Bow to stern of a canoe - Canoe Parts and Materials

In this video, Zack explains all the parts of a canoe and the different materials that they can be made from. Going from the bow, he explains everything from skid plates to thwarts. We hope you find this helpful!


Glossary of Canoe Parts

The Bow

is the front end of the canoe; you can easily spot the bow by looking at the seating arrangement. The front seat is located further from the end of the canoe to provide legroom for the bow paddler.

The Stern

is the back end of the canoe where most of the steering is done. Easily identified as the stern seat will be positioned closest to the flotation tank.


is the left side of the canoe, looking from the stern towards the bow.

Starboard Side

is the right side of the canoe, looking from the stern towards to bow.

The Beam of a Canoe

refers to the width of the canoe at its widest point. This will be in the centre of a symmetrical (traditional) canoe and between 3″-5″ aft(behind) of the yoke in an asymmetrical (modern) canoe. 

The Canoe’s Hull

is the body design of the canoe, which sits in and displaces water and provides the canoe’s buoyancy. Different bottom and side hull designs each have their own advantages.

Canoe design video and blog coming soon!

Gunwales (Pronounced 'Gunnels')

refer to the upper edges of the sides of the canoe. Wood gunwales consist of two pieces, inner & outer gunwale, that sandwich the boat's upper edges and are usually attached by Phillips screws. Aluminum or vinyl gunwales consist of a one-piece extrusion set onto the canoe's upper edges and attached by rivets.

Scuppers or Scalloped Canoe Gunwales

are elongated slots (2 to 3 inches long) cut into the inner & outer gunwales. These slots (normally 4 each side of the carrying yoke) help relieve water from the canoe when cleaning, act as fastening points, and is an ascetically pleasing finishing touch to a wood-trimmed canoe. Some manufactures also offer scalloped deck plates as well.

Deck Plates

are the triangle-shaped pieces of wood that are fastened between the gunwales at either end of the canoe. They provide a convenient handhold for carrying and a place to attach a painter line.

The Thwart

is a cross piece that attaches to the canoe’s gunwales two-thirds of the way back from the bow. A thwart's purpose is to provide structure and support to the gunnels and sides of the canoe’s hull.

A Kneeling Thwart

replaces the normal thwart (about 6 inches aft) and is fitted on an angle to enable kneeled solo paddling. It takes weight/stress off both the paddler’s knees and ankles while still providing canoe structure & rigidity.

A Deep Dish Carry or Portage Yoke

has two purposes; to balance and carry the boat on your shoulders and act as a center thwart providing structure & rigidity to the canoe.

Canoe Seats

are usually where you prefer to sit! The bow seat is wider and is fastened to the gunwales furthest from one of the flotation tanks. The stern seat is narrowest and is fastened to the gunwales closest to the other flotation tank.

The Keel

is a narrow strip, which runs along the bottom of the hull from bow to stern. Keels provide better tracking and act as a bang plate to take most of the bangs and wear.

Canoe Stem Bands or End Plates

Brass or aluminum strips that follow the curved ends of symmetrical canoes. (Asymmetrical canoes may have Kevlar stem bands but never brass or aluminum). Stem bands help prevent wear to the canoe’s ends through impact relief.

The Ribs of a Canoe

Shallow “U” shaped pieces that push outwards on the inside of the canoe’s hull to add strength & rigidity in some canoes.

Note: Some quality fibreglass and Kevlar canoes do NOT have ribs, as the manufacturers have chosen to add a core stiffening material to the canoe’s hull instead.


Replacement Parts/Hull Repairs

Many parts of a canoe can be replaced, and damaged hulls can sometimes be repaired. We carry some repair parts, but we can also make recommendations. Give us a call or send us an email with some details of your repair or the parts you're searching for, and we can do our best to set you up.

Replacement Yokes


New Canoes

We carry and can custom order new canoes. Please browse our website for an idea of what we carry and can get, but give us a call or send us an email for more information. Let us know what you're looking for, and we can likely find it for you.


We hope you enjoyed this article. Should you have any suggestions or changes to improve it, please call 613.376.6220 or email [email protected]

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Frontenac Outfitters