Red Rock Wilderness Store's 

Souris River Quetico 18.5 vs. Wenonah - 3 seaters
We lay 'em out so you can decide for yourself

Now here's something you won't see everyday and just anywhere. The following images are of a Souris River Quetico 18.5 next to a Wenonah MN III. Both are 3 man canoes and I think you'll be amazed at these actual comparisons because even I was surprised! Even though the Wenonah is 20 feet long, the compartment sizes are the almost exactly the same regarding length. Compare the front and back thwarts and the carrying yoke. Although it was hard to photograph, (my ladder needed to be 6 feet higher to eliminate my camera's lens distortion), you should be able to see that the Souris River is actually wider (flared) at the gunwales in the center of the canoe which offers better gear-loading convenience. It is also wider at the bottom which in turn allows for more wetted surface which increases stability. The Wenonah has tumblehome at the center of the its hull. Because its gunwales turn inward, getting all of three people's packs in and out requires a bit more jockeying around in this canoe.

Click here for Souris River Quetico 17 vs. Wenonah MN II

 Souris River Quetico 18.5 compared to a Wenonah Minnesota III

  canoe lengths
Navigating a 20' canoe in the BWCA can sometimes be a real challenge since most portages only offer tree spacing for 17 to18 footers. This was pointed out to me by the owner of this Wenonah MN III several other paddlers over the years.

 Length - At 20', the Wenonah doesn't seem to offer any advantages regarding hauling bulky payload over the ability of the Souris River. While it is longer, it appears that the additional length is in the bow and stern of the Wenonah. This does contribute to the sleek racing appearance speed of this space-needle, but it also makes it very hard to turn and control in a cross wind with no significant gain in meaningful cargo space. It's also quite narrow in the bow of the Wenonah overall which makes for great, high repetition paddling in a canoe race. But the complaint is that one gets a bit stiff sitting in the same position being unable to wiggle around. Unless you have small feet, you will find it hard to have your feet rest side by side. There just is not enough room.

The Souris River although roomier in front, is quite capable of moving at a great speed if pushed yet is also very maneuverable in a wind due to it's rocker and different hull design. From a control standpoint it will literally run circles around the Wenonah with greater stability as it has a flat bottom at its middle. The Wenonah has a shallow-arched bottom. Rocker is about 1.5" in the Souris River and 0" in the Wenonah. Canoes with 0" rocker make excellent racing canoes but are not the greatest if you are trying to fish, maneuver, or keep dry in rough water because they don't turn easily but do slice through the waves instead of riding up and over them. If your bow is 20" high and the upcoming wave is 24", the bow guy is probably going to get wet.

Click here for Souris River Quetico 17 vs. Wenonah MN II
The Souris River Quetico's hull tends to ride up and over approaching waves even with a big guy sitting in the front seat. This means the canoe goes slower in rough water but it still goes. Like Bob Cary says " How fast does your racing canoe go when it's full of water?"

Also, note the increased freeboard in the Souris River in the side-by-side photo. The Souris River is about 2" deeper at the middle of the canoe and even deeper (relative to the Wenonah) as you follow it out to its bow and stern. One of the most popular and notable features of Souris River Canoes is their remaining freeboard when the canoe is fully loaded. Here you can see the difference on land, but next time watch a Souris River go by on the water and then compare a fully-loaded racing canoe if you get the opportunity. Racers sit lower to "cut the wind better" I've been told. If that's the benefit of low freeboard, why are racing canoes so doggone hard to turn in a crosswind? I've watched countless paddlers in canoes such as these furiously backing up the canoe in a crosswind trying to get it to aim into the wind because the stern paddler just can't bring the bow around himself. Everything you gain in speed, you lose in control while trying to turn. By comparison, the Quetico 18.5 is no slouch for speed either. You couldn't beat the Wenonah in a race on a calm day, but you wouldn't be too far behind either. On a rough day, the Quetico is able to go where many other canoes simply can't or won't. Of course, in any case, all paddlers need to know their own abilities and limitations before taking on any uncertain challenges that Mother nature might be handing out.

 Canoe freeboard comparison

So there you have it. Finally, you can see these two canoes side by side and decide which one might suit you better. Maybe top-end racing speed is your preference or maybe you'd prefer a canoe that would be more forgiving in a wider variety of lake-wind conditions. On top of all that, there's the durability factor of epoxy resin canoes which is a whole other page on this website starting here .

 Quetico 18.5 with a load
Souris River Quetico 18.5
Notice the freeboard

Click here for Souris River Quetico 17 vs. Wenonah MN II

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