Northstar Canoes: Bell is Back in Black-Lite

Northstar Canoes Magic

Back in the good ole’ days when I used to work retail, we carried Bell Canoes. They were made in Minnesota and were the perfect canoes for traveling the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which was where our customers were heading. If you don’t know that Boundary Waters, you should. It’s a 1 million acre wilderness area that is only one of two wilderness areas in the U.S. designated specifically for canoes. It’s also America’s most used wilderness area. In the BWCA, you travel from lake to lake using portages that you carry your gear over. Bell Canoes were light, efficient at touring speed and nice and stable. They also handled nicely and maneuvered well. Loving canoeing, I bought a couple for myself. The first was a Wildfire and the second was a Magic, both were solo canoes. Eventually, Bell sold out and then that business stopped making the canoes. You couldn’t buy some of the finest designs for touring.

That is until now.

northstar canoes logoTed Bell is back and is now building 7 different touring canoes that are based on the old Bell designs in three different layups including the awesome carbon/Kevlar combo called Black-Lite, Kevlar Lite and White Gold (fiberglass and Kevlar for durability and low cost). He’s building them under the Northstar Canoes name (Facebook page: Northstar Canoe). I know lots of paddlers mourned the loss of Bell Canoe and their canoe models, so this is great new for those fans. I feel like I can go back to beating the snot out of my Magic, because I can get a new one again!

Here’s the new Northstar Canoes lineup:


Northwind 20 – 20’6″ (was North Shore)
Northwind 18 – 18’9″ (was Northwoods)
Northwind 17 – 17’6″ (was Northwind)
Northwind 16 – 16’6″ (was Northstar)

Performance Touring

Magic – 16′ (was Magic)
Northwind Solo – 15’6″ (similar to Merlin II, but designed by Carl Yost, the son of David Yost. It’s Carl’s first solo design.)

Double Blade Touring

ADK Solo – 12′

River Touring

Phoenix – 14’6″ (Wildfire/Rockstar Solo)

One thing you may notice is that on the tandem canoes, the shouldered tumblehome is gone. The specs for the width show the maximum width and the gunwale width as the same, but the lineup is similar. And not only is the lineup similar, I just heard that the old trailer that was used to deliver canoes to retailers in the past is going to be used. That’s kind of geeky canoe-insider info, but fun to know.

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  • I am excited to check out the Phoenix. I wonder if it will have differential rocker like the plastic wildfire/yellowstone solo or symmetrical like the composite wildfire. The Freestyle crowd should be excited. Aside from the boutique makers the only thing like the fire series is the Esquif Echo, which is also plastic.

    I thought the 16’6″ was the Northstar. The composite version was great, but the Royalex version was shorter and nowhere as nice to paddle. Maybe they changed the name of the Royalex version to Morningstar to match the 15’6″ composite morningstar. All the Northxxxx and xxxxStar names got really confusing. I remember the 16’6″ and 18’6″ boats as being a bit narrower/faster and the 15’6″ and 17’7″ as a bit wider. Good to see that they are back.

    I don’t have any affiliation with them but Colden Canoes has some of the old Bell designs and is making the Wildfire, Flashfire, and Starfire.

    • This is the last year for plastic Royalex. After this year, it’s being discontinued, so all those plastic canoes will need to be remolded unless someone can figure something else out — maybe thermoform…

      You’re right on the Northstar. Updated.

  • Looks like the Phoenix is 3″ of rocker in front and 2.5″ in back. Piragis has specs and prices.

  • I just purchased a Northstar Northwind 16 6. in black gold with cherry gunnels from Raquette River, in Tupper Lake, NY. I changed the rear thwart to a kneeling thwart, so I could paddle solo. It is well made.

    • I just ordered a Northwind Solo in black lite, also through Robbie and Anne, here in Tupper Lake. Can’t wait!

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