November 16, 2022 12 min read

Square Back Canoes

Kid on an Old town square stern canoe

Canoes offer a fantastic way to get out on the water enjoying nature, but they can often be tiring to paddle, especially if they’re loaded up with gear and people. Square stern canoes are the answer to all your prayers as they have the ability to add on a motor thanks to their square-backed design. 

Following an in-depth review of 5 of the best square stern canoes on the market, come and check out the finest canoes for anglers or hunters that require a bit more oomph than a paddle can offer. If you’re on the hunt for your next canoe, then you're in the right place! If that wasn't enough, you lucky lot are also treated to a buyers guide ensuring you walk away with the perfect canoe for your needs.

GILI’s Top Picks: By Budget

Best Budget
Sun dolphin scout ss canoe
Sun Dolphin Scout SS

The Sun Dolphin Scout SS is a fantastic budget square stern canoe that is crafted from rugged UV-stabalized polyethylene and features built-in seats and fishing rod holders

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Best Mid-Range
Discovery sport 15
Old Town Discovery Sport 15 Square-Stern Recreational Canoe

Old Town’s Discovery Sport 15’ square stern canoe can hold a whopping 1,536 pounds, making it an ideal choice for families or anglers with excess gear. The canoe features three nylon webbed seats, a full-length stabilizing chine, and beams to support stability.

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Best Premium
Grumman square stern
Grumman 19’ Square-Stern

This 19’ canoe can be paddled by both beginner and experienced paddlers thanks to its stable 40” width. With a total weight capacity of 1100 pounds, you’ll be able to paddle along with all your necessary camping, fishing, or hunting gear. 

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5 of the Best Square Stern Canoes

Grumman 19’ Square-Stern

Grumman square stern

Dimensions Weight Capacity Check Price

19’ x 40”

119 lbs

1100 lbs

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The Grumman 19’ Square Stern Canoe is the longest canoe on our list, and due to its extended length, it is a popular choice for professional guides and outfitters. This isn’t to say, however, that beginner paddlers should skip straight past, as the 19’ Square Stern is still fairly lightweight and easy to maneuver. 

During the design process, Grumman Canoes opted for an aluminum hull and added 12 ribs and a Bulb T keel to give the canoe added strength in the water. Along with this, they ensured that the canoe can carry up to 1100 lbs making it an excellent option for fishing or duck hunting when the excess gear is necessary.

The length of the canoe could make it slightly tricky for beginner paddlers to get the handling (don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it in no time,) but they’ll have no issue with stability as the canoe is 40” wide. When it comes to watercraft, the wider the hull, the more stable it will be, so even if you plan on fishing from the 19’ Grumman Square Stern, you’ll be able to cast and reel from a standing position with little to no trouble. 

Of course, one of the biggest benefits of a square stern canoes is the fact that you can add a trolling motor to the rear end. Grumman constructed their 19’ canoe with a transom gusset of tough .125 aluminum, and they even included motor pads so the boat can handle boat motors of up to 5 horsepower. If you opt for the 19’ Grumman Square Stern, then good news! Your paddling trips just got, even more, relaxing because now you can pack in the paddle and rely on a motor. Unless you run out of fuel, that is. 

When it comes to transportation, you should be able to transport the 19’ traditional canoe on a standard car roof rack system due to its reasonably lightweight design. With that being said, however, it’s important to check your roof rack’s limits, as all cars and systems are different. 

Pros & Cons

  • The Grumman 19’ Square Stern is suitable for beginner paddlers, intermediate paddlers, and experienced paddlers. 
  • Although the canoe is 19’ long, it is still fairly lightweight and easy to maneuver, which is what makes it suitable for paddlers of all abilities. 
  • Grumman wanted a durable canoe, so constructed the 19’ Square Stern from aluminum and added 12 ribs and a Bulb T keel. 
  • This multi-purpose canoe is suitable for recreational paddling, fishing, or hunting.
  • You can add a small outboard motor to the square stern to enhance the canoe’s speed and performance.
  • Longer canoes are often difficult to transport, but due to the 19’ Square Stern’s lightweight design, it should fit on most standard roof rack systems.
  • The Grumman 19’ Square Stern canoe is considerably pricey. 

Esquif Canoes Heron

Esquif heron canoe

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14’6” x 38.5”

69 lbs

800 lbs

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Esquif Canoes Heron Square Stern Canoe is a great multi-purpose canoe that you can adapt and transform into the perfect fishing, hunting, or recreational vessel. Even though the canoe itself weighs only 69 pounds, it is able to carry up to 800 pounds, which is ideal for small families, or anglers and hunters with a considerable amount of gear. 

Something we particularly love about the Heron canoe is that Esquif Canoes added a foam core hull material that not only insulates the canoe from cold water, but also acts as a sound buffer to help you creep up on fish, birds, and other animal species. The best fishing canoes require silence on the water, which is why the Heron is one of our top picks for anglers. 

Beginner paddlers and families with fidgety children will appreciate how smooth, balanced, and stable the Heron is as Esquif Canoes designed it to be 38.5” wide. If you are a family with fidgety children, the center, front and back webbed seats will certainly come in handy. This allows small families to get into nature and enjoy some family bonding time.

If you don’t fancy paddling for hours upon hours, then a 3-horsepower motor can easily be added to the square stern of the Heron. The motor is completely optional, but it will help you get to your favorite fishing spots far more efficiently. 

Pros & Cons

  • The Heron is lightweight with an 800 lbs weight capacity making it ideal for small families, hunters, or anglers. 
  • Esquif Canoes added a foam core hull material to insulate the canoe and make it as quiet on the water as possible. 
  • Its 38.5” wide hull makes it smooth, stable, and balanced.
  • It features a front, back, and middle seat for three, potentially four passengers. 
  • You can add on a 3-horsepower motor.
  • The Heron features vinyl gunwales to improve the canoe’s overall rigidity. 
  • The 3-horsepower motor maximum may not be fast enough if the canoe is loaded to its maximum. 

Old Town Discovery Sport 15 Square-Stern Recreational Canoe

Discovery sport 15

Dimensions Weight Weight Capacity Check Price
15’3” x 40” 114 lbs 1536 lbs Old Town

If you’re after a canoe with an incredibly generous weight capacity, then look no further than the Old Town Discovery Sport 15’ Square Stern Canoe. This multi-purpose canoe can hold a whopping 1,536 pounds ,allowing you to pile in your family, your camping gear, your fishing gear, and pretty much anything else you’d ever need for a weekend out on the water. 

Now, you’d think that a canoe that can hold up to 1,536 pounds is going to be heavy in itself, but you’ll be surprised to find out that it actually only weighs 114 lbs. This reasonably lightweight design means that two paddlers can easily carry the canoe down to the water’s edge and even load it onto a car roof rack system. 

Old Town wanted to ensure that their canoes were dependable for years to come for years to come, so they designed the Discovery Sport out of three layers of durable and sturdy polyethylene. They also added a full-length stabilizing chine and a generous beam to improve stability. Polyethylene is what most traditional kayaks are made from as it doesn’t rust, is lightweight, and can withstand everyday wear and tear.

The interior of the Discovery Sport, like many other traditional canoes, is fairly simple as it features three nylon webbed seats, comfortable carrying handles, and oar sockets to secure your oars in place. If you do intend on adding a motor to the Discovery Sport, then Old Town has recommended that it doesn’t exceed 4 horsepower and that you change the weight capacity to 4 people or 800 pounds.

Pros & Cons

  • The Discovery Sport can hold a generous 1536 pounds, making it ideal for families, camping trips, fishing trips, or hunting.
  • You can transport the canoe on a standard roof rack system. 
  • It is made from three layers of polyethylene which is incredibly durable and strong.
  • The boat can manage a 4-horsepower motor. 
  • Carry handles inside the canoe allow for easier transportation to and from the water.
  • If you were paddling solo, the canoe may be difficult to transport.

Mackinaw SS Square Stern Canoe

Mackinaw SS square stern

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15’6” x 42”

104 lbs

800 lbs

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The Mackinaw SS Square Stern Canoe by Sun Dolphin has made its way onto our list because of its sleek, eye-catching design and unique features. Sun Dolphin constructed the Mackinaw SS from rugged UV-stabilized high-density polyethylene, which is extremely durable and a popular material choice for watercraft. 

Thanks to its square stern, paddlers have the option of adding on a 2 horsepower motor for those days when paddling traditionally isn’t favored. This canoe is best suited to electric trolling motors, and although it isn’t going to be the fastest boat out on the water, the motor will still make a considerable difference. 

As we mentioned previously, what we love about this canoe are its additional features. The first is its center seat, which doubles ups as a dry storage area for belongings or a cooler for drinks and snacks. The Mackinaw SS also has paddle holders to prevent you from loosing your paddles to the water, and drinks holders molded into every seat so you can stay hydrated throughout the entirety of your trip. 

Pros & Cons

  • It is made from rugged UV-stablized high-density polyethylene, which is a very durable material.
  • You can add on a 2-horsepower motor. 
  • There is a dry storage area under the middle seat which doubles up as a cooler.
  • Sun Dolphin included drink holders in every seat, so you’ll always have water on hand.
  • Your paddles won’t drift away from you, thanks to the paddle holders.
  • The Mackinaw SS can only manage a 2-horsepower motor which may not be efficient enough for some paddlers. 

Sun Dolphin Scout SS

Sun dolphin scout ss canoe

Dimensions Weight Capacity Check Price

14’ x 38”

84 lbs

765 lbs

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Not everyone has the budget to splash out on an expensive canoe, and Sun Dolphin understood that, so they created a budget canoe that gives you the freedom to get out on the water without heavily damaging your bank balance.

The Scout SS canoe is fairly similar to Sun Dolphin's Mackinaw SS which we mentioned previously, however, the Scout is shorter and narrower. Sun Dolphin used the same materials to create the Scout as they did the Mackinaw, so both canoes are crafted from rugged stabilized high-density polyethylene. 

With the Scout SS, you can add on a 2-horsepower electric trolling motor to the sturdy square back transom, or you can choose to paddle traditionally depending on your preference. Throughout the hull of the Scout SS, there are three seats, all of which are molded to aid in the canoe’s flotation.

Something Sun Dolphin included in the Scout SS that other canoes on this list don’t have, is built-in rod holders so you can easily transform the canoe into a fishing vessel. Of course, you can also use it as a recreational canoe, but the ability to adapt is a huge benefit. 

Pros & Cons

  • The Scout SS is a budget option canoe.
  • It is crafted from rugged UV-stabilized high-density polyethylene, which is durable and strong.
  • You have the option to add on a 2-horsepower electric trolling motor.
  • The canoe can carry three passengers and gear weighing up to 765 lbs. 
  • The Scout SS features rod holders, making it a great option for anglers. 
  • The Scout SS can only manage a 2-horsepower motor which may not be efficient enough for some paddlers.

Square Back Canoes vs Regular Canoes

Red Old town canoe

If you’re new to the canoeing world, you’re probably wondering what the difference is between a regular canoe and a square back canoe. The two are fairly similar, however, a square-back canoe gives you the ability to add on a motor. 

Traditional canoes are pointed at both ends and can only be powered by a paddle, whereas the square design of a square back canoe allows you to clip on a motor that does all the hard work for you. 

Motors come in handy when fishing or hunting as they get you to your chosen spot on the water fairly efficiently. They’re also beneficial when heading out on a canoe camping trip, as the increased weight on board the canoe can make the paddle that bit harder. Square stern canoes really give you the best of both worlds as you have the option of a motor or a paddle.

Square Stern Canoes Buying Guide

If you’re thinking about purchasing your first (or next) square stern canoe, then there are a few things you need to pay attention to, in order to determine which option would best suit you. 


The first thing you’ll need to consider is the canoe’s length. When it comes to canoes and kayaks, the longer the boat, the faster it will move through the water. If speed is a big priority for you, then you should opt for the longest canoe possible. However, if stability and maneuverability outrank speed, then a shorter and more manageable canoe would be better suited to you.

You’ll also need to think about how you’re going to transport your canoe. Extremely long canoes, more often than not, require a trailer, whereas shorter canoes can be transported on a standard roof rack system.


another important aspect to consider. The wider the canoe, the more stable it will be on the water. If you’re a novice, or if you’re planning to hunt, fish, or camp from your canoe, the smarter decision would be to purchase a canoe that is over 38” wide. More experienced paddlers can opt for slimmer canoes as the narrow hull will improve the canoe’s overall speed. 


Man pulling his red canoe

Ideally, you want your canoe to be around for years to come, so the materials it is made from is something you don’t want to skim over. Ensure that the materials of your canoe are durable and strong such as wood, aluminum, molded-plastic, or fiberglass composite. 

Seat Configuration

The seat configuration will all come down to whether you want to paddle solo, with a partner, or with your family. Solo canoes will have a seat positioned in the center of the canoe, whereas canoes suitable for two paddlers will have a seat at the bow and stern.

Consider how many people will be paddling with you at any given time and base your decision on these figures. It’s important to remember that solo paddlers can paddle a two-person canoe on their own, as long as they evenly distribute their weight with gear. If you think you’ll occasionally be paddling solo and occasionally tandem, then a two-person canoe would be the better option for you.

Weight Capacity

Weight capacity is something that many paddlers don’t consider, but it is actually extremely important. If you were to overload your canoe, it would sink slightly into the water, which would then make it incredibly difficult to handle and maneuver. 

Before you purchase a canoe, it is recommended that you calculate your weight, the weight of any passengers, and the weight of any gear that you’ll be taking out with you. From there, you can compare this total figure to the maximum weight capacities of the canoes you’re considering.

You want to ensure that you’re ideally 25% under this weight limit so if you upgrade any gear or if you switch out paddling partners, you’ll still be under the maximum capacity.


Canoes are fairly simple boats, and unlike kayaks, they typically don’t include many features. Some canoes will come with cup holders or storage, but many are, more often than not, bare-bone boats.


🏆 Are square stern canoes good?

If you’re on the hunt for a new canoe, then a square stern canoe would be a fantastic option. Square stern canoes aren’t considerably different from a traditional canoe, however, they do give you the option to add on a motor if you so wish.

This ability allows you to turn your canoe into a motorized boat that can then transport you, your family, and your camping gear, for example, to remote spots that aren’t accessible by larger boats. 

👍 Are square stern canoes more stable?

Square stern canoes are typically more stable than standard canoes as they were designed with fishing and hunting in mind. Anglers and hunters require more stability from their canoes as they’re frequently moving when casting, reeling, or shooting at their catch. As the back of a square stern is flat and slightly wider than that of a traditional canoe, the stability of the boat is increased. 

🏝️ Can you paddle a square back canoe?

Square back canoes are extremely versatile as you can paddle them traditionally, or you can attach a motor to their back. Paddling a square stern canoe is no different from paddling a standard canoe. 

❓ What do you call a canoe with a flat back?

Canoes with a flat back are called square stern canoes. These canoes are compatible with trolling motors, but you can also paddle them as you would any other canoe.

Jay Regan
Jay Regan

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