Drift Boats from Boulder Boat Works Combine Old-School Craftsmanship with Modern Materials
Not all drift boats are created equally. From the heft and fragility of fiberglass and wooden boats to the noisiness of aluminum hulls, options have left anglers and river rats wanting for something more. That conundrum is what inspired Boulder Boat Works' original founders (a finish carpenter and an ER doctor) to start tinkering in their garage 18 years ago. They landed on using a high-molecular-weight polyethylene—usually reserved for finishes on bigger, center-console boats—for the hull, due to its light weight, durability, and flexibility. In fact, the welded polymer hulls are about half the weight of a standard fiberglass one.
Boulder Boat Works boats are so light and agile, says company spokesperson Matt Kelsic, that oversteering initially is common. "They are the Ferraris of drift boats, and many people over-correct when they row one for the first time," he says.
He adds that, unlike boats with fiberglass or wooden hulls, these McKenzie River–style dories are durable enough for novice rowers. (The hulls are so tough, they come with a lifetime guarantee.) Yet, they're also smooth and elegant enough to make them covet-worthy for anglers of all levels.
The design and materials also make it easier to stay on top of fish when you've found a good spot and to maneuver through rapids and over rocks that would damage many other boats or leave them high centered. In fact, these boats draft up to 40 percent less water at the chine, meaning they can float in mere inches. One local angler, Lizzie Strazza, said it's the only boat she's floated down the Roaring Fork River year-round.
Everything on these handmade boats can be customized, from the position of the seat and foot pedals to to wood and interior finishes, trim colors, and even interior layout. That said, now's the time to order one for next summer, as each boat takes between 100 and 120 hours to complete.
Originally based in Longmont, Boulder Boat Works recently made the move to Carbondale under new owners. Their goal is to convert every local fishing guide into using the boats. The Little Nell also uses one for its angling clients. Outside of the valley, you'll find these boats from Canada to Chile, in two different styles: the Guide and the Guide Pro, which has the same hull but offers more wood finishes to choose from. Both styles come with high or low sides, based on your home waters. The high-side models are a perfect Colorado go-anywhere, do-anything kind of boat. The low-side version is better in windy spots along wide-open plains.
This winter the Boat Works crew is working on developing a two-man dory, as well as bringing back the Grand Canyon dory. From $10,000, boulderboatworks.com