Canadienne Description

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Old Town Canoe and Kayak
Canadienne Reviews

Read reviews for the Canadienne by Old Town Canoe and Kayak as submitted by your fellow paddlers. All of the reviews are created and written by paddlers like you, so be sure to submit your own review and be part of the community!

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I bought this canoe from the…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 3/12/2019

I bought this canoe from the designer, Ralph Frese, used about 18 years ago. I have found it to be a workhorse on multi-day trips, a delight for two paddlers (who are, of course, suited for each other), and an amazingly responsive boat to solo (and if you solo, lay her over just a bit until the secondary stability is slightly engaged). Despite the weight of the fiberglass model, heavy by today's standards, this canoe resembles a leaf on the water when launching and is highly forgiving for the novice. Ralph did tell me, long ago, that the Canadienne was built for wooden gunnels and that the metal ones slightly warped her shape. The remedy was to remove the metal and replace with wood. Unfortunately, this is beyond my abilities at this time. I have also paddled the 16' Kevlar version and enjoyed it (especially the weight) but my 6'3" frame felt a bit constrained, especially when wearing boots. A true classic designed by a legend. For the story of Ralph Frese, Google "Mr. Canoe/James Forni and watch


A very balanced tripping…

Submitted by: Scotty_L on 2/15/2018

A very balanced tripping canoe that is a nice combination of tracking and maneuverability. A bit heavy at nearly 70lbs in fiberglass so wouldn't be my first choice for long portages. Plenty of room though for long trips. Very seaworthy.


I have worked as a…

Submitted by: WildernessEd on 9/17/2015
I have worked as a professional outdoor educator with various wilderness schools over the last decade. I have used a variety of canoes in my life, most have been what I refer to as "program boats" that were virtually indestructible but lacked in performance. When I was finally able to settle down and purchase a canoe of my own, I wanted a boat that could handle weight for a few weeks if needed but would perform well as a weekend warrior. On a whim I found a Canadienne on Craigslist outside Augusta, ME.

I was familiar with all of Old Towns models, or so I thought. I had never heard of the Canadienne. I asked around and searched the internet, discovering the boats legendary performance reputation. I bought it for 300 dollars. I don't know the year. Late 80's? The gunwhales are Ash and Mahogany with brass deck plates. The hull is fiberglass green.

My fiance and I have done many day trip paddles and it performed excellent; but I really noticed its abilities this past weekend. For my bachelor party I spent 4 days paddling in Western Maine with a group buddies. There were a variety of boats represented including Old Town Trippers and Discovery's and a nice old Mad River. The Canadienne blew them all away. People couldn't stop talking about it! These were experienced professional paddles who could not keep up with my boat partner and I if their lives depended on it. I was amazed. The Canadienne may as well have been an Italian sports car on the track with mini-vans! Highly recommended indeed!


I purchased my 1989…

Submitted by: quiggled on 9/5/2015
I purchased my 1989 Canadianne based on previous reviews from it was one of the top all time picks and I concur. I've had hours and hours of pleasure paddling the Wisconsin river. I paddle primarily solo which is simple due to the adjustable seat. It is a beautiful canoe! The deep red color combined with the wood trim and brass tips are a masterpiece. Tracks strait, relatively light weight. I'm a proud owner of one of the best of the best!

I purchased this canoe brand…

Submitted by: paddler235779 on 7/27/2014
I purchased this canoe brand new in 1999. I have been using it on rivers and lakes for pleasure, fishing, relaxing etc. She can fly! Awesome canoe.

I wrote a review of this…

Submitted by: paddler235435 on 2/2/2014
I wrote a review of this canoe here many years ago [Jan. 11, 2000] and I wouldn't change a thing about it. However, I want to add something. If you are lucky enough to have a Canadienne canoe with wood trim, be sure to drill two or three holes near the tip of the brass bow and stern caps. Before I did that I found that water that ran down the side when the canoe was stored upside down outside passed through the outer gunnels, ran down the inner gunnels and collected in the bow and stern under the caps. That caused the inner ash gunnels to rot out. I had to replace them which wasn't a small job but it worked out fine.

Another important tip is to run a very small bead of clear silicone sealant at the joint where the outer side of the hull meets the ash outer gunnel. The bead should be very small and you will never even notice it when done right. There's no sense in make a larger bead. That will prevent water from making it into the canoe in the first place when the canoe is upside down outside. But still drill the holes in the brass end caps as insurance.

Sadly, Ralph Frese, the legendary canoeist and historian who designed the Old Town Canadienne died a while back [Dec. 2012]. I'm not sure if Chicagoland Canoe Base is still in business. Until near the end, you could talk Ralph into building a new Canadienne if you were nice.

If you have an Old Town Canadienne, hold onto it! You have one of the finest canoes ever made.


I purchased this canoe second…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 7/25/2013
I purchased this canoe second hand. Unfortunately, it's not made anymore. It is a thing of beauty and paddles wonderfully. It does not have a keel, so it is perfect for rivers. I was nervous about the weight, but it is definitely light enough for a portage -- and I love the brass finishes.
This is an absolute classic based on one of the great Peterborough canoe designs.

One of the most beautiful,…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 4/13/2013
One of the most beautiful, stable, fastest and highest quality built fiberglass lake boats ever designed. At 17'2", it is large enough for two adults and two children, or two plus 1-2 weeks worth of gear. A highly sought after oldie but goody.

While paddling on a lake near…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 8/3/2012
While paddling on a lake near Camden, Maine, I saw a beautiful canoe cutting across some open water and initially thought by it's re-curved ends, it must be a wood/canvas. Luck was with me that day when the paddlers rounded the point and put into the picnic area so I could get a closer look. Surprise; it was a 17' Canadienne in dark green with all the good stuff: kevlar hull, mahogany and ash rails, 18" combed mahogany decks, brass end-caps and painter rings, sliding bow!

Since the lines of any canoe I own are very important to me, I studied this beauty from all angles. The owner, who was naturally very proud and willing to talk gave me his understanding of the boat's brief history. He also stated it wasn't the lightest kevlar canoe around, but easy enough to handle by himself. He also said he bought his used and sees them for sale occasionally. When I got home, I read the reviews on and started looking but for some time, none were found. Finally, one came available on, and it was the exact same boat I had seen in Maine, but in Red. AND, it was in brand new condition! I took the advice of one reviewer on and snapped it up. All of the superlatives are accurate and; I drilled small holes in the end-caps, I will round the outside edges of the gunwales when I refinish the wood (some time in the future, because they're still like new) and I may lower the seats a little because we tend to paddle her with no load, so with her prospector-style hull, we sit pretty high. That said, we have not had a problem with tenderness, so I may just leave them as they are.

All in all, I love this boat, so if you get the chance...


I have a 16' yellow fiber…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 7/15/2010
I have a 16' yellow fiber glass and wood trimmed Candienne that I bought a Chicagoland Canoe Base in the late 1980's. What a great boat it has been for me and my wife, and now my kids. It is still in great condition, except for some scratches on the bottom.

I wasn’t looking for a canoe…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 11/14/2007
I wasn’t looking for a canoe but back in 1991, when a friend asked me if I would please “relieve” him of his 17-foot Canadienne, I jumped at the chance. He had it stored above his new car and when the Old Town fell on the mirror and broke the mirror, he wanted nothing to do with the green canoe. Needless to say, took it home that day I quickly fell in love with the boat. Within a week, I hauled the Canadienne up to Lake Arrowhead, California in front of our 1920 lodge on the water. The Old Town has just enough wood to give the boat a vintage look and feel yet not too much to create a maintenance nightmare (I used to own a 19-foot, 1948 wooden sailboat…).

Since I only use it during the fall, winter and spring, it has remained in relatively good shape. About every five years I spend a couple weekends stripping and re-varnishing the wood gunwales, thwarts and seats. I’ve recaned the seats twice. My favorite time to paddle is at sunrise when the air is cold and the lake is still and glassy. All I can hear is a light clap of water under the fiberglass and the peeps of coots and ducks.


Just finished my 18th…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 4/24/2007
Just finished my 18th Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race with my 1990 model. Got a few more appreciative comments about it from other boats in the race, like every year, even still racked on car! Bought a red 17' 4"(?) fiberglass as a 'factory second' from OTC factory store with black aluminum gunwales for $600; slight 'fogging' of the gelcoat finish that shop had to point out to me. It's been on lakes and rivers and streams and ocean, ever since, with one to four occupants. Adjustable bow seat (3ft run) works well to solo 'backwards'. I won't part with it. Very good flatwater tracking and glide. I fill her midships with float bags and run Class I - IV in the KSCR yearly and feel she's nimble and responsive in the white stuff and around rocks for her length and chine. She knifes into standing waves, but she is a 'laker' after all, and I'm willing to get wet. I've filled bottom scratches from rocks and repaired lower bow from ledge impact and maintained wood thwarts and cane seats finish as needed and still would not trade this work for a 'maintenance free' plastic boat. Shame on OTC for retiring the mold. If you can get your hands on the Canadienne as used canoe - grab it and start paddling!

I have owned the old town…

Submitted by: Ozzie on 8/24/2006
I have owned the old town Canadienne 17' since 1990 and have enjoyed its use immensely from northeastern lakes, rivers and ocean paddling. One regret is not having been able to store the canoe with wood trim indoors. It has suffered from fungus and insect damage to the wo0d trim of which I have patched sections over the years. I had also recaned the seats once. I was thinking of redoing the entire ash and mohogany gunwales if I could get design dimensions to cut the wood and a wood source. The orig. gunwales were stapled to the fiberglass but what I had replaced I fastened with stainless screws. I was also thinking of recoating the exterior glass with a clear automotive coating but don't know if anyone has had success with such a finish over sun worn fiberglass? I had also drilled small holes into the brass endcaps to let the water drain and not saturate the wood while stored. Overall its been an excellent performer on the water, tracks well, handles well and weight capacity is same as a small car at over 900 pounds. Car carrying and portaging is not hard at around 70 lbs for a 17+ foot canoe. Sorry to see old town had discontinued this model - I understand around 1997.

I've owned a glass 17'2" for…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 6/28/2006
I've owned a glass 17'2" for close to 20 years now. It's been both a family boat and a tripper. I can't imagine a nicer canoe! It tracks wonderfully and is quite fast. The only time I've ever really had to fight it is when travelling down small rivers with lots of twists and turns. And yes, the glass version is on the heavy side on a portage -- but my boys who grew up with it can do the carrying now! At any rate, to echo an earlier comment, if you ever find one, buy it!

I have a 16'(?) fiberglass…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 4/3/2006
I have a 16'(?) fiberglass Canadienne that I picked up from a pawn shop in 1996 for $500. I've used it in Montana and Utah for 2 to 7 day solo class 1-2 river tripping, and travel with my child. The sliding bow seat always makes it very easy to convert to solo, by simply turning the canoe around. Also is very easy to trim up especially while traveling with a child that's half my weight. I've always received compliments on the elegance of it's looks. Both while on top of my car and on the way it travels through the water.

It is my first canoe and the cosmetic beginner abuse is apparent. I'm now again in love with it and would like to fix it up. I'm planning on ordering new wooden gunnels from the factory and replacing the aluminum gunnels. Has anybody ever performed this swap? If so, I'd be interested in hearing about your experience?


The Canadienne reminds one…

Submitted by: paddler230560 on 5/17/2004
The Canadienne reminds one that Old Town once made outstanding canoes. Unfortunately, their best canoes have been discontinued, but their good canoes remain. The Canadienne is a fast, straight-tracking canoe capable of carrying a decent amount of gear. Although the seats are mounted with the typical Old Town dowels and hanging bolts, at least the bow seat is adjustable for easy trim adjustment. The Canadienne is at home on flatwater and rivers, but I would not take mine into any really rocky streams (after all, the only way to replace it now it to pay the exorbitant price charged by custom canoe builders.) The canoe has reasonable stability. It is not a quick turning canoe, but it really is a fast canoe in a straight line. It may will be the least-tiring canoe I have ever paddled. I do wish Old Town would bring it back.

I've owned an Old Town…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 10/8/2003
I've owned an Old Town Canadienne Kevlar for ten years and it's been a great all around, light weight, Boundary Waters canoe. At 53 lbs (aluminum gunnels) it's decent to portage, and is still durable enough to withstand years of trips. It's also a great boat for windy, wavy conditions with a higher bow and higher sides than most Kevlars, so it's been dry for family trips with a kid in the middle and/or loaded down. It's got good initial stability and is also wider in the bow, so has been good to fish out of, but also makes it a little slower paddling. Overall, it's been a great boat.

Excellent all around canoe. I…

Submitted by: paddler230083 on 4/2/2003
Excellent all around canoe. I bought one of the last production models from Old Town in 1997 (or thereabouts) in Kevlar with the mahogany and ash gunwales. Beautiful boat, though the weight of the non-vacuum bagged construction speaks of a boat built for durability and stiffness rather than light weight and speed - at nearly 70 pounds, it was great for portaging as long as you wanted a workout in the process. There are a few things that could have been improved - agree that the outwales needed to have the edges taken down (too sharp as is). Was great when I only had one kid to dump in the boat, but felt a bit small with 2 kids and 2 paddlers, which is why it was eventually replaced (with a Kevlar Minnesota II). They are still available from Bell Canoe at the Chicagoland Canoe Base, Ralph Freese's store. Ralph has every reason to be proud of his design on this boat, and it was Old Town's loss when they took it out or production. Then again, canoes aren't really their business anymore anyway...

I have owned 2 Canadienne…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 2/6/2003
I have owned 2 Canadienne 17's in the past and currently own one built by Bell Canoe laid up in their white/gold (Kevlar and fiberglass)layup. It is easily one of the best canoes ever designed. It's fast turns easily and tracks well and with 964 pounds carrying capacity it'll easily handle 2 people and enough gear for an extended trip.I've used mine everywhere from Lake Michigan to class III streams in the Ozarks. As far as I'm concerned Old Town made a big mistake when they decided to drop the boat from their line. I also own a 16' Canadienne (f.g.)made by Old Town which isn't quite as versatile but makes for a great solo canoe.

I purchased my boat in…

Submitted by: paddler229491 on 10/13/2001
I purchased my boat in 1985,late in the season and at a significant discount due to severe mildew on the wood. It was a toss-up between it and a Columbia. I made the right choice! To date we have paddled in NH, VT, ME, NY, along the coast of MA, NC and SC. The boat has been used in every condition from fast river (no whitewater tho') to lakes and the Atlantic. The design is fast, very fast and I have found the Canadienne to be very stable through the complete range of roll. Although the boat is made of fiberglass, it only weighs 75 lbs which makes it reasonable for carrying. 1985 was the last year that they made the boat with the rotomolded gunwales and decks. Not real pretty but they've worn like steel! No complaints with the boat; wouldn't trade it for anything 'cause it does everything so well. One note however since some will be refinishing their boats about now. The marine enamel that Old Town sells for the purpose is really not the way to go. I don't know who made it for them but it just does not last. Spend the bucks and use a good marine epoxy like Awlgrip or Interthane and only have to do it once! Paddle on!

We bought new and continue to…

Submitted by: paddler228844 on 8/20/2000
We bought new and continue to enjoy a 17'-3", kevlar Old Town Canadienne without the mahogany trim (except breastplates). It's a great, classic design, very efficient for local fun or tripping. Lousy for gunnelling, though -- too fine in the bows to stand on for many bounces. :-) This design is not a typical Old Town. It's Old Town's modern tribute to a highly successful design (from 1931, I believe) by Old Town's great Canadian competitor, the Peterborough Canoe Company. Hence its name, Canadienne. Its bows have that lovely Canadian profile.

My home is in Sterling…

Submitted by: paddler228794 on 7/31/2000
My home is in Sterling Alaska, about 17 miles away from the Swanson River canoe trails. This canoe is the best. I solo this fine craft with no effort at all. All I can say is if you get the chance to buy one do not let it go.

With minimum effort from my…

Submitted by: paddler228478 on 3/8/2000
With minimum effort from my girlfriend and myself, this 16' canoe would constantly overtake and pass all others we ever paddled with. It still turned very quickly. Once we coasted past another couple after we quit paddling 100' behind them. It was my first canoe and seems that I made a good choice.

As a follow-up: I have…

Submitted by: paddler228124 on 1/11/2000
As a follow-up: I have recently learned that you can still get a Canadienne canoe although some models have to be custom-made by and independent maker. Contact Chicagoland Canoe Base for information. They are in high demand and hard to get. A Kevlar 18' 6" model, for example, can be custom made for about $3,500 or so. But those who have them swear that they would not part with them under any circumstances. The people who I know who build and know the most about canoes claim that this is one of the finest canoes ever made.

I put myself to sleep…

Submitted by: paddler228368 on 11/22/1999
I put myself to sleep dreaming over the Old Towne catalog and the Canadienne for about 5-6 years while saving my $$$ to buy one. By then I was convinced it was the ultimate canoe. The side profile was what a canoe should look like also. About that time OT quit making them. I was heartbroken and started looking for a used one. I mentioned this to the secretary of a canoe club I had just joined and she told me they had one for sale.

A match for both of us. To make a long story short, it's mine now. I refinished the wood trim and replaced the caning on the seats. A word of caution when storing them upside down. Drill a small hole in the brass cap to allow the water to drain out lest the wood inwales soak it up and rot. I replaced a short section when refinishing the wood and it looks like a factory job.

Handling is a dream come true. It's fast, very fast, carried a load well and responds to the slightest nuance of the paddle. It also gains initial stability if loaded well. I am headed to Quetico in July 2000 for 21 days and the Canadienne will lead the charge. She always does.


You probably won't find the…

Submitted by: paddler228124 on 6/14/1999
You probably won't find the Old Town Canadienne listed in any recent product brochures because, from what I'm told, it's only available by special order from a couple of places, including Chicagoland Canoe Base (773-777-1489). This canoe is available in 17 and 18 foot models in either fiberglass or kevlar. The design of this canoe is outstanding. It has enough space for tripping, but it slices through the water like a knife and handles beautifully as well. In the three years that I have owned it, my wife and I have never (not a single time, I'm not exaggerating!!!) been passed by another canoe while canoing on rivers - and we are just cruising leisurely. I had to laugh one time when a couple of young guys (in much better shape that us) in another canoe yelled, "Hey, there's speed limits on this river, you know" as we glided past them. They were paddling hard while we were just cruising.

This canoe handles extremely well with it's moderate rocker. For us, it's just about the perfect compromise design for nice tracking on lakes and nice turning when needed. A great deal of thought went into it's design and the experienced eye quickly recognizes the beautiful lines of this canoe at a glance, even when on the roof of the car. In fact, it very often attracts canoe enthusiasts attention when they see it. In never fails to generate positive comments.

We chose the optional mahogany trim, which is beautifully done. However, I rounded off the square edges last year before re-varnishing them (they didn't need it though). We like this canoe so much, in fact, that we are thinking of buying the 18' kevlar version (our current 17' 2" model is fiberglass). It's an great tripper and a great cruiser. If you are interested, you can call Chicagoland Canoe Base, owned by the designer of this canoe, or you could call Old Town. But, be warned that Old Town does not publicize this canoe. In fact, when I talked to them, they pretended like they didn't make this canoe any longer, but when pressed they admitted that they are still available. They are, perhaps, one of the only hand laid up fiberglass or kevlar designs that they still make - but on special order only. They saved the mold for this canoe. After admitting that this canoe is still available, the guys at Old Town raved about this canoe. It was the all-time personalfavorite of the man that I talked to at Old Town and he said that it is one of the fastest canoes they have ever made, racing canoes excepted, of course.

It's truly a great canoe. Next year I plan to do a 1 month solo trip in Quetico with it.