International Scout, circa 1963

It was 1962 or 1963 and I used to do a lot of canoeing on Arizona’s rivers and lakes with my grandparents. We had a red International Scout and a 15′ fiberglass canoe. Lots of great memories.

Fast forward to the present and life in the Arizona mountains presents a lot of opportunities to dip the new canoe into freshwater lakes (some warm water, some fresh snow melt).

2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser
18′ Savage River Canoe “Blackhawk”

Now for a little advice. You’re going to roll the canoe. Best have some ‘surf fins’ lashed to a thwart or something so that you can swim the canoe to shore (more expeditiously), and a collapsable bailing bucket so that you can lighten it before swimming it to shore. Yes there are fancier solutions, but the carbon fiber canoe featured above doesn’t have flotation tanks. You can sink it. It won’t want to sink, but it can. And once you have it, you’re going to want to race it and cut sharply and …yeah, roll it.

And why do I have more photos of the canoe in the house than I do on the water?

Constructed of kevlar and textron carbon fiber – very strong.

I read some canoeing write ups and most people say that they’ve never capsized their canoe…Ok, then. I may be making up for that group.

I took the kids and grandkids (a caravan of four vehicles) to Knoll Lake for some water sports on Saturday. SWEET JEHOSHAPHAT! The lake is usually nearly devoid of people. Not then. I spoke to a forest ranger (former Army Ranger) there and he said that Blue Ridge Reservoir had vehicles backed up for three and a half miles to get to the boat ramp.

The canoe was launched (in wind) and I dodged kayaks, the kids had fun. Less fun for me.


  1. LL,
    What sort of seat is that? Looks almost like it slides, like on a racing scull? And the odd shape along the gunnel, the wasp waist- what is that for? My canoe experience is dated, Old Town, Willitts, aluminum Grummans, that sort of thing- yours looks like a aquatic stealth fighter!

    We were taught to rock the canoe to get the water sloshed out, then grab the far gunnel and worm across the near side to get back in. The shape of a traditional canoe may make that possible, not sure about the modern style craft .

    • The seats adjust to your preference, yes they slide. The canoe is very fast as canoes go. The carbon fiber is strong and light. You might be able to slosh the water out. I haven’t been able to manage it. I have a bailing bucket to clear the water when capsized, and fins to tow it to shore. I’m a fast swimmer and it’s easier than screwing with boarding mid-lake. I don’t take it out on large lakes. Just small lakes that have no-motor restrictions. There are a number of those here.

    • I did trip over a concrete obstruction when launching and skinned my elbow and knees (boo-boos).

  2. An uncle of mine owned a wooden canoe, heavy but it performed well once in the water. When I was a teen we would take it out on Lone Star Lake near Lawrence Kansas. Swimming wasn’t permitted but it seems that at least once or more that normally stable wood canoe would tip over rather suddenly and we would all wind up in the water. Some years later my uncle acquired a Kevlar canoe. It was much lighter and didn’t require near as much maintenance. The wooden one was nice but I believe I would opt for the newer model.

    • Wood canoes are beautiful but they’re very heavy and as you suggest, they’re a lot of work if you want them to continue to look pristine. I’m of an age that horsing a 100+ lbs canoe up and down on the roof of the rig is something that I don’t want to do. Yes, there are commercial racks with winches and fancy rollers. I designed, welded and built my roof mount by myself. If it works (and it does), I take a bow. Scrap metal, scrap tubing and about $15 in parts, tie straps and UV safe neoprene plus what I already had and it’s there.

    • It’s not the be all and end-all but I can throw the 35 lbs canoe on the roof without much effort.

  3. I crossed “the creek” (as some are known to quaintly call the Mississippi) at Debuque this afternoon, and good-golly the boats were out in force, like some crazy regatta. People are getting out, oh yes.

    • F-it – time to get out and feel the wind in your face. Allegedly the Chinese Plague doesn’t like sunshine. People are tired of the lies and more or less pointless (at this point) restrictions.

  4. I was liking your overhead light bar, is it part of the roof rack or is it separate from it. May I inquire as to the make and manufacturer? I want a light rack for my truck and am being overly picky on what I want to place up there. I don’t have gutters so it would be the kind that fasten inboard of the door seal, what kind of what yours look like. I like your canoe, I have an old aluminum Grumman that is ancient, but it is fine shape and is easy enough for me to haul and launch and paddle, and to stow back up on my canopy.

    • The light bar (front and back) bolt to the OEM Toyota rack. Here is the layout:
      N-Fab Front Light Bar/Bracket w/3 x Acro X1870M Driving Lights & 2 x 40 B/U PIAA Flood Lights
      N-Fab Rear Light Bar/Bracket w/2 x 40 B/U PIAA Flood Lights & 1 x LEDQUAD LED Strobe Light Bar

  5. My father used to take us boys up into Northern NH and Maine, canoeing and fishing on the lakes.
    Some pretty good sized lakes- we would normally kneel on the bottom, butt on the thwarts to get the CG as low as possible and reduce the windage. It can be brutal on the quarter as the bow keeps being blown off course. Particularly with one person on board. Sometimes it gets so bad a solo paddler has to get in the bow and just let the stern weathervane. He was an advocate of wooden canoes, primarily because they are much quieter than aluminum ones, and we used to sneak around the ponds at twilight looking for moose.
    Herreshoff the yacht designer (Francis not Nathaniel) said the canoe was the most cost effective way to get on the water- although he designed for big money folks, it seems his heart was in the smaller simpler “Kiss” Craft- inadvertent pun!

    • Kayaks are more popular these days. There are a lot of tandem kayaks, but essentially they are single-person watercraft at their hearts. For me, the concept of the canoe is more of a family adventure. In this case, I have young grandsons and granddaughters who enjoy going for a ride or going fishing. Packing tents and sleeping bags can be accomplished on a kayak, but in this case, you can take three people and all their gear on a fishing trip over two or three days without any problem (18′ canoe). The wider section in the middle with asymetric sharp fore and aft sections allow for a couple of grandkids and gear.

      Canoes don’t love the water and if the weather is bad, I have slid the seat back and paddled from a kneeling position. If it’s bad enough, I have a bailing bucket (collapsable) that can be used as a sea anchor, but as a practical matter, I’m driving distance from home. We’ll either go in or we’ll beach the canoe, flip it over and tie it down (carbon fiber canoes are light and can be blown when on the ground). Some of the AZ mountain lakes are built into long river gorges which lend themselves to canoes, with built-in grottos and narrow bays with camping beaches. Blue Ridge Reservoir (about 6 miles from me as the crow flies) is one such body of water. It’s several miles long in sort of a horse shoe shape and I can go there and put the canoe in the water for exercise and the quiet experience that your father loved. We can paddle up on big horn sheep, that love the cliff faces if there aren’t a lot of people on the water, at sunset. Getting home under a moon is not a problem.

      More tomorrow on how I store the canoe at home.

  6. That’s a radically sharp looking canoe you got! Eye candy deluxe, inspired me to comment!~ Wow, compared to the old style dented aluminum I learned paddling in, and more recent blocky kevlar/plastic units I’ve goofed with!
    I’ve longgg lived in view of (swam n paddled about on) the Ol Miss- about hour S of Dubuque ~ I chuckled at spelling (above)prior ;)-
    Been a lot of years since I felt like swimming in it, but done cheap kayaks recently. Loaners, free though poor fit, but did get me safely to nearby destination desired. Good enough and learned what to look for in applications later!
    Pool 13, is a buddy’s playground… He’s lifelong rural resident, and tinkering improver too. I’ve learned a lot about mechanical applications/tangents from him!
    He recently, ‘threw together’ (welded-out of aluminum misc in accumulations of his stock shed~) a quick detachable outrigger, for his smaller canoe.
    As intended, said he had NO PROBLEM, standing and casting using it… there is NO BS with him!
    I been meaning to borrow it, (standing offer- Good friend!) in near future for some shoreline inspections… Not sure it’s applicable to your situation/unit – but dumped-ducking is always hassle at the least…
    I’m newer to reading your blog here. Value your current events’ insights, and have appreciated the entertainment from your fiction writing!* Muchas Gracias!
    As an exchange~gratitude, You have my email, drop me a note~ I’d be happy to stop over to friend’s outrigger and take some pics, and send as reply? Maybe its something you could adapt/build yourself~utilize?
    No rush, and no worries if not!
    Best Regards,

    • Ok, I’ll shoot an e-mail your way. Thank you for commenting. An outrigger for a canoe that you plan to use on a lake and for fishing is not a bad idea. I don’t know about using aluminum. It might chafe the carbon fiber. I might need to work on a carbon fiber solution. Normally, you attach the outrigger at the fore and aft thwarts.

  7. Nice canoe…far cry from the aluminum Grumman I was used to (for Scouts). Canoeing for me is an exercise in focused relaxation.

    You haven’t lived until you’ve rolled a canoe and dumped into the lake, hopefully remembering to lash down ALL the gear. Or coming up on a set of rapids that needed portaging and trying to find the exit eddy. In the early 80’s a buddy and I spent a month on a lake up in Canada outside Algonquian Provincial Park, exploring by canoe. Canada was a little different than the USA – you’re basically on your own when in the backcountry, and campgrounds are free to canoe travelers. We went out the feed stream through the countryside and met some great people, including a 90 year old homesteader (no water or electricity) and stayed at his place for the night. The stories he told us.

    • None of the campgrounds in Arizona are fee, and you don’t have to camp in a campground. You can more or less find a likely spot. There are some rules depending on which National Forest (the rules vary in AZ depending on who the head ranger is, but they’re very lax). Everyone is armed, everyone packs, just like in the cities.

      I want to do a Salt River float (near Phoenix), but nothing here compares with Eastern Canada when it comes to canoeing. You were fortunate to have that experience. I have ALWAYS wanted to do a Yellowstone Float. Jackson Lake and down the Snake River (River-of-no-Return) into Idaho. I’ve heard that Yellowstone is closed do to the damned People’s Republic of China and their frigging plague. I had no intention of doing that trip this year, but if I’m going to do it, I need to do it before I’m too old.

      My experience is useful in that everything goes into Pelican cases and they’re lashed to the canoe with parachute cord and carabiners. I pack everything in the rig in Pelican cases as well.

      I was by DRJIM’s (fellow blogger) hacienda when he was getting ready to move to Colorado and he have me a big Pelican case that I added to my collection. (Thank you Jim) They’re water proof and nearly indestructible which meets my criteria.

      When I get into a canoe, I wear a swim suit in anticipation of having to swim. The surf fins are lashed to the aft thwart behind me… My Gorilla Fins (my favorite) are just too big for the canoe. Surf fins (silicone rubber) are good enough. I bought my Benelli H2O (stainless shotgun) with that trip in mind for bears and such.

      • Coming across that campground while out on the river was a lifesaver, mostly because of the burger and shake concession stand…Mountain House and oatmeal just weren’t cutting it for my 18 year old hollow-leg appetite. Otherwise it was a wide spot on the bank each night…like the “old days” before regulation and permission fees.

        Pelican cases are amazing, and they float. Never thought about fins, great idea, and less exhausting getting to shore.

        Had family in Jackson seeing the sights as one brother had never been and were out this way. Decided to head into Yellowstone, which is “open”, altho currently inundated with…well, I’ll be charitable and not say anything. A woman got knocked down from a bear who decided she had invaded his Covid Social distance. She was lucky but likely doesn’t have a clue how lucky. Suffice it to say a river float thru would be better…assuming you could get a permit. Been there often, usually early or late season to miss the crazy (same with Estes and RMNP, which are currently under the Health Dept. Dictator lockdown rules so we won’t go up until this charade abates…which sucks because when you know the area and some of the shop owners it’s more fun.)

        My wife floated Desolation Canyon many moons ago, her nephews still talk about that trip.

        • I think that it’s a trip worth taking.

          I can’t handle the Chinese Plague bullshit. It’s going to make me take a hostage or something. Mark my words.

          Fortunately Arizona isn’t like a lot of other states, but the campgrounds are closed. All around those campgrounds there are campers, armed, flipping the world the middle finger.

          I’ll need to work on a permit once the world has returned to sanity and take the trip.

  8. We had a red IH Scout 80 growing up, too! My Dad was a land surveyor, that thing would go anywhere, slowly. It would also go in indicated 80 on the freeway, feelling like it was going to blow up at any second.

    Unfortunately here in R.I. it didn’t look as nice as the one in your picture for long, the Salt Season beat the hell out of it. We had to get the doors welded back on about yearly, and usually the floorboards were plywood. Still, I loved that thing, and we got something like 14 years out of it. I learned to drive in it when I was around 5 y.o. in low-low-range and first gear. We once broke the rear axle and had a wheel come off, threw the wheel in back, all sat as close to the driver’s seat as possible, and drove it to the shop in 4WD on 3 wheels.

    As for canoes and sinking; well, it never sinks in the house!
    A bunch of us rented canoes years ago, and paddled all the way down the river into the Bay… that sank them extra-well! So, I understand the impulse.

    • You guys have severe highway salt issues. Out west, the vehicles seem to survive the elements a little longer. And this is my point. My Toyota FJ, now thirteen years old, is just getting broken in. It’s like an old friend. My kids love it. My grandchildren are learning to love it. I have a death stalker scorpion that I killed and saved in Kuwait encased in lucite on the 4WD transfer case shifter. Steady modification and improvement doesn’t mean that there are a lot of Toyota parts left, but I plan to drive the rig until I die (however long it takes).

  9. That is a beautiful canoe. You say it’s a river canoe but isn’t 18’ getting a bit long for rivers? It does look like it would do well in a race but I guess that also depends on who is paddling. Take it up to Madison, WI for the portage and paddle if you want to get all competey. You do a course on Lake Mendota, carry the canoe—you’ve got carbon fiber!—and then splash around Lake Monona.

    Nobody has tipped their canoe. Ha! I did that during the Portage and Paddle in my Kevlar Wi-no-nah because I made the totally dumbass mistake of going out with my brother in law without a check ride before the event. He got all wound up and paddled with a bit too much vigor. Slash down it was.

      • It’s long for rivers. It works for what I’m using it for. Would I take it down the Snake River? I might. or might not. Maybe I’d rent for that trip…run rapids and pay for it if I cracked it up. Cheaper than replacing the carbon fiber/kevlar. The Savage River Canoe has a triple layer of kevlar on the bottom. But the bulkheads are carbon fiber. It would be a portage, not a run through the rocks.

        It works on the smaller AZ lakes, and maybe the Salt River. I’ve had it now for three years, and — it works. Not the be-all-and-end-all, but light enough to throw on top of the Toyota without a hernia.

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