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Clark Fork Drifter
Purchase plans from Duckworks

Designed as a stable lightweight boat that can be fitted out for whitewater or casual fishing, this Clark Fork Drifter is a downsized and much simplified version of our commercial Grand Canyon dory. It can be compartmentalized for moderate whitewater or left mostly open for recreation or fishing. Scaled down to a manageable size for amateur builders, the 14 foot hull has a beam of 62 inches to provide wide stance stability for rough water and standing while casting, and with a weight of less than 130 pounds for lightweight versions it can also be cartopped to avoid the hassle and expense of a trailer. The wide-bottom hull becomes even more stable when loaded, enhanced by the rockered shape of the hull.   

The light weight of the boat allows a larger payload, but the real advantage comes in getting the boat on and off the water. To make launch and retrieval easier the graphite bottomed boat can be dragged over parking lots, launch ramps and gravel beaches, preventing having to be lifted or trailered into the water, and the epoxy/graphite mixture is applied around the chine seam to form a waterline.  

The hull is constructed by lacing together thin plywood panels with plastic ties which are gradually tightened to hold components in position while a concave shaped bead of thickened epoxy is applied to hull seams. Vertical compartment bulkheads are installed at the same time to secure hull panels at the correct angle, and fiberglass tape is subsequently applied to outside seams. Topside panels have straight line edges on top and bottom to simplify the patterning process and are joined with epoxy glued doubler pads which reinforce the hull at critical locations and provide a simple and efficient method to join the plywood.

Large sealed storage compartments at each end provide structural support in the hull, secure dry storage, seating for passengers and a safety margin of emergency flotation should the hull accidently fill with water. In calm water the compartment decks can be used for seating or support while standing to cast, and also provide a handy work or picnic surface. Additional compartments can be added to boats used primarily in whitewater and are easy to build using the ply/epoxy technique, and compartmentalization options are discussed in the building plans.

The midship seat slides fore and aft for trim to accommodate one, two or three occupants and multiple oarlock sockets are easily installed at various locations on the gunwale to adjust to various positions. The sliding seat is supported by a handy tackle shelf on each side attached to small partial bulkheads which add support to the lightweight ribless hull. The aft compartment provides an ideal seat for a passenger and there is another removable thwart seat forward. For additional comfort pivoting plastic seats with backrests can be bolted atop compartments or onto thwart seats.   

The transom can be reinforced for a motor mount and a small gas or electric motor can be fitted for covering miles or working upstream against current, and the convenient aft compartment can be built to isolate and store fuel or a battery inside a watertight compartment.   

The gunwale is a traditional ladder type with spacer blocks separating inwale and outwale strips, and provides resilent stiffness to the sheerline to handle the stress of hard rowing and side impacts and also provide support when rolling the boat over for storage.

The building plans include 32 pages of sketches, photos, and detailed step-by-step all written for first-timers and amateurs.  Builders tips and many options are discussed and the builder is encouraged to modfiy the boat to suit individual needs.  We are also available via email.  The building plans are conversational, and like the boats do not take themselves too seriously, and will be available shortly after the boat publishes in the June/July 2008 issue of Outdoor Life magazine. 

Hi Paul, I finally built your clark fork drifter and I love it. I added fiberglass to the bottom and sides plus cabinets for "dry" storage. My wife, kids and I have been down the North Fork of the Flathead, Middle Fork of Flathead, main stem of Flathead several times. Also the Clark Fork and Bitteroot as well. The best was the upper Swan River hunting elk out of it…called in a small bull from the boat that wasn't legal. I haven't finished it, it's like living in a house that a guy is still building. Once I finish the bench and oarsman's adjustable seat I'll send you some photos. Anyway, wanted to let you know that your plans have brought a lot of fun and joy to a family in Kalispell. Will be buying more plans from you…something for the lakes around Kalispell. Have to finish a remodel first.
Kalispell, MT

…..this new drifter is just about what we talked about a few years back when I built your guide boat, and I’m glad those guys at Outdoor Life finally got you to build a proper drifter with a little rocker.  I took the whole family out when we launched the first time and we hummed around Lake Union with the trolling motor.   Sandy.  Seattle


Paul....I built a rack with rollers on one end to allow me to lift and roll the drifter right up on my truck rack on top the cab-level camper.  The overall weight came in just under 150 pounds but I added a large watertight compartment under the middle seat which gives me a lot more storage and I used some real nice Philippine mahogany trim wood.  By lifting half at a time I can load and unload it by myself.  It would sure be nice to make my annual Alaska trips without messing with that darn trailer and still have my boat with me.  I tried hauling it upside down with transom forward like you suggested and the end of the transom sticks down in front of the windshield a little bit so I can keep my eye on it, and my wife thinks the truck looks better with the boat on top anyway.   Frank.   Bozeman, Montana


…..this ply/epoxy technique is more like building model airplanes than boats.  I never liked measuring and cutting all those bevels and angles.   Paul.  Florida


Thanks for sending the drifter plans along in time for my husband’s birthday.  Hes been looking at those plans and was really surprised I got them.  Bertha.  Roswell, New Mexico


Paul…..I remember you lived in Montana many years back and I used to see your boats in Outdoor Life magazine, and now I’ve been transferred to Missoula.  This new drifter looks perfect.  Mostly we just take the family out and drift around but its good to have a cartopper since I don’t have a place to park a trailer anyway.    Joel. 


Paul....Heres my drifter in the garage with the last coat of varnish. I lined the floor and deck with Dupli-color bed liner, and the hull with Brightsides Sea Green. Will be putting hardware on this week (hatch, Oarlocks, Anchor System). Thanks for a fun project. Ken

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Paul, heres some pictures of our Clark Fork Drifter when we first put her in the  water.  We really enjoyed our first outing at Tally Lake near Whitefish Montana.
What a pleasure to row, she tracks well and turns on a dime.  I was  amazed how well she carried yet turned easily.   I think you have a hit here.
Next stop the Flathead River.  Thanks again.

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Doctor David's drifter

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