I know you hear this a lot, but what kind of a canoe is this?


WCHA member #8947
So I recently purchased an old wood/canvas canoe, with the intention of having it restored. The gentlman I bought it from has stored it indoors for the past decade. The person he bought it from didn't know what kind of canoe it was, but told him it was over 50 years old.

I don't know the particulars - I was told it was probably made by a manufacturer, as opposed to an individual, and possibly dates back to the 30's or more. It is roughly 17 feet long, and seems to offer a fairly wide and blunt profile to the water. The upsweep of the bow and stern is slightly more abrupt than on some of the other canvas boats I've seen. It employs 3 main shaped thwarts (the center thwart actually is not a portaging yoke) and two more small thwarts just in from the decks (possibly as "handles"?). The shape of the deck itself is a simple rounded "W" - not the more severe block shape of the Old Town or the heart of the Seliga. Unfortunately I can't find any serial number stamped on the stems.

I'll include some pictures, and hopefully that will help. I'll most likely fix it up regardless, it would just be interesting to find out where this thing might have come from.

Thanks so much for humoring yet another novice canoe historian.



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Looks like your canoe was made by Shell Lake Boat Co. of Shell Lake, WI. See attached catalog page. Shell Lake canoes were typically assigned a serial number part of which was the model number (1177 in this case). It was usually on a brass tag that may be missing now.


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Congrates Nick,

I agree with Dan, that's the Shell lake from Craig's List. :)
I sent the guy you got it from a pic of another Shell Lake canoe for comparison. The decks and seats are the same.

I'm in Mounds View if you want to talk or look at canoes. And I'd invite you on our MN chapter outings, though they have been limited lately.

Thanks a lot

Guilty - I did pick this up from a guy on Craigslist. I hope I didn't snatch it away from someone with better knowledge. My apologies... He offered it to me for a price I really couldn't refuse.

Thanks for the information about the boat. I suppose I'll need to find some information about Shell Lake boats and see if I can figure any more about this particular canoe's vintage. There definitely is no brass tag that I have been able to find, and I can't seem to find any stamped number on the stems, but maybe something will turn up.

I live out near Marine on St. Croix, but I'd love to get together and/or share any relevant information. I sincerely appreciate the help.

thanks again
Not at all. If some else was interested, they should have got there sooner.

For a bit of info see Dan's web site.

And here are a couple pics of other Shell lake canoes, one nicely restored and the other needing attention.

Earlier you mentioned Seliga canoes, do you know of any or have one?



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Thanks for the information - I had already checked out the dragonfly canoe page. I'm sure I've got a 17 foot guide model - no idea the year, of course. I'm looking into recanvassing/replacing a few planks.

Thanks for the pictures too - the restored one gives me hope of what mine might come close to someday.

I did mention Seliga canoes - living in MN they're just one of the kinds you hear about. I wish I owned one, but I doubt anyone will be getting rid of one anytime soon. The only one I know of is owned by my good friend from college. He spent many summers at Widji (8 maybe?), and actually got the very last boat Joe completed before he passed away. It's an incredible honor. I haven't paddled it with him yet, but I've seen it in his basement - it's beautiful. And yes, it's green (as it should be, I suppose).

I'd love to get together and talk boats sometime too, if you're amenable. Thanks again for all the good information

Shell Lake Boats

I am currently researching and writing an article about SHELL LAKE BOAT which will be published in "Classic Boating" magazine. Not a whole lot dug up on their canoes so far. I will be spending some time at their local historical society in the near future and will see what I can find.

Andreas Jordahl Rhude
keep me posted

Any information would be appreciated. For sure keep me posted. Thanks again.
Dan Lindberg ---

That second canoe - the one needing attention, is a Penn Yan. Looks like it may have torpedo ends, making it a Rainbow. Look for a serial number on the stems starting with an "R"


Yes, thanks Dan, you're right, it's not my Shell Lake.
I was confused as to the source of the pic and thought is was the Shell Lake. The SL has 1/2 ribs and a decal so it's obviously not the canoe in the pic. Sorry, I should have confirmed the id before posting.