There are a lot of things you need to know before you choose a canoe, especially your first canoe. One of the first things you’ll want to know is how long a canoe is. Because canoe length determines how many people and how much gear your canoe will hold, how and what you’ll need to transport it, and how much space you’ll need to store it.
I researched the canoe lengths of some top canoe brands in order to find out, on average, how long a canoe actually is.
So, how long are canoes? The average length for a canoe is 16′ long. This is because 16′ canoes are the most prevalent, most popular, and most versatile length canoe. Shorter canoes average less than 14′ long. And long canoes are any canoe that’s over 17.5′ long.
But that’s only part of the story…
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Average Canoe Length Defined
The average length of a standard canoe is dependent a lot on perspective. Because different manufacturers look at length differently and each individual paddler considers length in a different way.
And the best length canoe for you will be dependent on what you plan to use your canoe for, and where you plan to paddle it and store it when you’re done.
But first let’s define what we mean by the “average” or “standard” canoe.
The average standard canoe is a recreational canoe designed to carry 2 people plus gear and is generally used for flat lakes, lazy rivers and calm coastal inlets. It’s probably made of a plastic composite material, it’s relatively heavy and is about 34-37 inches wide.
The 16′ Canoe
Now that we know what average is, just how long is a standard canoe? Taking all factors and conditions into consideration, most 2-person standard canoes come very close to 16′ long. This is because 16′ is a good compromise between ease of transport, paddling efficiency and maneuverability, canoe weight, passenger and gear capacity, and your ability to store the canoe.
Also, unlike a 17′ long or greater “long” canoe, a 16′ standard canoe can be easily paddled by 1 person if need be. Whereas any canoe that’s longer than 16′ becomes quickly unmanageable by a solo paddler faced with wind and the weight of the canoe itself.
Advantages of a 16′ Canoe
Canoes that are about 16′ long are long enough to be paddled relatively quickly and easily by 1 or 2 people, can carry a big enough load for some short touring, and are maneuverable enough to handle some larger twisting streams.
Short vs Long Canoes
- Easier to paddle
- Easier to carry
- Easier to store
- Easier to transport
- Fit less gear
- Don’t track as straight
- Fit fewer people
- Build materials being equal, they cost less
- Paddle more smoothly
- Fit more Gear
- Fit more people
- Tend to be more stable
- Are harder to store
- Harder to transport
- They’re heavier
- Harder to portage
- Build materials being equal, they cost more
Measuring Canoe Length
Let’s back up a little here. We need to know how to measure a canoe’s length before we can figure out if it’s short, standard or long, don’t we?
Canoe length is measured from the bow to the stern and is probably the easiest measurement of all canoe dimensions to figure out and understand.
When it comes to average canoe length, everyone and every manufacturer has a different view of it. Mainly to support the particular length canoes that they offer.
On their website, Old Town Canoes breaks down short, standard, and long canoes like this:
- Short Canoe Length – Less than 13’6″ long
- Standard Canoe Length – 13’6″ to 16′ long
- Long Canoes – any canoe longer than 16′
How long are short canoes? A short cane is any canoe 14′ long or less. Short canoes are generally solo canoes meant for one paddler. But some manufacturers have gone shorter and wider to accommodate more paddlers in less length.
Short canoes are great for exploring the outdoors by yourself or with a smaller group. Most short solo canoes are paddled from a seat in the center of the canoe.
Though most short canoes are designed for one paddler and their gear, check out the Old Town Discovery 133. It’s designed for 1, 2 or even 3 people to paddle.
Short canoes are easier to store, transport, and they don’t weigh as much, making them easier for one person to portage. And if you really want a small canoe, check out Wenonah Canoe’s Wee Lassie. It’s only 10’6″ long and only weighs 25 pounds.
Short Canoe Examples:
- Mad River Serenade 13FGX (solo) – 13′ 1″ / 399 cm long
- Mad River Serenade 13 TR Ultralight (solo) – 13′ 1″ / 399 cm in length
- Mad River Adventure 14 (2 person) – 14′ / 427 cm long
Mad River short canoes average 13’55” long.
- Old Town Discovery 119 Solo (solo) – is 11’9″ / 3.5 m in length
- Old Town Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman (solo) – 11’9″ / 3.5 m in length
- Old Town NEXT (solo) – is 13′ / 3.96 m long
- Old Town Discovery 133 (3 person) – is a 13’3″ / 4 m long canoe
Doing the math, Old Town short canoes average 12’5″ long.
Sun Dolphin has 2 very popular recreational/fishing canoes. Both of them are square stern canoes that can be outfitted with a trolling motor.
- Sun Dolphin Scout SS (3 person) – 14′ / 427cm long
- Wenonah Wee Lassie (solo) – 10′ 6″ / 320 cm
- Wenonah Wee Lassie (solo) – 12′ 6″ / 381 cm
How long is a standard canoe? A standard canoe is generally between 14.5′ and 17′ long. As we’ve said the average length of a canoe is 16′ long and this fits right in the middle of our standard, medium-sized canoe length.
Standard canoes, 16′ long, are the most popular length canoes. Standard canoes are generally designed to carry 2 people and their gear for day trips and short multi-day touring trips.
A standard length canoe is easy for 2 people to carry and at 16′ long, stores well in most single family home garages that are typically between 18-20′ deep.
Standard Canoe Examples:
- Mad River Journey 156 (2 person) – 15′ 6″ / 472 cm
- Mad River Explorer 16 T Formex (2 person) – 15′ 11″ / 486 cm
- Mad River Adventure 16 (2 person) – 16′ / 488 cm
- Mad River Explorer 16 FGX (2 person) – 16′ 3″ / 495 cm
- Mad River Explorer 16 Ultralight (2 person) – 16′ 3″ / 495 cm
- Mad River Malecite Ultralight (2 person) – 16′ 5″ / 501 cm
- Mad River Malecite KX (2 person) – 16′ 5″ / 501 cm
- Mad River Journey 167 (2 person) – 16′ 7″ / 505 cm
Mad River Standard 2-person canoes average 16’2″ long. Once again, right on top of that 16′ average canoe length number.
- Old Town Saranac 146 (2+ person) – 14’6″ / 4.4 m
- Old Town Guide 147 (2 person) – 14′ 7″ / 4.4 m
- Old Town Discovery Sport 15 (3 person, square stern) – 15′ 3″ / 4.6 m
- Old Town Discovery 158 (2 person) – 15′ 8″ / 4.8 m
- Old Town Guide 160 (2 person) – 16′ / 4.9 m
- Old Town Saranac 160 (3 person) – 16′ / 4.9 m
- Old Town Penobscot 164 (2 person) – 16′ 4″ / 5 m
- Old Town Discovery 169 (2 person) – 16′ 9″ / 5.1 m
Standard Old Town canoes average 15’8″ long.
- Sun Dolphin Mackinaw SS – 15’6″ / 472 cm
- Wenonah Heron (2 person) – 15′ / 457 cm
- Wenonah Aurora (2 person) – 16′ / 488 cm
- Wenonah Solo Plus (3 person) – 16’6″ / 503 cm
- Wenonah 17 (2 person) – 17′ / 518 cm
- Wenonah Spirit II (2 person) – 17′ / 518 cm
How long are long canoes? Generally speaking, any canoe 17.5′ in length or longer is considered to be a long canoe.
Longer canoes are still primarily designed for those 2 people to paddle. But the longer a canoe is, the better it tracks, glides through the water and the more gear it can hold. Long canoes are generally designed to be multi-day touring and expedition canoes.
The downside to longer canoes is that they’re less maneuverable in tight waters and, depending on canoe materials, take a bit more effort to paddle than a shorter canoe. In addition, a longer than 17′ canoe takes careful consideration for transporting it on top of a vehicle and it’s harder to find a place to easily store it.
Many longer canoes are designed as 3-person canoes, adding a seat in the middle of the canoe for a third passenger.
Long Canoe Examples:
Technically speaking, Mad River doesn’t offer any canoes in the “long” category as we’re defining it. Which again goes to show you that the most popular and most available canoes are in the standard canoe 16′ range.
Old Town has only one canoe that’s considered a long canoe, and it actually misses the mark by 1″. But we’re throwing it in the long category anyway.
- Old Town Penobscot 174 (2 person) – 17′ 4″ | 5.3 m long
- Wenonah Champlain (2 person) – 18′ / 549 cm
- Wenonah Seneca (3 person) – 19’4″ / 589 cm
Really Long Canoes
Okay, so far we’ve been messing around, playing it safe, talking about “long” canoes. But is a 17.5′ canoe really that long? And if you’re looking for information on canoes that will hold more than 4 people, wait until you see these long canoes.
Really Long Canoes
Clipper Canoe’s Mariner seats 8 people and it’s 22′ long. But that’s not really that long either.
Clipper Canoe’s Langley seats 14 people and it’s 29′ long!
Those are crazy long canoes!
The Longest Canoe in the World
The longest canoe measures 45.44 m (149 ft 1 in) and was built by students and teachers of Nokomis Regional High School, Newport, Maine, USA. The canoe was presented and measured on 8 July 2006.Guinness World Records