The Best Canoe Paddles

A canoe paddle is a vital piece of equipment for canoeing, second only to the canoe itself. That’s obvious. Whether you’re a die-hard canoeist or a recreational enthusiast, choosing the best canoe paddle does not have to be a difficult task, but there are a few design features worth considering. Do you prefer the classic styling of wooden paddles, or do require the most modern carbon fiber models? Is a straight shaft paddle the right choice, or would a bent shaft paddle better suit your needs? What is a bent shaft, anyway? We’ve got the answers to these questions, and more, below.

And, after looking at dozens of different canoe paddles, we have identified the best on the market for several different types of canoeing fun. As we researched these canoe paddles we considered factors such as material durability, blade shape, and shaft styles to choose our top picks, and then we provided a list of many other great canoe paddles and highlighted their important features for you to browse.

Best Canoe Paddle Overall
Bending Branches BB Special
The Bending Branches BB Special excels as an everyday canoe paddle that perfectly blends comfort, efficiency, and durability into its timeless design.

Once our research was complete we chose the Bending Branches BB Special as our overall top pick. This canoe paddle was constructed with care by passionate canoeists, and its refined design is a testament to its top-quality craftsmanship.

The 5 Top-Rated Canoe Paddles

Editor's PicksBrandRating
Best Canoe Paddle OverallBending Branches BB Special4.9
Best Whitewater Canoe PaddleCarlisle Aluminum T-Grip Canoe Paddle4.7
Best Budget Canoe PaddleSun Dolphin Canoe Paddles4.5
Best Recreational Canoe PaddleBending Branches Arrow4.4
Best Youth Canoe PaddleCarlisle Youth Wooden Canoe Paddle3.8

*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change

Best Canoe Paddle Overall: Bending Branches BB Special

The Bending Branches BB Special is a high-performance canoe paddle that has been designed for the everyday canoeist. Its well-rounded, high-quality design enables it to succeed in all waterways from the backyard pond to the whitewater run of your favorite backcountry river. Canoeists of all skill levels can appreciate this paddle, and, being that there are multiple lengths to choose from, nearly anyone can use it.

This is a bent shaft paddle with an 11-degree bend that better positions the blade for an ideal stroke. Though this paddle can be used almost anywhere that a canoe can go, its bent shaft design makes it the perfect paddle for long touring trips on flat water. You’ll be able to acquire more thrust with less effort thanks to this shaft design. The teardrop-shaped blade strikes a balance between the wider and thinner blades on the market, making it a suitable choice for nearly any canoeing occasion.

The entire paddle is comprised of Wisconsin wood. The red alder, basswood, and maple are all easily identifiable in its design. Together they make for an attractive look that is also lightweight, durable, and buoyant. The weight of each paddle varies by the length you choose, but they’re all well under two pounds. A proprietary Rockgard coating adds resiliency to the end of the blade by protecting it from rock damage and other abrasive surfaces.

Bending Branches BB Special Key Features:

  • 11-degree bent shaft paddle
  • Rockgard protected blade tip
  • Red alder, basswood, and maple wood construction
  • Classic palm grip

Best Whitewater Canoe Paddle: Carlisle Aluminum T-Grip Canoe Paddle

Best Whitewater Canoe Paddle
Carlisle Aluminum T-Grip Canoe Paddle
An all-purpose paddle that’s built to take a beating, the Carlisle Aluminum T-Grip Canoe Paddle is the right choice for a trip down the rapids.

Featuring all of the elements that go into making a great whitewater canoe paddle, but designed to look like a generic all-purpose paddle, the Carlisle Aluminum T-Grip Canoe Paddle is a hidden gem. Or at least it was hidden, until now. It has the durability, grip, and shape needed in a true whitewater paddle. Whether you’re paddling hard to avoid a fast-approaching log, or pushing off of rocks to find the best line through the rapids, you can rely on this paddle to help get you through those intense moments.

At its top, the T-grip handle is the handle you want for the instantaneous transitions between precision movements in those hairy situations. The T-grip is easier to grab and reposition than the flat palm grips found on most other paddles. Below that, the tempered aluminum shaft is burly, and it also travels through the entire length of the blade to provide strength and stability throughout the entire paddle. It’s also buoyant which is a plus if you accidentally drop it into the river.

The blade may not look like anything special, but it is made of high-impact polypropylene. This blade can handle the rough stuff. You can push off rocks, logs, and dirt with this paddle no problem. The plastic may scratch, but it’ll take quite a lot of pressure to break it. The blade’s eight-inch width is fairly thin which is a great attribute for whitewater canoeing. Thinner blades can maneuver much easier than wider blades. This thin plastic blade can be shoved into tight crevices, twisted, push, and pulled, and when you get past the rapids it can paddle faster than a duck’s foot.

Carlisle Aluminum T-Grip Canoe Paddle Key Features:

  • Blade and handle are high-impact polypropylene
  • Tempered aluminum shaft
  • One-pound carry weight
  • One-year warranty

Best Budget Canoe Paddle: Sun Dolphin Canoe Paddles

Best Budget Canoe Paddle
Sun Dolphin Canoe Paddles
A single Sun Dolphin Canoe Paddle at this price would be a decent deal, but the fact that you get two paddles makes it an offer you cannot refuse.

The Sun Dolphin Canoe Paddles are the best bang for your buck in the world of canoe paddles. They’re constructed similarly to how our top whitewater canoe paddle is made, making them a lightweight and durable paddle option. These Sun Dolphin paddles have a couple of unique features unto themselves, though, such as its two-piece shaft design that can be broken down for compact storage.

Those aluminum shafts have a push-button mechanism that locks in, and can be used to separate, the two separate pieces of the shaft. The metal construction is quite resilient, and it is designed to float if dropped in the water. It’s two-piece design, however, does mean that water can seep into the shaft over time. Make sure to empty out the collected water between uses, and don’t let it float in the water for an extended period of time or it may sink on you.

The plastic T-handle is just like that of our top whitewater canoe paddle pick. It’s easy to grip, even for small hands, and can be used to maneuver the paddle efficiently in tricky situations. The blade is made of plastic as well and has a curved design that aides in paddling by scooping the water and increasing propulsion. More plastic worth mentioning are the included drip rings that fit around the paddle shafts. These rings catch the water as it slides up and down the shaft, causing it to drip off of the canoe paddle before it can drip off into the boat or onto your hands.

Sun Dolphin Canoe Paddles Key Features:

  • 54-inches from end to end
  • Two-piece aluminum shaft construction
  • T-grip handle
  • Two paddles for the price of one

Best Recreational Canoe Paddle: Bending Branches Arrow

Best Recreational Canoe Paddle
Bending Branches Arrow
The Bending Branches Arrow is a classically designed, well-rounded canoe paddle that is designed to be as straight as a, well, an arrow.

Built in much the same way as our top overall pick, but with a more versatile straight shaft design, the Bendin Branches Arrow is the best recreational canoe paddle available today no matter the type of canoeing you undertake. This wooden canoe paddle excels for all of the same reasons that out top overall pick does– it’s made of top quality materials, has a refined design, and is made by passionate canoe enthusiasts in the midwest of the USA.

What sets this blade apart from our top pick is its straight shaft design. This classic style is best for beginners and intermediate canoeists who are still learning different strokes. Though this straight style excels in rivers, rapids, and highly technical waterways, it is also more than sufficient for the calm waters of lakes, canals, and estuaries. A comfortable palm grip has been fashioned at the top of the paddle, and the ovalized shaft provides a uniform grip along its entire length.

Sourced from the forests of Wisconsin, the red alder, basswood, and maple wood that make up this canoe paddle showcase the pride of the people who make up the northern Wisconson-based company that builds these paddles. They are beautifully designed and well-protected. A fine varnish coats the entire paddle, and the company’s proprietary Rockgard technology has been applied to the blade’s tip to protect it from rocks and other abrasive surfaces that you may use to push off of or that reside under the water’s surface.

Bending Branches Arrow Key Features:

  • Straight shaft paddle available in three lengths
  • Rockgard protected blade tip
  • Red alder, basswood, and maple wood construction
  • Classic palm grip

Best Youth Canoe Paddle: Carlisle Youth Wooden Canoe Paddle

Best Youth Canoe Paddle
Carlisle Youth Wooden Canoe Paddle
Make your child an official part of the paddling team with a Carlisle Youth Wooden Canoe Paddle.

Does your child want to join in on the fun of paddling the canoe around the lake, but your adult-sized paddles are too unwieldy for their short arms? Then the Carlisle Youth Wooden Canoe Paddle is the best choice for you! There are two youth sizes to choose from, making this the ideal canoe paddle for toddlers, teenagers, and the kids between. It looks like a real paddle, rather than a toy, because it is a real, functioning canoe paddle. Your kid will love it!

The blade and shaft are completely made from basswood for that authentic canoe paddle feel and capability. Wood makes for better youth canoe paddles for two reasons. One, the construction is more flexible than aluminum or carbon fiber– a trait that reduces shock and allows children to feel the water they are paddling. Two, wood is effected less by temperature swings, and so your child’s hands will stay warmer for longer than if they were holding onto a cold metal or plastic paddle.

This is also an extremely lightweight paddle, with both 36 and 42-inch sizes weighing in at a pound or less, and the straight shaft design is the right choice for beginners. The classic, minimalist design provides a blank canvas for your child to decorate. This can be a great way to spend some family time together while making the canoe paddle their own. Once your child grows to the point that they require an adult-sized paddle, this small child’s paddle can serve as a decorative piece for your property.

Carlisle Youth Wooden Canoe Paddle Key Features:

  • 36 and 42-inch sizes
  • Laminated basswood construction
  • Weighs under a pound
  • Straight shaft design

Who Should Buy a Canoe Paddle

Anyone who has a canoe or wants to purchase a canoe should absolutely buy several canoe paddles as well. Canoeists should have a proper paddle for each person they intend to bring along in there canoe. A family of four, for example, should have appropriately sized paddles for each adult and one or two youth-sized paddles for the children.

Canoe paddles are also a popular crafting project. You will find several inexpensive classic wooden canoe paddles on our list that be an awesome canvas for your next art piece.

Those wanting to head out onto the water, though, will want to make sure they have the proper supplies they need. Dry bags are a must-have canoeing accessory to ensure that your valuables don’t succumb to water damage, and a pair of gaiters can help protect your legs from the pokey brush along the water’s shore.

Best Canoe Paddle Overall
Bending Branches BB Special
The Bending Branches BB Special excels as an everyday canoe paddle that perfectly blends comfort, efficiency, and durability into its timeless design.

Important Features to Consider

There are a few important considerations to think through before purchasing a canoe paddle.

  • Paddle length. Choosing the correct paddle length is necessary to prevent you from having to lean from side to side during each stroke of the paddle. Some paddles have telescoping shafts that can be adjusted on the fly, but most paddles are built to a specific size and so you must know your preferred paddle length before you order them. We’ve put together a step-by-step process for figuring out your ideal paddle size below in the FAQ.
  • Straight or bent. The most common type of canoe paddle you will see is the straight shaft paddle, but it may not necessarily be the best choice for you. Straight shaft paddles are best used on rivers and other highly-technical waterways where you may need to pull out tricky maneuvers every so often. Bent shaft paddles are far better for lakes, ponds, and other calm water locations where comfort and serenity are the top priorities.
  • Blade shape. Deciding on the correct blade shape may be as important as the shaft design. Wide beavertail style blades are better at propulsion and are usually featured on bent shaft paddles. Thin blades can be used to maneuver around rocks and other obstacles much more easily, and so they are often associated with straight shaft paddles.
  • Materials. Traditionalists prefer canoe paddles constructed of 100% wood that has been covered in protective coatings such as polyurethane. These paddles can be quite comfortable and durable, but they can also be made rather cheaply and splinter or crack after use. Wood also floats which is an often overlooked benefit for a canoe paddle. Aluminum, plastic, and carbon fiber paddles cany all have varying degrees of comfort and strength as well, but they tend to be more resistant to abrasions and abuse than their wooden counterparts.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a canoe paddle and how does it work?

Canoe paddles are used to propel and direct a canoe by those who are sitting inside of it. All canoe paddles feature a top grip, a long shaft, and a paddle blade. These paddles are often made from wood, carbon fiber, aluminum, and plastic. Many canoe paddles are built to a set length and have solid shafts, but some canoe paddles have telescoping shafts that can adjust the length of the paddle to best fit its current user.

There are two types of blade shafts to choose from: bent and straight. Straight shafts are the traditional style and are the most common type. They excel as river and whitewater paddles because their design enables tight maneuvers and they hold up well against sudden impacts. Bent shafts are best used for relaxed cruising on a lake or pond. A bent shaft paddle is designed to promote correct positioning of the paddle blade as well as a comfortable grip that doesn’t fatigue its user.

What size of canoe paddle do I need?

The answer truly relies on your own personal preferences, but we can provide some general guidance so that you can order the proper size of canoe paddle online. Many of the paddles featured on our list have helpful sizing guides on their product pages, but we can help you figure out the correct size paddle on your own at home. Here is how you can measure yourself to determine the right paddle size for you.

First, you should simulate sitting in a canoe by setting up a pile of books on your floor that is equal to the height of your canoe seat. Second, sit on those books and measure the distance from your chin to the floor. Third, take that measurement and subtract the draft of your canoe (use three inches if you do not know this exact number). The end result is the length that the shaft of your straight canoe paddle should be. Those who want a bent canoe paddle should subtract another two inches.

What type of canoe paddle do I need?

Choose a bent canoe paddle if you intend to most often canoe on serene waters, such as those of lakes and ponds, where you can lackadaisically spend a day cruising from shore to shore. Choose a straight canoe paddle for trips into rougher waters like rivers and bays where more technical maneuvers will need to be made. Thin-bladed paddles are best for direction and control while large beavertail paddle blades are best for thrust.

How do you size a bent shaft canoe paddle?

Use the method we described above in the previous question about sizing. Generally, bent shaft canoe paddles should measure about one or two inches shorter than a straight paddle would for the same person.

Other Canoe Paddles We Reviewed

Best Canoe Paddle Overall
Bending Branches BB Special
The Bending Branches BB Special excels as an everyday canoe paddle that perfectly blends comfort, efficiency, and durability into its timeless design.

We looked at 20 other canoe paddles. Even though they didn’t make our five best canoe paddle list, they’re the best of the rest and each is still a great option for enjoying a day on the lake in your favorite canoe. The information you’ll need to compare each one is included with the listing.

Bent Canoe Paddles

Bending Branches Black Pearl II

Bending Branches Black Pearl II

The Bending Branches Black Pearl II is the most lightweight paddle offered by Bending Branches. This carbon fiber paddle features an 11-degree bend and reinforced edging. Compared to most other paddles, this one is supremely lightweight and durable, making it an excellent choice for expert canoeists who want a long-lasting, less fatiguing paddle.

Key Features:

  • Carbon shaft and blade
  • 11-degree bend
  • Weighs 16 ounces

Cost: $250

Bending Branches Viper

Bending Branches Viper

A top-tier wooden canoe paddle, the Bending Branches Viper features a fiberglass-wrapped blade and an 18-laminate shaft, both of which are constructed of attractive light and dark woods. The shaft has a double bend to keep the wrists aligned as you paddle to reduce fatigue on long outings.

Key Features:

  • Fiberglass wrapped light and dark woods
  • 11-degree double bend
  • Curved palm grip

Cost: $180

CISIBOOK Carbon Fiber Canoe Paddle

CISIBOOK Carbon Fiber Canoe Paddle

The CISIBOOK Carbon Fiber Canoe Paddle is a single-piece paddle with a double bend and a 23cm wide blade. There are eight different lengths to choose from ranging from 46 to 53 inches in length, providing an acceptable size for nearly anyone.

Key Features:

  • One-piece carbon fiber paddle
  • Double bend
  • Eight lengths to choose from

Cost: $130

ZJ Sport Hybrid

ZJ Sport Hybrid

Not only are there multiple lengths of the ZJ Sport Hybrid to choose from, but there are also three different blade sizes available, enabling you to pick the right paddle for the type of canoeing you need it for. The aggressive 12-degree bends in this paddle are all about comfort and fatigue reduction.

Key Features:

  • Wood, carbon fiber, epoxy resin, and PMI foam construction
  • Multiple blade sizes to choose from
  • 12-degree double bend

Cost: $150

ZJ Sport Tahiti

ZJ Sport Tahiti

The ZJ Sport Tahiti ditches the ‘hybrid’ status of the last model by removing the wooden shaft from the equation. As a result, this Tahiti model is lighter in weight and has a more unified appearance. The rest of the design is the same, and, as with the last, there are different length and blade size options to choose from.

Key Features:

  • Carbon fiber, epoxy resin, and PMI foam construction
  • Multiple blade sizes to choose from
  • 12-degree double bend

Cost: $165

Straight Canoe Paddles

Attwood Wood Canoe Paddle

Attwood Wood Canoe Paddle

If there is any canoe paddle on our list that stands out as an iconic canoe paddle based upon its appearance, it would be the Attwood Wood Canoe Paddle. It has a classic, cookie-cutter design and is completely made from wood. Simplicity in design is the hallmark of this paddle.

Key Features:

  • Five feet long
  • Premium wood construction
  • Ergonomic top grip

Cost: $30

Bending Branches Impression

Bending Branches Impression

A high-quality double-bladed, solo canoe paddle can be difficult to find, and the Bending Branches Impression is certainly one of the best available on the market. Both blades are comprised of basswood and have rock guard edging for enhanced durability. The two-piece construction makes storage easy.

Key Features:

  • Dual blade solo paddle
  • Basswood blades
  • Rock guard blade edging

Cost: $225

Bending Branches Java

Bending Branches Java

The Bending Branches Java is for the traditionalist canoer who wants a high-quality wooden paddle with an eye-catching design. The paddle is made entirely of basswood, and the paddle’s design is made with dark, roasted basswood that will be the envy of your peers. The fiberglass blade coating and Rockgard edging ensure this blade will last for many years to come.

Key Features:

  • 100% basswood construction
  • Fiberglass coated blade
  • Rockgard edging

Cost: $150

Bending Branches Slice Glass Solo

Bending Branches Slice Glass Solo

Essentially an extended version of the company’s top-selling kayaking paddles, the Bending Branches Slice Glass Solo is a long-reaching, dual blade solo canoe paddle with durable polymer blades that will slice through the water with ease. It has 0 to 60-degree offset options for a customized feel, and it’s two-piece design allows it to be broken down for convenient storage.

Key Features:

  • Dual blade solo paddle
  • Polymer blades
  • Two-piece construction

Cost: $160

Carlisle Outfitter Canoe Paddle

Carlisle Outfitter Canoe Paddle

Thanks to its durable plastic and aluminum design, the Carlisle Outfitter Canoe Paddle has an incredible strength to weight ratio. It’s a great choice for beginners because it will hold up well to the rigors of rough water.

Key Features:

  • Xenoy plastic blade
  • Aluminum and polyethylene shaft
  • One-year warranty

Cost: $50

Carlisle Scout

Carlisle Scout

The Carlisle Scout is an excellent wooden paddle for beginners and those who like to take their canoe through the rapids. It has a urethane tip guard to protect the laminated basswood from rock damage, and it comes with a one-year warranty.

Key Features:

  • Laminated basswood construction
  • Urethane tip guard
  • One-year warranty

Cost: $80

EMSCO Group Canoe Paddle

EMSCO Group Canoe Paddle

A versatile paddle that can take a beating as good as any other, the EMSCO Group Canoe Paddle is made of tough materials like anodized aluminum and polypropylene which are resistant to dents and scratches. The rubber grip sleeve is a nice addition that provides great grip and is soft to the touch.

Key Features:

  • Polypropylene, aluminum, and fiberglass construction
  • Rubber grip sleeve
  • T-handle design

Cost: $35

Youth Canoe Paddles

Attwood Short Wooden Paddle

Attwood Short Wooden Paddle

The Attwood Short Wooden Paddle has an old school design that radiates with tradition. It’s the type of paddle your child might use on a boy or girl scout trip, and you can replicate that experience at home with this 2.5-foot long all-wood paddle.

Key Features:

  • 2.5 feet long
  • Premium wood construction
  • Ergonomic top grip

Cost: $15

Better Boat Collapsible Paddle

Better Boat Collapsible Paddle

Compact and lightweight, the Better Boat Collapsible Paddle is an excellent paddle for a child that can grow with them. The telescoping design allows for the length to be extended from 19 inches up to 35 inches, but can be locked into place at any length in between. Aside from being a great paddle for youths, this can also be a handy emergency paddle that can be easily stored in tight spaces.

Key Features:

  • Extends from 19 to 35 inches
  • Telescoping aluminum shaft design
  • Plastic handle and blade

Cost: $25

SEAFLO Child Telescoping Paddle

SEAFLO Child Telescoping Paddle

The SEAFLO Child Telescoping Paddle has an adjustable shaft that extends the length of the paddle for 21 to 42 inches, it floats, and it weighs only one pound. The bright yellow color is easy to see if dropped in the water or left behind on the shore.

Key Features:

  • Extends from 21 to 42 inches
  • Telescoping aluminum shaft design
  • Fiberglass reinforced polypropylene handle and blade

Cost: $25

SeaSense Telescopic Mini Paddle

SeaSense Telescopic Mini paddle

There’s a running theme here in the youth paddles, and for good reason. Just like the previously mentioned youth paddles, the SeaSense Telescopic Mini Paddle has a telescoping aluminum shaft and a bright plastic blade. This one is less expensive than the others, though, and could be considered the best budget youth canoe paddle on our list.

Key Features:

  • Extends from 22 to 42 inches
  • Telescoping aluminum shaft design
  • Impact molded blade and handle

Cost: $13

Budget Canoe Paddles

Attwood Aluminum Canoe Paddle

Attwood Aluminum Canoe Paddle

Functional and sturdy, the Attwood Aluminum Canoe Paddle is a bare-bones aluminum and plastic paddle that works well for its intended purposes. It may not win any beauty contests, and it does not have any telescoping functionality, but it’s a solid paddle that can withstand years of use.

Key Features:

  • Five feet long
  • Aluminum shaft with a polypropylene grip
  • Straight plastic blade

Cost: $20

Caviness Marine Twin Stripe Paddle

Caviness Marine Twin Stripe Paddle

The Caviness Marine Twin Stripe Paddle is an attractive and affordable wooden paddle. The pinstripe design gives it character. A wooden wedge has been added to the center tip of the blade to provide extra strength during push-offs and contact with rocks.

Key Features:

  • 3.5 to 6-foot length options
  • Wooden wedge insert in the blade
  • Pinstripe design

Cost: $19

Crooked Creek Wood Paddle

Crooked Creek Wood Paddle

Featuring an epoxy rock guard tip and a polyurethane finish, the Crooked Creek Wood Paddle has been crafted with an attention to detail that is usually reserved for more premium canoe paddles. Users have praised the attractive and durable finish of this paddle time and time again.

Key Features:

  • 3.5 to 6-foot length options
  • Multi-ply laminated wood with a polyurethane finish
  • Brown epoxy blade tip

Cost: $19

Shoreline Marine Propel Paddle

Shoreline Marine Propel Paddle

What you see is what you get with the Shoreline Marine Proel Paddle. It has an aluminum shaft that features a soft foam grip at its base. The bright yellow plastic blade and handle are quite durable and will certainly be easy to see no matter where you leave it. There are multiple lengths to choose from.

Key Features:

  • 4 to 5.5-foot length options
  • Aluminum shaft with foam grip
  • Plastic blade and handle

Cost: $15

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