Last year I decided I needed a boat to use on the Greenbrier River, which flows by our camp. During the summer season the water level on the Greenbrier drops considerably and sometimes this requires pulling a boat up or down shallow rapids. I felt something with minimal draft would be best. I decided on a canoe but also wanted something very stable and with real seats. And, I wanted to be able to mount an electric trolling motor.
Several companies manufacture square back canoes but they are not as maneuverable as standard canoes and I wanted to be able to teach my son how to really work a canoe on a river by paddle. Then there was also the notion we might tackle sections of the New River which are a bit more robust than the Greenbrier.
Looking for canoes on the Internet I stumbled on River Ridge Custom Canoes. Bill Planton Jr. builds the River Ridge canoes out of a double layer of fiberglass. They are laid up in two sections and then fitted together to form a one piece hull while they are still in the mold. River Ridge canoes have a unique double-ended design with a square transom allowing an electric trolling motor to be mounted. The transom is toughened with extra layers of fiberglass and a plywood plate.
The fact these canoes come with swivel seats like you find in a bass boat was very appealing. These seats slide in receptacles mounted on sturdy mahogany bench seats—one in front and one in the back. On occasion Dad fishes with me and after our first trip out in the River Ridge canoe, told me he could not have lasted the three hours on a regular bench seat. He said being able to lean back in the swivel seat made all the difference for his back.
If there is a drawback to the River Ridge canoe it’s that it only has two seats. However, I found that I could take both my son and daughter fishing by removing the front swivel seat and letting them share wooden bench seat with one facing to the front and one to the rear.
The canoe is also pre-wired allowing the trolling motor to be connected to a 12-volt, marine battery. The wiring harness is built into the canoe and the floor is ribbed in the center, providing a place for the battery or battery box to rest. There are also brackets for strapping the battery box down solid. Lights mounted on the front and back of the front bench seat and the front of the rear bench seat are an option that I chose and I am glad I did because they really simplify fishing at night. The lights are connected to the wiring harness.
Because the canoe has a wide beam (39 inches) for its length (12 feet, 9 inches) and because it has a keel that runs the length of the hull, it is very stable. It has a weight rating of 750 pounds but only weighs 84 pounds, less accessories. My 8-year-old son and I can load it on the roof of our Durango for long hauls or even stuff it in the back for shorter treks.
These canoes are not what I would call inexpensive but considering the features and all the equipment that comes standard on the Sportsman model, they are still a bargain. I made a deposit and my canoe was ready and delivered as promised. Bill Planton spent a great deal of time on the phone with me to insure that not only was my order correct but that his canoe was they type water craft I needed.
I am in my second season with the River Ridge canoe and it has held up exceptionally well. Other than getting a little over zealous when tightening the battery box down and breaking the quick release connector on the strap, I have not had a single issue with the canoe. I have also navigated a few rapids that were borderline class II and felt very comfortable and stable during the ride. The fact that a hyperactive eight year old has yet to capsize us may be the best evidence of how stable this canoe is.
Depending on the way you fish and the rivers you run, a River Ridge canoe may not be for you. You still owe it to yourself to visit their web site, if for nothing else just to see how well designed this craft is for fishing in rivers and streams. The River Ridge canoe was obviously engineered by someone who knows a thing or two about canoes, rivers and fishing.
River Ridge Custom Canoes; 507-288-2750;www.riverridgecustomcanoes.com
Standard Equipment for the Sportsman Model
- Three adjustable drink holders.
- Two detachable, double tier tackle boxes.
- Battery box with test light and accessory plug in.
- Built in wiring harness with three points of contact.
- Battery attachment cord.
- Two swivel seat in your choice of camouflage.
- Mahogany thwart marked in inches for measuring fish.
- Bow to stern anchor system that can be operated by one person.
- One set of rod holders.
- Two paddles.
- Accessory Bag.
- Car mount / hauling kit.
- A hat and two drink coolers.
- Package price: $ 1995.