How Long And Wide Is A Canoe?

Alex Ortiz
By Alex Ortiz 15 Min Read
15 Min Read
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Ever noticed how canoes come in all sorts of sizes? Some are as short as your bed, under 10 feet, while others are as long as a bus, stretching over 30 feet! 🛶

Just like choosing the right shoe size, picking the right canoe length can make a big difference. From fitting it on your car’s roof to how swiftly it cuts through water, the length of your canoe affects many things. But don’t worry! I’m here to help you figure it all out.

Most canoes you’ll spot around are about 16 feet long. Why? Because this size seems to be a perfect fit for everyone – from those who canoe just for fun on weekends to those who are in it for the long haul (like, serious long-distance journeys).

How Long are Most Canoes?

I’ve done some heavy paddling into the world of canoe lengths. And guess what? I’ve got the inside scoop for you. If you’re super curious about the lengths of around 31 different canoes, you might want to take a peek at my in-depth article right HERE.

The Common Sizes

Most canoes you’ll come across will be between 13 and 20 feet long. But if you stumble upon one that’s shorter or longer than this, you’re looking at a special kind of canoe. Think of those super cool canoes used for fancy river tricks (whitewater playboats) or those big, grand ones that look like they’re straight out of history (replica voyageur crafts).

The Goldilocks Zone: 16-18 feet

Now, here’s a fun fact: about 9 out of 10 canoes made for two people (we call them tandem canoes) are between 16 and 18 feet. Canoes shorter or longer than this? They’re kind of rare because most folks find this range just right.

But What About Short Canoes for Three People?

Hold onto your paddles because there are some short canoes out there, like the Pelican that’s only 14 feet 6 inches long, that can fit a trio! But here’s the catch: this canoe is wide, about 38 inches, and pretty heavy, weighing in at 90 lbs. It’s like the minivan of canoes—super roomy but not the best for long trips, adventurous waters, or speed. Perfect for a chill day on the lake with the fam though! 🛶🌞

How Wide are Most Canoes?

So, you’ve been wondering how wide canoes are, right? Well, step right in, and let’s break it down!

The Regular Widths for 16-18 feet Canoes

If you’re looking at canoes that are in that popular 16 to 18-foot range, you’ll usually find them to be about 33 to 37 inches wide. But most? They’re hanging out around the 35 or 36-inch mark.

Spotting Those Extra Wide Canoes

Now, there are some canoes that stretch it out a bit and go super wide. I’m talking about a beam (that’s the fancy term for the widest part of the canoe) that’s 37 inches or even more. It’s like they’re stretching out and saying, “Come on in, there’s plenty of space!”

But What About Those Jumbo Canoes?

Ah! If you’re imagining canoes that can hold a whole party of more than 5 people, you’re thinking BIG. These special canoes will often have beams wider than 37 inches. But, remember that Pelican canoe I mentioned earlier? Even though it’s on the shorter side, it’s got a width of 38 inches. Yep, it’s one of those exceptions that loves to break the rules! 🛶🎉

How Long is a 3-Person Canoe?

So, you’re thinking of getting a canoe that can fit you and two buddies? Great choice! Now, let’s explore the lengths and features of these cool 3-person boats.

From Modified to Dedicated Canoes

Some 3-person canoes are just tweaked versions of 17 or 18-foot touring canoes, simply with an extra seat added. But then there are the top-tier, dedicated 3-person canoes, like the fancy ones from Wenonah. These beauties can be anywhere from 19 to 23 feet long.

The Curve and Width Talk

Ever heard of “tumblehome”? It’s the curve of the canoe’s sides. And these 3-person canoes often have a bit of it. At their widest part (what we call the ‘beam’), they’re typically around 34 to 35.5 inches. But with the tumblehome curve, the overall width can become 1.5 to 2 inches more.

Why Opt for a 3-Person Canoe? Expert Take!

Mike Cichanowski, the big boss at Wenonah Canoe Company in Minnesota, has some insights. He says these 3 or 4-person canoes are excellent for families with tiny adventurers or even grandkids. It’s also perfect if you want to paddle with a party of 3 or 4.

And here’s a cool fact for adventurers: In the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of Minnesota, there’s a rule. A group can have only 4 canoes and no more than 9 people. So, to fit everyone, you might need some multi-seater canoes. Wenonah even has a champ called the Minnesota 4, and it stretches out to 23 feet!

How Long Should a Solo Canoe Be?

Thinking of going solo on the waters and wondering about the perfect canoe length? Well, let’s dive right in!

Touring & Lake Expedition Solo Canoes

If you’re planning to paddle across serene lakes or go on a longer expedition all by yourself, your ideal canoe length is typically between 14’6″ and 17’6″. This gives you ample space for your gear and provides stability for those longer paddles.

Whitewater Adventures: Short and Sweet

For the thrill-seekers wanting to tackle whitewater rapids solo, shorter is the way to go. Some of these adrenaline-pumping canoes can be just a tad over 9 feet long. Why? Because they’re easier to maneuver through those fast, challenging waters.

The Science Behind the Size

Top-tier canoe makers don’t just pull these lengths out of a hat. They know that the length of a canoe affects a lot: how smoothly it’ll paddle, its speed, the amount of stuff it can carry, and even its weight.

All these aspects are taken into account to design that perfect solo canoe length. And we’ll peek into some more of these details in a bit.

Solo vs. Tandem: A Quick Compare

Now, here’s an interesting tidbit: solo canoes might average around the same length as some tandem ones (near the 16-foot mark). But, the solo ones are slimmer. They’re often a good 10 inches narrower at their widest spot compared to a two-person canoe.

How Length Affects Performance

Alright, let’s break this down. So, you might think, “Hey, what’s the big deal if one canoe is just a foot longer than the other?” But believe me, that extra foot can change your canoeing experience more than you’d think!

Your Ride on Land: The Car Factor

Before you even hit the water, there’s the matter of getting your canoe there. The kind of car you drive plays a part in deciding the right canoe length.

Imagine you have a smaller car, like a Toyota Prius or a Corolla. While these cars are great on the road, they might struggle a bit if you strap an extra-long canoe on top. So, if you’re in the solo canoeing category and drive one of these compact cars, you might want to think twice before opting for a lengthy 17’6″ solo touring canoe.

But here’s a silver lining for small car owners: It’s totally possible to transport a pretty long canoe, like an 18-footer, even on a compact 4-door sedan. And guess what? There’s a super handy video that shows you how to do this using just some affordable foam blocks. It’s a game-changer!

Beyond Transport: Performance on Water

The length doesn’t just impact how you transport your canoe, but also how it performs on water. Longer canoes often glide smoother and faster. They can also carry more stuff, making them great for extended trips. On the flip side, shorter canoes might be more maneuverable, especially in tricky waters.

Safely Mount a Canoe to a Car With Cheap Foam Blocks

You might be wondering, “Can my car actually carry a canoe?” Good news! Most vehicles can carry a canoe, no matter its length. But of course, how you tie it down is key.

The Foam Block Solution

If you don’t have fancy roof racks, don’t sweat it! Cheap foam blocks can be your trusty sidekick. Here’s a basic step-by-step:

  1. Inspect Your Canoe: Before you hoist anything onto your vehicle, check your canoe for any damage. You don’t want any surprises later.
  2. Position the Foam Blocks: Place these on your car’s roof, spaced out evenly. They provide cushion and keep the canoe elevated from the roof.
  3. Lift with a Buddy: Canoes can be heavy, so get a friend to help you lift it onto the foam blocks.
  4. Tie the Canoe Down: Use sturdy ropes or straps. Secure the front and back of the canoe to the front and back of your car. This stops it from sliding around.
  5. Double-Check Everything: Give the ropes a tug to ensure they’re snug and the canoe is secure.

Performance and Length: What You Should Know

While we’re on the topic of canoes, it’s worth diving into how length affects performance.

  • Maneuverability: Shorter canoes are agile. Think of them like sporty little cars – they can make sharp turns and navigate trickier waters.
  • Speed: Physics time! Longer canoes, when all else is equal, tend to zip through the water faster. And if speed is your game, narrower canoes give you even more of an edge.
  • Gear Space: Planning a longer expedition? Longer solo canoes are often preferred since they have room for more stuff.

My Dreamboat Mention!

Speaking of long, narrow, and speedy canoes, I have to shout out the Wenonah Voyageur. It’s sleek at just 21.5 inches wide at its broadest point, and long, stretching out to 17’6″. If canoes were cars, this one would be a luxury sports model!

How Long is the Longest Canoe on Earth?

Ever wondered about the longest canoe ever built? Let’s dive into a fascinating story.

The Gigantic Canoe in Newport, Maine

At a whopping 149 feet and 1 inch, the world’s longest canoe isn’t something you’d find at your local outdoor store. This record-breaking canoe was crafted at Nokomis Regional High School in Newport, Maine. This wasn’t just any school project; it was a mammoth task and was measured officially in July 2006.

Local businesses rallied behind this ambitious endeavor, sponsoring the science project. And, boy, was it an endeavor! Imagine a canoe longer than half a football field!

Building the Behemoth

The process of building this ginormous canoe was quite unique. Students came together in teams, each crafting 8-foot sections of plywood. Every section mirrored the other, except for the two distinct end pieces.

Now, if you’re picturing a sleek, streamlined canoe that you might paddle gently down a river, you might need to tweak that image a bit. This record-breaking canoe doesn’t exactly resemble your traditional canoe. However, it did manage to float and function for a bit!

The Legacy of the Longest Canoe

While this enormous canoe wasn’t built for racing or enduring long trips, its legacy lies in the challenge of its construction and the teamwork it required. It might not have been the most practical boat, but it certainly made its mark in history!


Alright, adventurer! 🛶 By now, you should have a clearer picture of how the length of a canoe influences its performance, efficiency, and how easy it’ll be for you to transport.

Making the right choice when buying a canoe is crucial, and guess what? You’re now armed with all the knowledge you need to make an informed decision. Feeling like a canoe expert already, aren’t you?

Remember, our mission at Rugged Outdoors Guide is simple but profound: We want to equip you with insights and wisdom. Not just to navigate the wild, but also to bond with your dear ones and connect with nature and its Creator. Here’s to many more adventures together! 🌲🌊🌟

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long is a canoe and why does it matter?

A canoe can vary in length, but on average, it measures between 14 to 18 feet. The length of a canoe matters because it determines its stability, speed, and maneuverability in different water conditions. Longer canoes tend to be faster but less maneuverable, while shorter canoes provide better maneuverability but are slower.

2. How wide is a canoe and why does it matter?

The width of a canoe, also known as its beam, typically ranges from 34 to 38 inches. The width of a canoe affects its stability and carrying capacity. Wider canoes provide more stability, making them suitable for beginners and calm waters. Narrower canoes are more agile but may require experienced paddlers to maintain balance, making them ideal for faster-moving rivers or whitewater conditions.

3. Can the dimensions of a canoe be customized?

Yes, the length and width of a canoe can be customized based on individual preferences or specific needs. Customization allows paddlers to prioritize certain features, such as speed, stability, or cargo capacity, depending on their intended use of the canoe.

4. What other factors should I consider when choosing a canoe?

In addition to length and width, other factors to consider when selecting a canoe include its material (e.g., fiberglass, aluminum, wood), weight, design (e.g., solo, tandem), intended use (e.g., recreational, touring, whitewater), and personal skill level. It's essential to choose a canoe that matches your abilities and the water conditions you plan to navigate.

5. Can a longer canoe accommodate more people or gear?

Generally, longer canoes can accommodate more people or gear compared to shorter ones. Tandem canoes, specifically designed for two or more paddlers, are usually longer and have additional seating positions. However, it's essential to consider the weight capacity of the canoe to ensure it can safely carry the desired load without compromising stability or maneuverability.

6. How do I measure the length and width of a canoe?

To measure the length of a canoe, place it on a level surface and use a measuring tape from the bow (front) to the stern (back). To measure the width, place the canoe on its side and measure from gunwale (top edge) to gunwale. Take these measurements near the center of the canoe, as dimensions may slightly vary towards the ends.

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