Our hand-carved poles are made from white spruce and can be from 10' to 12' in length. They have an octagonal bottom section and a round tapered shaft with a choice of tips.
Read All About Canoe Poles...
One of the most common questions we get is "What's the best pole for me?"
Who knows who used the first pole to propel a canoe through shallow water but it's a pretty good bet that it was just a tree cut from the shore or maybe picked up from a driftwood pile or a beaver cutting. They probably trimmed the branch stubs off and went to work. It's not uncommon to do the same thing today, probably making it a little better, by adding a metal shoe made and carried for this very purpose. When the job is done the shoe is removed and the pole discarded or leaned in an obvious spot on the bank to be used by the next party through.
As simple and romantic as the above method sounds it has its complications. The pole selected should be straight, of gradual taper, and stump dried for lightness and toughness. I have seen miles and miles of river bank where a pole coming even close to that description can not be found. Nobody wants to use a club, a lead weight, or end their day covered head to toe with spruce pitch. The other complication, though not a bad one, is that after using a pole for a few days or weeks you kind of form a bond with it and end up taking it home, so you might as well have carried one with you anyway, and saved the initial search. If you do become a willing or unwilling victim of the pole search, a stump dried black spruce or tamarack is probably what you are searching for. Picked out of a thick stand, where they are all competing for sunlight, they will have the natural taper that will make them nice to use. Stump dried just means they have died in a standing position and have not started to rot. Watch out for rotten spots where they may break in use. If you have time to peel the entire length of the pole, it will help you identify any bad spots.
If you chose to forego the pole search and buy a manufactured pole you will probably have two choices of woods, ash and white spruce.
White spruce is both light and strong. I have never broken a spruce pole but have seen several and campfire talk seems to qualify my observations. When a spruce pole breaks, it seems to almost always break just above the shoe leaving you with a pole to finish the rapids and if you carry a spare shoe, a pole to finish the trip. Both are very handy attributes.
Ash, a hard wood, is heavy, strong, and tends to be whippy, meaning it tends to flex a lot. If your pole is to flexible you will lose some of your push energy to the pole. I very seldom use an ash pole and have never broken one or seen a broken one. Campfire talk leads me to believe that an ash pole will almost always break somewhere around the middle, leaving you with nothing to finish the pitch your in.
Most manufactured poles are between 10 and 12 feet long, although I have seen some ash poles as long as 14 feet. Diameter at the base is generally between 1 ¼ and 1 ½ inches and may or may not taper down to about 1 inch at the top. Poles made on a dowel machine usually have no taper. Our hand made poles ,unless ordered some other way, have a 1 3/8 inch octagonal bottom section for the first 3 to 4 feet and are about 1 ¼ inches round from there to the top. This configuration allows for a little more strength in the bottom section and we believe is more pleasing to the eye. If you are used to flipping your pole over and using both ends, make sure you order a pole that is of round contour from end to end. You may also want to have a shoe installed on both ends, maybe a heavy shoe on one end , and a light shoe on the other.
Here is the formula I use to determine the right pole length for me. A pole is most effective in water 4 feet deep or less. It is also less tiring and most handy if on each plant, you can walk hand over hand up your pole, gaining distance without having to replant the pole. Most canoes with a moderate load will displace about 6 inches of water, meaning your feet inside the canoe are actually 6 inches below the surface of the water. I am 6 feet tall. Here is how it works. 6' my height, minus 6" displacement, plus 4' or less, the depth of the water. 6'-6''=5'6''+4'=9'6'' leaving 2'6'' to walk a 12' pole on each plant in the maximum of 4 feet of water. My pole for all round use is 12 feet long.
I was going to end this by saying, by the time your done collecting poles you will probably have several. You will need to try a bank cut spruce or several, one or more manufactured ash poles, who knows how many manufactured spruce poles, looking for the lightest or that just right feel, and maybe even one or more of those new age aluminum poles, one and two piece. Sooner or later you will find yourself reaching for the same pole each time you leave for an outing, that is until you break it or someone special likes it more than you do, than the pole search starts all over again, unless you are willing to settle. Wow that was a qualifying mouth full! It was at this point that I finally awakened, until they put you in that box and put 6 feet of dirt over you, you will never stop collecting poles. If you are really lucky, and that special person in your life understands your sickness, that box may be 12 feet long so you may make that last journey with a trusted friend. Besides, who knows how straight the spruce grows where die hard polers go?
Canoe (Setting) Poles
Our hand-carved poles are made from white spruce and can be from 10' to 12' in length. They have an octagonal bottom section and a round tapered shaft with a choice of canoe pole shoes. The above prices do not include freight.