Souris River Quetico 17 compared to a Wenonah Minnesota II

Souris River Quetico 17 compared to a Wenonah Minnesota II

While standing on our beach of Jasper Lake, we are always asked to compare Wenonah canoes (usually MN II’s) to Souris River Quetico 17’s.  Our usual response is that there is no comparison if one is seeking a real wilderness/recreational canoe vs. a kevlar racing canoe. Then we also hear the myth about needing a canoe that it 18’6″ long “for  ‘serious’ wilderness tripping”.  Well, if you study the specifications below, you should see that although the Wenonah MN II is longer, it is also narrower and has a smaller overall payload capacity. 

I had the opportunity to take side by side photos of the two different brands/models  of canoes to help illustrate why a Souris River Quetico 17 is a better canoe for the vast majority of paddlers out there today.  Normally, I’d  just tell you verbally, but thru the wonders of the internet and my digital camera, I can now show you.  The differences are profound when someone actually points them out to paddlers with lesser trained eyes for canoe hull details.  All canoes are not the same, and they all have their purposes and markets.   If I’ve done my job correctly, you should see and understand what makes these two canoes so different and why one may be better for your needs over the other.

 SRQ-17  Wenonah
Length  17’3″  18’6″
 20″ 20″
Stern Height  20″ 16″
Width 35″ 35″
Center Height 13.5″ 12.5″
Bottom Shape See 1 See 2
Rocker 1.5″ 0″
Max Payload 1100 lbs. 950

1. Sharp V entry to shallow arch to flat bottom in center for 6 feet or so to shallow arch to sharp V exit
2.  Sharp V entry to shallow arch, to slight flat region in center 5 feet or so to shallow arch to sharp V exit

Note that while the MN II is longer than the Quetico 17, the payload is considerably less.  Based on my observations,  the MN II has a narrower footprint on the water than the Quetico 17.  Although it is about the same width in the middle by the carrying yoke, the MN II follows a racing-oriented design and becomes much more narrow as you head towards either end of the canoe.  While it is unlikely that you would ever take a canoe trip with your canoe loaded to maximum capacity (I don’t recommend it), you can pretty much infer that a smaller maximum payload canoe will settle into the water deeper than a larger payload canoe when both canoes are carrying equal loads.  This means you’ll have less freeboard (canoe sides sticking out of the water at the carrying yoke in the center) and could run into more problems than you bargained for in rough water.  Regarding rough water, I occasionally hear people who tell me that they will only paddle in calm conditions so that low freeboard and difficult turning on water really isn’t an issue.  If you believe that you can choose your wind conditions when you get out on the water, you’d be better off owning a boat because your dream-world won’t safely support a canoe.  Because the MN II has a zero inches of rocker, a shallow arched bottom,  and a very rigid hull due to it’s foam core construction, it is a very fast canoe when paddled by two, more skilled paddlers with no significant load.  However, when you load it and a Quetico 17 up with the same amount of camping gear and people the MN II travels at about the same fast clip of the shorter Quetico 17 but its freeboard decreases and turning it becomes more difficult which all canoes experience.


The MN II is on the left and the Quetico 17 is on the right.  Notice how much more narrow the Wenonah is compared to the Souris River. Compare air chamber widths as well.  It’s gunwales are straighter – the Souris River’s gunwales have more bow to them as well.

Q-17 vs MN II
Q-17 vs MN II


The MN II is on top and the SR on the bottom.  Just another angle to depict the differences in widths.  If you’ve had the opportunity to paddle the MN II from the front seat, you’ll note that your feet won’t fit side by side – it’s tight up there and not really accommodating for bigger guys.




The MN II in a vertical shot.  Notice how knife-like the hull is.  This canoe cuts thru incoming big waves like a hot knife through butter.  And that is not always good when you are not racing.  It is a Eugene Jensen hull designed to go from point A to point B in the straightest line.  That includes from side to side AND up and down.  Straighter equals faster in a race.   With the 20 inch bow cutting into the 24″ wave, it is not unusual for the front guy to get 4″ of water in his lap.  If traveling without gear, this is not a problem except if you hate getting wet like me.



The Quetico 17 is wider both fore and aft from the carrying yoke and less knife-like in the bow.  This canoe climbs up and over the waves even with a big guy in the more ample front seat due to the sharp bow entry into the water followed by the hull then flaring out into a shallow arch.  When plunged into a wave, the bow pokes in and then the wave gets under the flared area which starts about a foot ahead of the bow paddlers feet, and begins lifting the canoe up and over. Going up and over is not going to win a race from a speed attitude, but it does help you get to your destination in really rough water with your canoe sitting higher and drier.



The MN II two in their most popular kevlar layup uses a foam mat in the bottom which is sort of diamond shaped. It’s called the “foam core” and you’ll find this (or some derivation of it) in virtually every brand of kevlar canoe out there except for Souris Rivers.  From the foam core, Wenonah builds these ribs which run up the sides of the canoe as you can see the one in this picture.  There’s the SR Quetico 17 right behind it with the Flexible Rib System and flat-topped gunwales. Souris River uses a flexible rib system.  The floor is designed to flex on demand – that is when you drive the canoe over a rock or obstacle.  It does not move or flop up and down with wave action like you can see in cheaper plastic canoes.


This is the same rib as on the left, but I’ve circled a stress mark where the upright foam rib meets the edge of the foam bottom on the canoe.  While this MN II was used and in nice shape, just about every rib showed signs of cracking in varying degrees like you see above. This is caused by the side of the the canoe being flexed for whatever reason.  The most common activities that cause the most damage to this hull is lifting the canoe to your knee just prior to placing it on your shoulder. Also, setting it down too hard or dropping it when rolling it off your shoulders causes this as well.  The chine (where the side of the canoe meets the bottom) hits the ground a few too many times and this crack becomes a leak in a difficult place to make a lasting repair. The foam core in the bottom does not move, but the side of the canoe does.   Vinylester resin becomes more brittle with age.  After repeated flexing caused by bumping into objects and just ordinary handling, this area can be a weak spot that seeps water and because of the joint involved, it is harder to fix.  If the canoe has gelcoat on the outside (gelcoat = vinylester resin with silica sand and pigment), it’s even harder to repair and do a nice job.  Gel coated canoes will sometimes show cracking on the outside of the canoe right along the foam core line.  You’ll never see this with a Souris River Canoe.  They never use gelcoat.

Because of Souris River’s Flexible Rib System, you just don’t see this type of flexing damage occurring.



In this shot, you can see that the Souris River is wider throughout the canoe especially fore and aft of the carrying yoke.  It’s also 15″ shorter in length but because of its shape, it has increased wetted surface (the canoe’s bottom surface that rests on the water and is supported by the water). As a result of increase wetted surface, the Quetico 17 floats higher on the water and has a greater payload capacity than the MN II.  What this means is that when both canoes are loaded with equal weight, the Wenonah will settle deeper into the water and have less canoe sticking out of the water (freeboard).  The Wenonah has zero rocker which means that if you are not as skilled a paddler or do not have a front paddler who knows how to do a sweep, draw, or cross-bow-rudder maneuver,  you’ll have a miserably difficult time turning the MN II into a crosswind.  As a result, you may find yourself stuck broadside to the wind and waves.  With inadequate freeboard in this situation, you may get uninvited water in your canoe. This extra, unplanned weight from the added water will make your canoe sit even lower and your problems can grow quickly from there.

Note: Because the Wenonah was set up with a different style yoke, I just placed a wooden yoke over the right spot on the canoe for comparison purposes.  That’s why it’s sticking out on the sides and laying on top of the gunwales.



Souris River’s seats are more beautifully finished.  While this does not make the canoe float better, it was something that I noticed when taking these photos.  One thing is for certain – after selling thousands of Souris Rivers over the last ten years, we do know that the rivets (that hold the angle bracket upon which the seat rests) through the side never loosen up because the epoxy resin never breaks down.  If there was ever a seat/rivet breakdown in the outfitters’  Souris River rental canoes, we’d be the first to hear about it.



This is the way the seats are mounted in the Wenonah.  The angle brackets are internally riveted into the upright foam ribs.  Wenonah installed little reinforcing plates just under the rivets to make the mounts stronger, but we do know for a fact that these rivets can pullout and their holes in the kevlar can enlarge as various big folks paddle these canoes. Now in all fairness, it doesn’t happen all the time, but I do know outfitters who gripe about this rivet pullout in these canoes fairly frequently.  Chances are good that if it’s your private canoe, you may never experience problems with the rivets loosening up in your Wenonah.  But, if they do loosen up, how do you fix the foam rib?



This is a stern shot of the two canoes.  Here you can see the low 16″ stern of the MN II and the 20″ stern of the Quetico 17.  You can also see how straight-lined the MN II is compared to the upsweep in the Quetico 17 behind it.  That the rocker that allows you to turn the canoe from the back with less reliance on a skilled bow paddler.  Rockerless canoes like the Wenonah are made for racing.  Their straight-tracking design is based on “sit & switch” style paddling where each paddler strokes an equal amount of strokes on opposite sides of the canoe using bent-shaft paddles. The Captain of the canoe says HUT! to signify to the guy in front to switch to the other side simultaneously.  This makes the canoe scream down the lake.  It also requires a really straight tracking canoe.  They really steer by bulling the canoe around in the water.

Canoes with rocker require a different skill by the guy in the back.  While both paddlers stay on the opposite sides, the stern paddler steers by using a J-stroke, a draw stroke, or some derivation thereby.  The bow guy just paddles straight ahead.  The stroke goal here is 15 to 30 strokes per side and then switching to opposite sides when someone (whoever has tired arms) say to switch. In this case, the bow paddler’s main job is providing power and paddling straight ahead unless otherwise directed by the stern paddler.  The bow guy also watches for rocks and slows the canoe’s contact with shore.



For another perspective, here’s the back seat of the MN II.  It’s narrower than the Quetico 17 below.  Now if you have the skinny butt of a marathon paddler, this will probably fit you a reasonably well.  My derriere just barely fits in this puppy and I know many folks who might need a little butter to squeeze in between those gunwales.



The back seat of the Quetico 17 is wider than the MN II.  Most people can just plop down with little difficulty.  A wider higher seat is also nicer if you hunt ducks or fish.  You need to be able to swivel your butt to the side of the canoe.  The added height of Souris River seats is possible due to the excellent stability of the Quetico models.



Now if you look at the two canoes in the side by side shot up above, you can see that the Souris River is a higher volume canoe.  You can also see that it is not “tubby” when compared to the narrower MN II.   Technically, it is a bigger canoe with different properties.  It moves at a fast clip on the water and hauls a big load.

The MN II is a retired racing hull that was cleverly marketed as a wilderness tripping canoe thereby eliminating the need by Wenonah to design and build a new canoe mold.  This had to have saved them a lot of money while increasing their bottom line.  Being a capitalist pig myself, I see nothing wrong with making good business decisions and compliment Wenonah on the job they’ve done.  Wenonah has many happy & satisfied customers.   But as a rapidly increasing numbers of paddlers are seeking canoes that keep them higher & drier, are easier to control with increased durability and without the weight, Souris River Quetico 17’s are becoming the new norm in kevlar canoes for those seeking a good general purpose canoe to be used for large variety of uses.  To prove this point to yourself, try to find a private person who owns a Souris River Quetico 17 and is selling it used in search of different canoe type and hull.  With the exception of us and various other BWCA outfitters selling used Q-17’s, you’ll have your work cut out for you.