Best Wenonah Canoes For 2023

Paddling Buyer’s Guide

Wenonah canoes have maintained a presence in the Midwest for more than 50 years. Owner and founder Mike Cichanowski first fell in love with making cedarstrip canoes, which grew into a small business. After taking over an abandoned factory in Winona, Minnesota, the company exploded, associating itself with the burgeoning canoe racing scene.

Wenonah’s tripping models quickly became popular in the nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, beginning with Circhanowski’s original design—the Wenonah 17.

Today, you’ll find a variety of canoe designs available in different materials. No matter the type of canoe you’re considering, there’s a chance Wenonah has one to match your needs. They build everything from stable recreational canoes to fast racing boats. In between, Wenonah has a range of tripping models using durable T-Formex or lighter composites for one, two or more paddlers.

This article will help you find a high-quality Wenonah canoe that matches your needs. You’ll be joining a long line of canoeists who’ve paddled the world’s waters in these signature boats. For most general canoeing needs, there’s a Wenonah canoe to match.

We’ll give an overview of the types of canoes available, as well as some tips for buying new and used models. Along the way, you’ll find links to curated lists, specific models and pertinent information. Read on to learn more.

Top picks: Best Wenonah canoes for 2023

The following Wenonah canoes have received the highest star ratings by reviewers in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide. See and review all Wenonah canoes here.

Best Wenonah Canoes

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Canoes: Vagabond by Wenonah Canoe - Image 2205
Wenonah Canoe

Vagabond

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Canoes: Voyager by Wenonah Canoe - Image 2206
Wenonah Canoe

Voyager

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Canoes: Fusion by Wenonah Canoe - Image 2146
Wenonah Canoe

Fusion

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Canoes: Aurora by Wenonah Canoe - Image 2419
Wenonah Canoe

Aurora

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Canoes: Encounter by Wenonah Canoe - Image 2120
Wenonah Canoe

Encounter

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Canoes: Wee Lassie 10'6 by Wenonah Canoe - Image 2207
Wenonah Canoe

Wee Lassie 10'6

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Canoes: Heron by Wenonah Canoe - Image 2169
Wenonah Canoe

Heron

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Canoes: Backwater by Wenonah Canoe - Image 2083
Wenonah Canoe

Backwater

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Canoes: Seneca by Wenonah Canoe - Image 2200
Wenonah Canoe

Seneca

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Canoes: Fisherman by Wenonah Canoe - Image 2145
Wenonah Canoe

Fisherman

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Shop Wenonah canoes

If you’re ready to start shopping, use the links below to view our Paddling Buyer’s Guide. In this consolidated catalog, you can view each canoe model’s specifications and prices, as well as access insightful reviews. There are also links to find the nearest dealer to buy Wenonah canoes. Choose to sort the canoes and narrow your selections by type, size, or material.




Shopping for a used Wenonah canoe?

Electing to buy a used canoe, especially a Wenonah, is a great way to get a high-quality canoe for a lower price. These plastic canoes, made out of Royalex or T-Formex, are long-lasting. Wenonah’s composite canoes are easily repaired if they have any damage.

If you’re considering buying a used Wenonah, you’ll want to know where to look, what to look for, and of course, to try it out if you can.

Where to look

You can start looking for a used canoe right now from your computer or smartphone. On classified pages like Craigslist or eBay, Wenonah canoes may be listed. Sometimes they will provide more details, but they may also simply be listed as “Fiberglass Canoe.” Depending on how informed and thorough the seller is, you may have to deduce the model and materials from photos and check Wenonah’s website.

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area is practically in Wenonah’s backyard. Many outfitters in Northern Minnesota use Wenonah canoes in their rental fleet. Renting canoes gives you a chance to take a trial run, helping you understand how some of the differences in specifications and design that you read about affect how the canoe behaves on the water.

It’s common for outfitters to sell off their rental fleets at the end of each season. Consider renting during the season and following up in the autumn to pick up a used canoe that’s new to you.

The shoulder seasons, spring and autumn, are good times to start shopping for used canoes. People will be upgrading their boats or cleaning out garages and sheds.

What to look for

Inspect the entire canoe before you buy it. Knowing which type of material the canoe is made from is important, as they wear differently. Read the “Wenonah Canoe Buying Advice” below for an overview of their canoe materials.

T-Formex or older Royalex canoes can withstand repeated impacts without much damage. You may see faint dings and bumps on the hull, but they are superficial. Any prominent creases might indicate that the canoe was wrapped or suffered a more significant impact. An advantage of these canoes is that more significant deformities will often pop back into shape, but they might be weak spots in the future.

Unless you plan to really bang the canoe around, this shouldn’t be an issue. Any scrapes or gouges penetrating the outer coloured layer and revealing the pale ABS plastic beneath should be refinished. This is an easy fix with repair kits available from Wenonah.

Most Wenonah canoes are made of aramid, fiberglass or other composite blends. Composite canoes can wear out faster than plastic ones. How a canoe has been stored is a good indicator of its overall condition. If it has been kept inside and upside down on a rack, there’s less chance of damage. Direct sunlight can damage and discolor the canoe.

As well, leaving a canoe sitting upright on its hull deforms it. Over time, the canoe’s weight puts pressure on the unsupported hull. The gunwales are stronger; it’s better to rest the canoe’s weight on them.

Composite canoes are finished with a gelcoat or a clearcoat to protect the resin and cloth. Any time the canoe rubs along the ground—even just across the sand—it may show scrapes. These scratches are superficial and harmless, although they are unsightly. Inspect the hull for deeper cuts that might expose the cloth. Like plastic canoes, Wenonah sells composite repair kits for any touch-ups needed.

You can also source epoxy or gelcoat from marine suppliers, and there are many good articles explaining these fixes online. If you find a Wenonah canoe that needs some major repairs, they may be able to fix it for you. You’ll have to get the canoe to the factory, and it will take some time, but this is an option for those who are less handy.

Most composite canoes have float tanks; sealed compartments in the bow and stern of the canoe to give it buoyancy. When you pick the canoe up, give it a shake and listen for any water that might be sloshing around in the tanks, indicating a leak, most likely from the canoe into the tanks.

Try it out!

Lifting the canoe is essential, as you want to understand how it feels to portage. Don’t be afraid to walk around with it for a while. Even ask the seller if you can take a lap around the neighborhood with it. You may also want to bring your canoe pack or barrel along and make sure they fit inside (will two barrels fit beside each other between the thwarts?).

As mentioned before, the best way to know if the canoe is a good match is to actually paddle it. While this may not always be possible with a used canoe, prioritize listings where it’s an option, like outfitters or waterfront locations.

For more tips on what to look for when selecting a used canoe, read our article How To Buy A Used Canoe.

Wenonah canoe buying advice

Understanding the different types of canoes Wenonah builds can help you to find one that matches the type of paddling you plan to do. Wenonah breaks down their canoe models by the activities they’re used for: General Touring, Performance Touring, Sports & Leisure, Downriver, Expedition, and Racing. There are differences in the design of these canoes that affect their performance on the water. Deciding which category best suits your needs is a good place to start when choosing a canoe.

Once you’ve decided on a model, consider different material options. We’ll give an overview of these materials and their strengths and weaknesses.

Canoe types

General touring

These canoes are as close to “all-arounders” as you can get. They are versatile in length, ranging from just under 15 feet to more than 19 feet. They have a combination of primary and secondary stability, so the canoeist will feel reasonably comfortable no matter if the hull is flat or on edge. With a small-to-moderate degree of rocker, these canoes turn readily enough and track reasonably well.

They are suitable canoes for families or paddlers on day trips or easy weeklong outings. Most beginner paddlers will find a model in this category that matches their paddling style. Included in this category is the flagship Wenonah 17 canoe. Look at the range of boats in this category if you plan to dabble in different types of paddling and prioritize stability over speed.

Performance touring

Wenonah’s Performance Touring canoes are fast-traveling cargo haulers for the dedicated canoe tripper. These canoes are longer and slimmer than canoes categorized under General Touring. They have sharp entry lines (pointed fronts) to cut into the water efficiently. Canoes like the Minnesota are very common in areas like the Boundary Waters, where the travel is generally across large lakes.

They move quickly and track exceptionally well. Look at the options here if you want an efficient canoe for long days on the water. If you plan to travel in rivers, consider models in the Expedition or Downriver categories.

Sports and leisure

Sports and Leisure canoes would be called recreational canoes by other companies. These models are characterized by their flat bottoms. They provide tons of initial stability for anglers, hunters or families paddling casually. While canoes like the Kingfisher 16 won’t be winning any races, they have enough stability to stand in and ample space for larger paddlers to feel comfortable.

These canoes are maneuverable, being all less than 17 feet long. Their high weight capacities accommodate the extra gear that usually accompanies these endeavors. Also included in this category is the Backwater square-stern canoe. This boat is designed to be equipped with a small two-to-three-horsepower motor.

The Fusion and Wee Lassie pack boats are compact, solo canoes that users can paddle with either a canoe or kayak paddle. For extra control, the Fusion has a rudder.

Downriver

Downriver canoes are happiest in moving water. These boats have lots of rocker to navigate obstacles as they move in the current. They have deep, high-sided walls, adding volume to the canoe for a dry ride through rapids. The Prospector is a classic canoe design for wilderness travel. It’s versatile enough to travel through riffles and rapids while loaded, but tracks decently on lakes too.

Many companies have their own takes on the Prospector model, but Wenonah’s particularly sharp entry lines lend the canoe better glide. It’s available as a 15- or 16-foot canoe. One great thing about Prospector canoes is that they all have symmetrical hulls. Solo paddlers can sit backward in the bow seat and paddle these canoes stern-first.

For exclusively solo downriver paddling, the Argosy is a solo boat capable of running up to class III rapids with an experienced paddler at the helm.

Expedition

Wenonah’s Expedition canoes are built for extended trips in wild spaces. They are some of the longest and highest-volume canoes Wenonah builds. The two models in this category are the Itasca 19 tandem and Encounter 17 solo canoe.

Choose one of these if you need the high storage capacity that comes with deep wells. They are good options for coastal canoeing, as the depth helps keep water out in rolling swells.

Racing

Racing canoes are highly specialized boats. Wenonah builds tandem and solo racing canoes that regularly win flatwater canoe races. These canoes have flat keel lines, with almost no rocker, and extremely pointed entry lines for speed and efficiency. Because of their shallow sides, these canoes are best used for day outings if they aren’t being raced.

What material should you choose?

After discovering the ideal design, the next step is to choose which material you want for your canoe. Wenonah makes most of their boats in a range of materials, each of which has its own merits. Let’s walk through them. We’ll use the Wenonah Spirit II 17-foot canoe as a baseline to indicate the different weights of these materials.

T-Formex

If you run every rapid you can, look at getting a T-Formex canoe. Until 2014, Royalex ABS material dominated the market as an inexpensive, indestructible material for canoes. Production of Royalex ceased in 2013, and companies began searching for alternatives. Quebec-based Esquif Canoes developed T-Formex to fill the hole left by Royalex’s departure. Wenonah now purchases the material from Esquif.

T-Formex is a stiff, durable material consisting of distinct layers. A layer of closed-cell foam in the centre gives the canoe stiffness and buoyancy. ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) plastic layers encase both sides of the foam to protect it and add stiffness to the shape. Beyond the ABS is a proprietary abrasion-resistant “skin” layer. The outside of the canoe is reinforced in  places for additional protection against impacts. It is also treated with a UV-resistant coating.

T-Formex canoes are popular because they are worry-free. They don’t require much maintenance, and can withstand impacts and abrasions impressively. T-Formex outperforms single or triple-layer polyethylene plastics as it is stiffer and lighter. A 17-foot Spirit II canoe made with T-Formex weighs 78 pounds.

Composite materials are lighter than T-Formex, but cannot match its durability. T-Formex canoes will tolerate just about whatever you throw at them and are excellent choices if you don’t mind the extra weight. If you’d prefer to shave some pounds off your canoe, composites are the way to go.

Composites

Composite material is an all-encompassing term describing canoes made with woven fabrics and resins. These could be aramid, fiberglass, polyester or a combination of materials. The advantage of building canoes with this method is that it produces stiff, lightweight canoes.

Wenonah uses five different blends of composite materials, varying in strength, weight and price. They are organized under Ultralight and Flexcore categories.

Ultralight

Ultralight materials are Wenonah’s lightest and most expensive canoe material options. They prioritize weight, with reinforcement in only the necessary places. To further save weight, gelcoat is not typically applied to the whole canoe, giving these canoes a signature clear coated look.

Some models have the option to have the hull gelcoated for extra resilience.

Aramid Ultralight

Aramid is one of the most commonly used ultralight composites. You may recognize the trademarked name Kevlar, which is an aramid fiber. It’s a good material for building canoes that are easy to carry. It’s pretty stiff, so it’s more responsive than T-Formex. It is also significantly lighter. A Spirit II 17-foot canoe built with Ultralight aramid weighs 42 pounds, or 45 pounds with a gelcoat hull.

IB Ultralight

The IB in IB Ultralight stands for Innegra blend. Innegra is a polypropylene-based fiber mixed with other materials like aramid or fiberglass to add strength without compromising weight. This makes the canoe stronger than it would be with pure aramid, but also more expensive. A Spirit II 17-foot canoe built with Ultralight IB weighs 44 pounds, or 47 pounds with a gelcoat bottom.

Graphite

Select canoes are available with woven graphite for a stiffer and more responsive canoe, and it also gives the canoes a sleek, dark aesthetic. There’s little weight difference between aramid and graphite canoes, but expect to pay 10-15% more for this layup.

Flexcore

Wenonah’s Flexcore canoes weave a core into the laminate, adding durability to the performance of a composite. This process is ideal for canoes that will not receive the same degree of coddling as ultralight ones. It adds a bit of weight, but also, with the extra durability, you’ll worry less about damaging the canoe when you’re out paddling.

Tuf-weave

Tuf-weave is a blend of fiberglass and polyester. It’s heavy but more durable than any other composite from Wenonah. It’s also the most affordable composite material available from them. This is a good option for a resilient canoe that compromises well between price, weight and durability. A Spirit II 17-foot canoe in Tuf-Weave Flex Core weighs 58 pounds.

Aramid Flexcore

Aramid Flexcore has the benefits of aramid with some extra reinforcements. This is a great all-around material, balancing weight and strength. It’s more rigid than Tuf-weave and a little bit lighter. It costs the same as aramid canoes. A 17-foot Spirit II canoe with this material weighs 54 pounds.

Seating options

You can choose between bench or bucket seats on most Wenonah canoes. Bench seats allow the canoeist to either sit or kneel. Wenonah’s bench seats can be either cane or webbing. Cane has a traditional look, while webbing is more durable.

Bucket seats restrict the paddler to sitting—which may be the more comfortable option on longer trips. The bucket seats are lower than bench seats, bringing the paddler’s center of gravity down. Bucket seats from Wenonah also come on a slider to adjust forward and back. Both options have their merits, and accomplished paddlers sit or kneel on either side of the debate.

Trim and yoke options

All Wenonah Canoes come with standard aluminum trim. You also can pay more to upgrade to a sleek black aluminum trim or a wooden trim. Anglers can decide to upgrade to Wenonah’s VersiGunwale system. This system integrates their standard accessory rail inside the gunwale for mounting fishing rod holders and other equipment.

The standard carrying yokes are made of ash, and they can be upgraded to stronger multi-piece laminate with padding or even lighter carbon.

Want to know more? Find our answers to common questions about Wenonah canoes below.

  • Cost of Wenonah canoe

    The cost of a Wenonah canoe varies by the model, materials and upgrade options chosen for it. They can range from $2,000 to over $4,000. Generally, longer boats with ultralight materials will be more expensive than shorter boats that are built with T-Formex or Flexcore. In the canoe market, Wenonah canoes are comparable to other composite canoes.

  • Are Wenonah canoes worth the money?

    A Wenonah canoe is a significant investment, but you’re purchasing a high-quality craft. These canoes use better materials and incorporate more workmanship and expertise than canoes found on the shelves of big-box stores.

    The composite construction is easily repairable, and the T-Formex is rugged enough that these canoes will last many seasons. Their racing heritage and decades of canoe-building have given Wenonah designers the experience and time to make adjustments and modifications that result in a better boat.

  • Wenonah canoe models

    Wenonah has an extensive line of canoe models that meet the needs of most paddlers, be it touring, fishing, recreation, racing or expedition paddling. If you come across a Wenonah canoe that has been discontinued, you can learn more about it on their Retired Canoe Models page.

  • Most stable Wenonah canoe

    Wenonah’s Sports & Leisure canoes are the most stable of their models. These canoes have wide, flat hulls, making them ideal for paddling in flat waters with families, dogs or nervous paddlers. Models in this line include tandem canoes from 14 to 17 feet long like the Fisherman, Kingfisher or Boundary Waters, as well as the square-stern Backwater. Solo canoes in this category include the Wee Lassie and Fusion pack boats.

  • Wenonah canoe weight

    Some Wenonah canoes are among the lightest on the market, thanks to the use of ultralight materials. Their weights vary by the design and materials used, and canoes will range from 30 to 90 pounds.

  • Wenonah canoe weight capacity

    Wenonah takes an interesting approach towards the specifications of their canoes. They don’t provide a specific number for their weight limits or capacities of particular canoe models. The justification for this is that a number cannot adequately account for the weight distribution or conditions the canoe will be paddling in.

    Canoe models designed for longer trips or multiple paddlers like the Minnesota 3 have higher capacities. Day-tripping canoes like the Heron are intended for two paddlers and a small amount of gear. Actually paddling the canoe will give the best sense of its capacity.

  • Wenonah canoe dimensions

    Find the pertinent dimensions of all Wenonah canoes in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide.

  • What are Wenonah canoes made of?

    Wenonah canoes are made with T-Formex plastic or composite woven materials. They have a range of composites available, varying in price, weight and durability. The composite materials include the Ultralight and the more affordable Flexcore categories. Read a detailed description of each material in “Wenonah Canoe Buying Advice” above.

  • Wenonah canoe dealers

    Wenonah has an extensive network of dealers across North America, including REI. Use their dealer locator tool to find where to buy a Wenonah canoe near you. If your local paddle shop doesn’t carry the Wenonah you have in mind, you may be able to order it through them for the following season.

  • Where are Wenonah canoes made?

    Wenonah canoes are all made in a factory in Winona, Minnesota.

  • Who owns Wenonah canoe?

    The company founder, Mike Cichanowski, still owns Wenonah canoe. Wenonah also owns the kayak brand Current Designs and builds them in the same Minnesota facility.

Compare Wenonah canoes

  • Wenonah vs Old Town canoes

    Maine-based Old Town is another storied American canoe builder. They build durable canoes targeted for beginner and recreational paddlers. Unlike Wenonah, all Old Town canoes sell for under $1,900. They build their canoes exclusively with three-layer polyethylene, which explains the boats’ affordability and durability. These are solid canoes for recreational paddling, but much heavier than Wenonah’s composites.

    Wenonah has more canoe models for backcountry tripping or paddling with more than two paddlers. Their composite canoes are lighter, making them easier on portages. The T-Formex canoes are as durable as three-layer polyethylene but much stiffer, resulting in better performance.

    If price is more important than weight, get an Old Town. If you want more model options to choose from, and you’re willing to pay a bit more, Wenonah canoes are the better choice.

Wenonah canoe reviews

Reading reviews of Wenonah canoes helps you better understand their performance characteristics. Product descriptions may help give you an idea, but hearing other users’ experiences gives you valuable insight into where these canoes excel. The best Wenonah canoe you’ll find will be one that aligns with your paddling style, so note where the reviewer takes the canoe and what they use it for.

 

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