Wood Driftboat, negatives/positives?


Been there, done that
Over the years I have admired every/all wooden driftboats I have ever seen. Now that I am reaching a point of financial maturity/stability buying a drift boat is again back on the table. I have owned a Hyde combo in the past and overall it worked out just fine for all my needs. But that longing for a wood boat just won't leave. I have floated the McKenzie the past three summers in one and it was delightful. Building one isn't an option at this time, just no room in the garage and not much woodworking exp. But I have started to look at what's out there and have more questions than answers.

Although I grew up out on the OP, I now live in the greater Seattle area and seem to only hit rivers like the Yakima, Clark Fork, McKenzie, St. Regis etc.

Would anyone like to share their experience with a wooden boat, both positive and negative! I did search the archives and found a bit of input. Please feel free to email or PM privately if no one else wants to share.

Thanks, Becky

Also, I will be listing the Puma Aire I bought from Bhudda earlier this year. The raft is great and no complaints other than setting it up and taking it down continually is a pain. A trailer would solve the problem but limited storage space and a lake boat/trailer in the back yard is limiting my creativity. Going for the same price I bought it for, search archives for pictures if interested. Great shape, no patches, with frame, oars etc.


Well-Known Member
Wood boats are comfortable and handle well. You really need a dedicated garage or good carport for storage though. Continuous sun and weather exposure will increase your maintenance tenfold. If you had storage issues with the Puma Aire, I'm not sure that a wood drift boat will work out for you.



Help! I'm trapped in a landlocked state.
I'm building one now, so I'm a bit biased, but this is my opinion. The biggest advantage to wood boats is that they tend to be stiffer meaning that you don't lose as much energy per each oar stroke. They can also be lighter - I anticipate that mine will be about 50 pounds or more lighter than a commercial glass boat. A lot of people store them outside, but you do need to be careful about covering it.

There's a difference between stitch and glue boats and framed boats - both methods result in great boats, though. Each have their own following. There is some maintenance involved in owning a wood boat - you'll have to sand it and varnish/paint it every now and then. However, each time you do that you get a boat that looks brand new again. You can't really do that with a glass or aluminum boat; over time, they just keep showing their wear.

Just my opinion. Like I said, I'm a little biased. They all have their pros and cons, but they all get the job done and are a lot of fun.
If your serious think about PMing Nomlasder on this board. He builds wood drift boats and can give you a thorough run down of the positives and negative.


Active Member
Thanks Sloan

I like the fact I can drift the rivers is someting I made. All you guys that fish with rods and flys you made, feel a bit of pride, you hooked into your target species with something you created yourself.

I know the wood boats are quieter and warmer than the aluminum boats. I also know there is a bit more maintenance, but for me it only amounts to a weekend per year, sanding and varnishing. I also now have a repair to make as I have now experienced flipping one of my boats and put a hole in it. We made it down river to a levee and hauled out early. It's repairable, but like any thing, when you crash, things break.:beathead:

There is a balance between weight and toughness. Everyone that has rowed one of my boats, has commented how easy they are to row, after only a few strokes. It's that noticable. DB 6 is going with me to Montana in a couple of weeks, and DB 4 will be out of commision for a short while. I estimate the repairs will take about 20 hours.

There are a lot of good boat makers listed online from Greg Tatum, River Wood, Montanaboats, and several others. There is an outfit in the midwest that have some beautiful inlays in thier boats. Some of the boats are composites, where the shape is formed in wood and plywood, but coated in fiberglass and kevlar. Drop me a line if you want to hit the YAK and wet a line, and dip an oar.
I like wooden boats too. I do design and build them so I'm biased. But wood floats, and wooden boats float higher (with the proper amount of air tanks, or foam floation installed) in the water. A wood hull will float without them, but lower in the water. Fiberglass and Alum sink without their floatation tanks. Glass is easier to repair than Alum (cleaner edges after fixing), but wood is easy too. Plus once you buy the plans for a wooden boat, you can make new hulls when ever you break or sink the old one. With Glass you need the molds, and you need to be a sheet metal expert when working with Alum.

A well made (even for a first time builder), but rough looking hull will still get you down the river. It's for fishing, not for showing.

As the old saying goes " give a man a fish and he will eat that day, but teach a man to build a boat, and he can share that fish with the woman that lives on the other side of the river". ;)
I have a wood driftboat and love it. I have rowed everything with pegs for forty years.
If you are a guide and need a boat that is part of your commercial "product" then by all means get a tin or frozen snot boat. They won't let you down unless you can't row, and the best they will look is when you get them home from the dealer.
If you have an aluminum boat and ride a wood boat you will curse your self for ever more because of the racket they make and the way they row (they are a "DRAG") in comparison to a wood boat. If you have a fiber glass boat and ride a wood boat you will curse your self because the wood boat will track better and will be beautiful in comparison to any glass boat.
If however you don't need your boat to row every day and spend some of your days enjoying the aesthetic pleasure of a boat made from natural material with it's own character, then you NEED a wood boat.
I looked at my wood driftboat today after reading all of your comments and saw that scar from a rough ride on the Sol duc (my fault) and the scrape from someone trying to help me load my boat when I was cleaning fish (probably my fault too) and many other scratches and scrapes from many days on the river. I thought to myself, this old wood boat has seen about 50 days on the river this year, a light year for this boat. I might replace some parts this year between springers and the summer runs, but maybe not. The point is, I can replace any part of this boat (myself) at my leisure and at my pleasure. This old boat will be around for many years to come.
By the way, Don Hill built this old woody in 1986. I recently bought it from a very good friend after he had rowed and taken good care of it for the last twenty years on most of the rivers on the coast.
Now it's my turn to take care of it for the next twenty years.
Tom C.
Wood is definitely warmer, lighter and quieter. Mine were a both with a natural finish, so I spent a lot time applying spar varnish every year, but the result was so beautiful it was worth every minute spent. You can really bond with a wood boat more than glass or metal.

The only positive advantage I saw left out in this thread was the ability to cover a wood boat's the bottom and chine with UHMW plastic. This both protects the most vulnerable areas and makes the wet plastic unbelievable slippery. You can then run (quietly) over riffles that that chew up glass bottoms and stop aluminum bottoms cold. When you hit a rock, the chine will slide off instead of sticking tight the way aluminum does. Coating the metal hulls with Gluvit helps, but it doesn't perform like the plastic.

Like the man said, if you can keep it inside, get wood. If not, the weather deteriorates wood painfully fast. You can leave the Alumawelds out in the rain year round and replace the deck every few years.

I used to run a lot of the big rivers like the Deschutes and Rogue in wood and metal, but would not feel as secure in glass. I'll probably catch a lot of flack for saying so, but I've seen guys wear holes through their boats from the inside out with loose loads in big water, and when you hit rocks, it's more technical to repair glass.
I interpret your question to be kinda like this:

I'm all grown up, I've owned a few boats, I have a pretty darn good idea what I'm doing and I know that the wood boat will take more maintenance but I really wonder, is it worth it?

Forgive me for being presumptuous but, that's what I hear.
I've built a few boats and used a few boats and wrecked a couple boats and even burned one boat and my answer to you is in the form of a question: .....ok, a few questions::)

When you look at your current boat, how do you feel about it's current condition and what you do to take care of it?

When you think about the turnaround, do you do it with a shuttle, a friends rig, a bike, hitchhiking, or a 1969 Honda 90?

True or false: The scents of varnish, laquer thinner, meranti, and epoxy resin are wonderful and they match the olfactory delight of the finest colognes ever made.

True or False: Garages are for boats, cars were made to be stored outside.

You must know the answers to these questions without prompting or you are unlikely to be a happy wooden boat owner.:ray1: :clown:


David Loy

Senior Moment
Becky, I just saw this post. If you are interested in a great boat builder, I can recommend Ray's River Dories. I had them build a boat in 1997/98 and was frankly quite amazed at their craftsmanship. Ray and Cyrus will build your boat as if it would be their own.
If you'd like to see an example, PM me. I'm in NE Seattle.