Hi all,

I am a pretty experienced boatman (rafts, WW kayaks, canoes, etc.) but do not have any experience with dories.  I am interested in getting a dory that I can fish out of but its main purpose would be whitewater.  I am in Idaho and we run a lot of trips down the Middle, Main, and Lower salmon.  I came across this dory (pics attached).  It is not decked and so I am assuming it is more of a fishing model but I am wondering if it could be modified into a whitewater dory?

More generally, what are the operative differences between whitewater dories and their flatter water brethren?  Are the hull shapes the same but have different features or are they completely different boats? 

Thanks in advance for your patience with my very basic questions.  DHN. 

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This topic comes up all the time, and i am in the camp of dont try to make that boat something it isnt. That looks like a 16x48. Its only 24" at the locks. Its no whitewater dory. You can deck it over, but you wont be able to haul anywhere near as much as you think. If you are only going solo, you might do ok. But that is a small boat. There is a guy on here that built two of those boats..exact same design. He took it down the grand canyon. But if you look at his pictures his boat is buried halfway to the gunwales. There is no passenger, and no passengers gear, and beer. I think they had raft support too. Point is, he made it, but only cause he was going solo. If he had added group gear, a passenger, their gear, etc it would not have really worked so well. There are quite a few dories out there of 16x48 variety, but most people that have those boats all want or later build a bigger one.

On the middle or main, you might work out, depending on the time of year you go. Those trips are a week max so less gear, but i bet two people plus gear for a week is gonna be about maxing that boat out. Many of the outfitters on the mf do run the 16x48 mckenzie down there, although, without all the gear. It is a nimble boat which in the summer in idaho is a good thing. It is a little tippy, and not the best design for blowing thru stuff or holding a line which i feel is an important attribute in big water.

Heres the thing tho...nothing against all the open drift boat builders here...but building the hull is the easy part. Sorry it is. Thers probably 3-4x as much work involved in fitting bulkheads, decks, hatch coamings, gutters, hatch lids, lid catches, self bailing. Dealing with all that hardware, handrails, tie outs. Its an exhausting amount of work. Dealing with the miles of seam tape if you stitch and glue, or mabye even quite a bit if you only seal the deck lines on the top. My point is, the majority of the work in building a whitewater dory is making it a whitewater dory. So with that in mind, what exactly do you think you are gonna get by taking a fishing boat and trying to make it a ww dory. In the end that boat will end up being a shitty dory and a shitty fishing if you deck it over. You wont save any time at all, you might actually spend more if you have to do any restoration on a used hull. You wont save any money either. Materials to build the hull probably cost as much if not less than that boat. So with all this in mind, why not just start right and build a design that does make a better ww dory. Mabye its a briggs, but mabye not for idaho. There are other good designs out there to make a dory with...tatman 17.5x54 highside, you could build a highside 17x54 from baker, or don hill lines. I think there is an 18x54 don hill design also. You could also do your own design from scratch. Any of those boats will make a much better dory than a 16x48 mckenzie. They will be wider, more stable, hold a line better, be drier, carry more gear and people. Those are the characteristic of a good we dory. Adding a deck to a fishing boat is not gonna accomplish any of thise things. Why not start out with the best foot forward. You will be happier in the end i think

Heres a pic of my boat. Almost. Finished. 4 years in the making.

Chris, your boat is looking wonderful. I greatly appreciate all the work you have done and quality that it shows. I also applaude your craftsmanship and your patience!

Rick Newman

Boat looks great Chris!

In my experience, a 16' x 48" wood boat is great for running the Middle Fork of the Salmon, the Main Salmon, the Rogue, the Owyhee, and the Deschutes.  These are multi-day trips.  I have limited my load to one passenger, sometimes plus dog, cooler, tarps, rain gear, and depending on the trip, tent and sleeping bags.  If you are going to do an outfitter quality trip with shower, mucho cooking gear, lots of dutch ovens, pans, ice, wine, beer, etc., then the trip will need a gear raft.

I'm in agreement with David - that's what I built my 16x48 for. Multiday trips, class III Idaho style water with backpacking loads, sneaking the bigger holes. 

Do you guys add any floatation, have issues with too much water in the boat? I got directed down the wrong side of a rapid on the Main Salmon and filled my Avon Pro bucket boat chest deep with water as the bottom stretched.

Rick N

Thanks to everyone for their comments. 

Went and took a look at it and made some measurements. 

From bow to stern, measuring from the top of the boat, the boat is 14' 1'.

The width at the top of the boat measures 66.5" at the oar locks, the floor is 46" wide at the oar locks.

The side wall height measure 24" at the oar locks and at the stern.  The bow is 32" if you measure along the tip of the stern.  it is 27.5 inches if you measure perpendicular from the floor of the boat straight up to the top.  Crappy diagram attached to (hopefully) clarify what I am talking about. 

Looking at the information regarding boat specs at High Desert Dories (http://hddories.net/about-whitewater-dories/dory-designs/)  it would seem this boat is a little shorter and narrower than the "whitewater" McKenzie River Dory. 

What do you guys think of these specs?  Is it a class III river runner or a Class I-II fishing drift boat?

It is not clear to me whether the sidewalls on this boat are as tall as a typical whitewater dory.  Any info on this would be appreciated.

I got to row it around on a lake for a few minutes today.  It rowed really nicely.  It did have a little water leaking into the bottom by the time I was done.  I'd say a few ounces of water in ten minutes of rowing it around.  Not sure how normal this is for a wooden boat? 

I would pass if it were me. Seriously. That boat is no whitewater dory. I rowed a 16x48 for many many years. It was my first wood boat? I guided out of it, putting in an average of 100 days per summer. Ive got as many days behind the oars of a 16x48 as anybody here on the forum, and its not a good whitewater dory. Period. Its tippy, it turns easy but does not hold a line or track at all. Its not a very big boat, very easy to swamp that boat on a moderate size wave. Doesnt hold much, and rows like absolute shit when loaded down at all. I just dont get what starting with this boat will get you. By the time you deal with ripping off the old chine logs, sealing a bunch of rotten wood, rebedding and screwing, and cutting and bolting on new battens you could literally have most of the hull completed. Im serious. Its a few scarf joints on plywood, 6 framed bulkhead stations, a stem and a transom. Were not talking rocket science here. Guys used to build these boats with hand tools, they are amazingly simple. You wont save any time ir money starting with this boat. In fact youll waste a ton of both, gaurentee it. Who knows what else needs fixing too

Re: size. This boat is a standard 16x48 double ender, likely of hindeman lines. Its made from 4 sheets of plywood so its 24" at the locks. To make the side panels you split an 8ft sheet down the middle tapering lnegthwise. The cut starts at approx 28/20" mark on one side and runs to a 24/24" mark on the other. Scarf the 24" sides and you have your side panel. Heres the thing, nobody wants a low sided dory, not for whitewater. All the "decked dory designs i know of are high sides which are 26.5-27" at the locks. You can make a high side boat which is 2.5" taller than normal easy...take two sheets and cut them to taper from 30" to 26", take the third panel and cut it 26" to 20" (symmetical). You can tack the extra offcuts from the first two sheets onto the end to make it a 17-18" side panel. Also, there is this old oregan tradiiton on 9 frames per boat. Throw that bs out the window for a ww Dory. Those rules are for framed open boats. Bulkheads provide the structure in a dory. Ina standard decking configuration youll want about 6 stations...the other that dont get bulkheads you might as well scrap, they will just make it hard to get gear in your hatches, and serve little to no purpose at all.

Im with rob, if you want a boat to get out on the river and fish, this will be fine. If you want to build a dory, just build a dory. Start right. Start from scratch and build the design you want, the size you want, for the gear you are actually going to carry. Trying to make a small low sided fishing boat into a dory will not get you what you are lookig for. Youll be trying to pack a "backpacking load" while your rafter friends pile gear in. Youll end up being the guy in the group thats not pulling your own weight or carrying any group gear. Youll be trying yo make a boat into something its not, and for what...to save a few bucks or a little time...trust me, you wont save either. You just end up doing it all twice. Seriosuly, build the boat right from the start. Ive seen many first time boat builder build very dory dories from plans. Many have gone down the grand canyon and various sections of the colorado and green..i gaurentee you you will be much happier doing it right. Many people here will argue otherwise, but most of those people are people who have not built dories. many of those folks take their 16x48 down class ii fishing water and then come here and argue those boats are suitable for class 3-4 whitewater which they may not have evn run.

Lastly, the 16x48 on andys site. Its a derald stewart design. Its a mckenzie but its made to be a whitewater boat. Let me say that boat is differant than the 16x48 Oregon fishing boats. It is designed to be a dory despite its smaller size. its got a few things that make it much more suitable for a whitewater boat
1. High sides
2. Lots of flair for better displacement for its given size
3 a flat spot on the center for tracking
4. Carries its width thru the center, the chine line is less of a continuos radius which gives it more surface area and higher displacement.

There is one of these designs here locally. It is an alright design, and certainly looks good for most water, even still its size limits its carrying capacity. In the end that boat is only a two people and gear for a week size boat. Its a good boat for desert classics, and would probably be a good mf boat with 2 folks and light gear. If you want to do more than that, go wider, taller, and more flair. Build a design thats made for ehat you want to do with it. Buying someones old beater mckenzie is just gonna be a waste of time and money.


That is a very unique boat you have there. Not too many double-ender McKenzie style boats out there any more and do I see only 4 ribs? Cool. Less ribs allows the plywood to flex and not crack in between the ribs when hitting rocks.

There are as many opinions as there are members on this site, all based on our own previous experiences and needs, so here goes mine:

Keep that very unique boat and use it for fishing and mild whitewater, class I-III. With an experienced oarsman behind the oars, that boat will run any water that David suggested. Then build your dream dory with compartments from new. As Chris says, the interior of a dory is the time consuming and expensive part. It won't take much more effort or money to build out a new whitewater dory hull and then put decking / compartments in it, then you will have a camping / whitewater boat just as you see fit. I would reverse engineer the size of your boat as well, lay out all of your camping gear that you can't live without, then build your boat to accommodate those dimensions, plus consider the size or river you will be running mostly.

As far as hull shapes go, there are many designs, if you really research and look at them; wide / narrow, flat spot / no flat spot, shallow rocker / high rocker, shallow flare / wide flare, and everything in between. In the olden days there was the standard McKenzie boat, the Rogue dory and the Briggs style boats. Now (thanks to the internet and sites like this) builders are designing all types of amazing lines!

Back to your specific question, Dories (Rogue and Briggs hulls) are very different from the standard McKenzie boat. Dories have more flare to the side, a long flat spot in the middle (for tracking and load carrying capacity), thus turning the boat is slower. McKenzie boats have more rocker, minimal flat spot (some modern designs have a little), less flare, thus less carrying capacity and more quick turning capability. If you deconstruct each boat, flatten out the sides on the floor, the McKenzie sides are straight cuts, the Dory has curved cuts at the front / back on the chine line (allowing more flat spot ultimately). Regarding bottom width, the choice is yours. In the olden days, most boats were 48 inches, conveniently the same width as a piece of plywood. Now even aluminum boats are going over 60 inches! A reasonable rowing boat is between 48 and 54 inches. It just depends on if you want it to fit down the Fish Ladder lining shoot at Rainie Falls or carry more gear and draw less water.

Safe Boating, Robb


If its free, its the perfect boat!  Add some floation and go for it.  If you are thinking about putting money into it I'd say build something closer to a Briggs.  You could still leave it open for most runs but deck it for the Main in spring or anytime on the GC.  I have a Briggs style and one similar to the pics (hindman 16 footer) see kellyneu.blogspot.com.  The flair and the chine line on the Briggs is crucial to big water and super fun to row.  The boat you show in the pics has much less flair to the hull and will tend to row fairly heavy in the water especially if you load it with gear.  It will be a submarine boat but bring a snorkle and a wetsuit and it will be a blast too!

Kelly,  I've followed your blog, reading it through several times, on my way to finishing my Briggs dory.  I thought you had moved on since I haven't seen (or have missed) you around here or on your blog lately.  It's nice to see your reply and have the chance to tell you again thanks for your help (along with many others) in my build.

Jon Snider

Colo Springs



You were able to right your boat alone…thats so cool!  I am currently designing my next whitewater dory and was wondering if I could bug you about some details of your boat.  Being able to solo right your boat is a huge safety factor.  Do you have any pics of your boat? Oh, and glad to hear you made it to Tequila Beach in an oxygen rich environment!


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