put-in was about 40 miles, some down stream, some upstream. To cover those miles Lewis & Clark style would have taken several days....the 19' Grumman was the ticket. Once we got to the logjam, the 16' Wenonah was the ticket for exploring and portaging...and off river lakes and creeks....and freight sledding, under the right conditions.

    If I were to have only one of the 2, I would certainly take the Grumman freighter. But the 2 different canoes used on a hunting trip are very complementary...synergistic. They, together, expand my range and the possibities. And in the summer my wife and I use the Wenonah to float local rivers.

    But that is just my strategy...there are some very experienced hands on this board who may have other ideas of how to do things....I'd sure like to hear from them.

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    Member tboehm's Avatar
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    Default Rick, very interesting

    I loved your story. Did you get anything and can you share what river you were on? What class waters did you face? I'm curious what your opinion is on how the inflatables would have played into your hunting situation. Would they have worked better, worse, have you used them and to what extent? I'm gettting ready to move to alaska and the best I can figure is that i'll need 10 boats to hunt with. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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    Default advice....

    Didn't get a moose this year, but if I had more time out there, I think I should have. My goal has been to find a piece of country that is hard to reach, and seldom visited by others...and become very familiar with it. My partner and I have made 3 trips in the last 14 months into the country on that un-named river, and have, perhaps learned how to best survey the terrain and the animals.

    That is my point....find a piece of Alaska that suits how you want to hunt, and then decide how to get there and how to hunt it. In this particular area, an inflatable wouldn't work, unless motor powered. The rivers are class 1, so downstream would be mighty slow, and then going upstream, unless by motor would be nearly impossible. In that area, the primary villains aren't rocks, but log and limbs underwater, lurking to put a hole in an inflatable. For dragging w/ a load, they don't slid well and would be torn up...further they paddle very inefficiently. Inflatables are best for floating with the current....letting the river propel you...particularly on fly-in hunts, they do have their place. My hard shell canoes slide over a logjam with no threat of damage; an inflatable might suffer from the same abuse. So, I think my boats are right for my destination. Choose your destination, and then decide on your means of transport.

    I've been on one fly-in hunt using inflatables...it was great, but not the way I have decided to hunt.

    As for the river...it will remain un-named for understandable reasons. Get the Alaska Atlas offered in the book store on this site and begin to find a place to explore and hunt.

    Happy Trails.

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    Member tboehm's Avatar
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    Default Thank

    I appreciate the insight. Just to let you know, i wasn't try to find your spot and not that you thought that as well. I just wanted to look at comparisons for a river that you used the hard canoe vs the inflatable and the pros and cons. I understand the things that you mentioned and they make good sense. Do you face any rough water on your river?

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    Default tboehm....

    No rough water. And the trip to the logjam from the put-in covers three rivers, each a bit different.

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