The Hunt for the Red Prospector

The canoe is a Canadian icon. One model in particular exemplifies the spirit of northern canoe tripping, it is known as the Prospector. The Chestnut Canoe company was based out of the maritime province of New Brunswick and was the leading producer of fine wood canvas canoes at the end of the 19th century. They created numerous models for all types of uses including the cruisers, trappers, freights, Ogilvy’s, pleasure canoes and of course the coveted Prospector.

Chestnut Canoe Company, based out of Frederickton, New Brunswick.

The Prospector stood apart from the rest, with the ability to be used in every setting. Spacious enough to accommodate an expedition, a moderate rocker to respond quickly in rapids, and a shallow arch for stability. Since the closure of the Chestnut Canoe Company in 1979, no other canoe design has been imitated as much as the Prospector.

Although Prospector canoes are still made today by numerous different canoe companies, the Prospector made out of Royalex ceased to be in production since 2014.

Richmond, VA to Erie, PA and back in less than 24 hours.

Royalex is a composite material developed in the 1970s.  It is light and very durable, ideal properties for any canoe. It is comprised of an outer layer of vinyl and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic with an inner layer of ABS foam. Unfortunately, PolyOne, a plastics company and producer of royalex at that time ended production of this material due to low demand. The last sheets were shipped out in December 2013. When word got out that royalex canoes were no longer in production, these canoes became highly sought after items. Especially by whitewater paddlers who swore by royalex canoes for their durability and lightweight.

Incidentally, one day while browsing the web, I came across a brand new one at a remote outfitter in New York state. After a series of quick phone calls, I learned it was a brand new 16ft red prospector at 52lbs. Almost half the weight of our Old Town Discovery of 3-ply construction. We decided it was time to act. We were prepared to make the drive from Richmond to New York. Fortunately, the outfitter was making a  trip to Erie, PA for an outdoor show and they would be able to meet us there with the canoe. This thankfully shortened our trip by 1.5 hours each way. On a snowy night on March 4, 2016 at 3:00am, we left Richmond in the hunt for the prospector to bring her home.


Nova Craft’s modern logo still features the Thunderbird.

Nova Craft Canoe was founded in Glanworth, Ontario in 1970. The company switched owners when it was purchased in 1986. Despite this change, Nova Craft kept its name as well as its original symbol. The Nova Craft emblem features the Thunderbird. The Thunderbird is an important symbol in several Native American tribes. It is of particular significance to the Haida of the Pacific Northwest as well as the tribes of the Great Lakes. It is said to be a being of supernatural size and power, capable of producing thunder claps with its great wings. This symbol is found on numerous cedar canoes of the Pacific Northwest tribes and usually holds the top position of totem poles.

Some thought we were crazy for driving 14 hours to pick up a canoe. Funny, we thought it would be crazy to not get her. If that’s what it takes to “paddle the truth north” (Nova Craft’s slogan). She’s now back in canuck hands. Welcome home girl.

7 thoughts on “The Hunt for the Red Prospector

  1. Great piece. I once heard someone say that a canoe, not a maple leaf, should have been on the Canadian flag. I agree. I was a canoe guide in northern New Brunswick when I was in my teens and early 20s. We used Old Town Discovery 169 canoes exclusively. Going back to my dad’s Old Town XL Tripper seemed like paddling the Titanic in comparison. When I moved to Colorado from Maine in 2005, I couldn’t believe how hard it was to find a Discovery here. They were a dime a dozen in Maine. I ended up buying one, but I’ve never been much of a lake paddler, so it hasn’t seen much use. Most rivers out here are too rough for a canoe. Anyhow, I’ll be on the lookout for a Prospector from here on out. They sound great. Happy paddles – the season is nearly upon us.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Much appreciated Mike. I love Old town canoes too, both the tripper and discovery are awesome. We were actually also looking for a tripper for a long time in royalex but unfortunately they were discontinued in 2014. You should def keep an eye out for a prospector.


  2. That was a great “Score”. You’re so right about the significance of the Thunderbird up here in the Pacific Northwest. In fact right next door my neighbor has a totem in his yard. I’ll be looking forward to seeing all the fabulous videos and stories from your travels.

    Liked by 1 person

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