Best Canoe Paddles for the Boundary Waters & Quetico

canoe paddles for the boundary waters

5-minute read • [Updated April 6, 2023]

When you head into remote wilderness areas for a canoe trip like Minnesota’s Boundary Waters or Canada’s Quetico, you need paddles you can depend on.
What makes a canoe paddle especially suited for these kinds of extended trips? Three things: Durability, lightweight and design.

Bending Branches has specialized in handcrafting wooden canoe paddles worthy of multi-day wilderness canoe trips since 1982. We’ve since added carbon fiber to a few expedition models as well.

Here’s why you’ll want one of our paddles designed for touring for your next (or first) multi-day wilderness canoe trip:

Extreme Durability and Comfort

We start with a combination of close-grained, tough but light hardwoods or 100% carbon fiber for the blades, depending on the model.

The blades are shaped for maximum torque in the water. We then apply our patented Rockgard® edge protection all the way around the blade. Finally, we add either 2 or 4 ounces of fiberglass wrap around the blade for an extra layer of toughness.

On our two carbon models we add a nylon weave Edgegard protection that seals the carbon and adds extra durability—years to your paddle’s life.

The shafts are made from either the same durable 18-laminate hardwoods or aviation-grade carbon. We use a few different types of paddle grips depending on the model. All are extremely comfortable on your hands for long days on the water.

We have customers who still use our paddles ten, 20 and even 30 years after purchase! That’s true durability.


We’re also passionate about keeping our paddles to the lightest weight possible so you have less fatigue over many days of canoeing. You may not think a few ounces would matter that much. But when you paddle all day for many days, your muscles will notice the difference and thank you for it!

man in canoe with Bending Branches Black Pearl canoe paddle

Canoeist with our Black Pearl all-carbon paddle (photo courtesy of Paul Villecourt)

We have two expedition paddles made of carbon and one made of a combination of carbon and wood. These are our lightest paddles—just 16 and 17 ounces. You’ll barely know you have it in your hands.

Our all-wood paddles in this touring line range from 19 to 24 ounces, depending on how many ounces of fiberglass have been applied for that extra level of durability.

Many Models Have a Bent-Shaft Option

Bent-shaft paddles are designed for high efficiency with every stroke. They’re perfect for the many lakes of the Boundary Waters, Quetico and other wilderness canoe destinations. Add this efficiency to their light weight, and your muscles have double reason to thank you!

Five of the expedition canoe paddles feature an 11º bent-shaft option. The other five are straight-shaft models.

These Paddles are Designed for Your Wilderness Trips

(NOTE: 2023 prices)

Black Pearl 11 and Black Pearl ST

If light weight is your top priority, you’ll want one of our Black Pearl models. They’re our lightest canoe paddles at a mere 16 ounces each. They’re all carbon from tip-to-tip with reinforced Edgegard nylon protection along the blade.

The Black Pearl 11 is the bent-shaft model, providing extreme efficiency for long days on the water with an MSRP of $279.95. The Black Pearl ST is the straight-shaft version with an MSRP of $269.95.

Sunburst 11 (bent-shaft) and Sunburst ST

The Sunburst 11 (bent-shaft) and Sunburst ST (straight-shaft) have an MSRP of $269.95 and $259.95. These premium paddles are made with an ultra-tough and lightweight carbon shaft—the entire paddle weighing a mere 17 ounces. 99-square inches of blade is wrapped in two ounces of fiberglass. The blades are made of basswood, roasted basswood and red alder in a stunning sunburst design.
two canoe paddles lean on a red canoe on the shore of a wilderness lake
Sunburst and Java straight-shaft canoe paddles (photo courtesy of Martin Trahan)


Expedition Plus

The straight-shaft Expedition Plus has an MSRP of $194.95. Its Rockgard® protection extends around the blade edges and six inches up the shaft—the most of any of our paddles. 4 ounces of fiberglass wrap covers 126 square inches of blade. Made of basswood, roasted basswood and red alder, it weighs 24 ounces.


The Viper is a double bent-shaft paddle, taking efficiency and comfort to the next level. A weight of 22 ounces, a large 128.5-square inch blade and its double bend make this the best choice for reduced fatigue on long trips. It’s made of basswood and roasted basswood with an MSRP of $194.95.

Java 11 and Java ST

The Java 11 (bent-shaft) and Java ST (straight-shaft) are our lightest all-wood paddles, at only 19 ounces each. Their MSRPs are $189.95 and $179.95 respectively. They’re made of basswood and roasted basswood, with 118-square inches of blade wrapped in 2 ounces of fiberglass.

Explorer Plus

The Explorer Plus is a long-time favorite straight-shaft paddle made of basswood and roasted basswood. Its MSRP is a very affordable $159.95. The beefy 126-square inch blade is wrapped with 4 ounces of fiberglass. It weighs 23 ounces. This is one of our best-selling canoe paddles.

Cruiser Plus 11

The Cruiser Plus 11 is the Explorer’s next-of-kin but with a bent-shaft design. It’s crafted of basswood and roasted basswood and sports a large 128-square inch blade wrapped in 4 ounces of fiberglass. This is our most affordable bent-shaft paddle at $169.95. It weighs 22 ounces.

coffee cup says "worry less, paddle more" sitting on a Boundary Waters map

(Photo courtesy of Kirsten Voorhees)

Which will be your next paddle for your wilderness canoe adventures?

Do you have questions we can help you answer? Get in touch with our friendly customer service team today: [email protected] • 715-755-3405

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