Buffalo canoes taking to Arkansas waterways.
The Buffalo is more a river - it's a canoe, too.
Harold and Rosalyn Gordon have been renting canoes and boarding lodgers at Gordon Motel and Canoe Rental at Jasper (Newton County) for 27 years. With the Buffalo National River in their back yard, business has been good.
About four years ago the Gordons acquired a mold to make canoes of Royalex, a laminate made with ABS plastic, and Buffalo Canoes began. They set up a permanent facility to make canoes about 2 1/2 years ago.
"We've sold 700 or 800 in the last year and a half," Harold Gordon says.
Most of that business is with canoe liveries and retailers, although anyone can order a boat.
"Walk-ins, walk-ups, fly-ins, anybody - we will sell you a canoe," Gordon says.
The mold the Gordons use was made by Uniroyal Plastics Co. in Mishawaka, Ind. According to Harold Gordon, it is a prototype mold that Uniroyal sold to canoe manufacturers such as Old Town, Mohawk, Mad River and Blue Hole.
"This is the original mold that started everybody out in the business," Gordon says. "It was made 28 years ago."
Manufacturers have come up with various changes in weight, length and shape over the years, but the basic building block of the boat - Royalex - has remained the same.
Royalex is made with layers of ABS, which stands for acrylonitrile butadiene stryene. The layers include hard plastic, flexible plastic, foam and flotation. Uniroyal has been making ABS plastic since 1938.
Gordon says he can create 15-foot, 8-inch boats that weigh 55-80 pounds, depending on the thickness of the Royalex. They can carry 650-700 pounds, have a center depth of 13 3/4 inches, a bow height of 25 inches and a width of 33-35 inches at the center thwart. The boat he makes for liveries weighs 68-73 pounds.
The process, though it involves hard work, is simple.
"We put it in an oven, bake it to get it soft, put it in a vacuum mold and then add whatever they want on it," Gordon says. Making a boat, including trimming excess plastic, takes about two hours.
Options include caned seats made of kiln-dried ash that can be given a natural or dark finish. Seats of plastic also can be used. Plastic or metal gunwhales can be installed.
Gordon also offers a long list of colors. If you've seen a purple or pink boat on the Buffalo River this spring, it probably was a Buffalo Canoe.
"We got all colors - black, yellow, green, pink, purple, turquoise, teal, aqua, you name it we got it." Gordon says. "You might have to wait a little while to get the color you want, but we can do it."
What's the bottom line?
"A plain canoe with plastic seats and gunwhales is $700," Gordon says. "They're $750 with ash seats."
Outfitters and others who buy 10 or more boats at a time get a discount, of course, but Gordon wouldn't reveal the bulk rate.
The Gordons, including sons Ricky and Gary, hire up to eight workers. "We can work with a few as four," Gordon says. "The business keeps us working year-round. We do it all right here."
Buffalo Canoes, as far as Gordon knows, is the only manufacturer of Royalex canoes west of the Mississippi River.
Besides making boats, the Gordons stay swamped during spring and summer with rental of up to 110 canoes, shuttle trips and running a motel. When asked how business was going so far this year, Gordon said it's hard to judge.
"Most of our business is return business," Gordon says. "You don't really know how you're doing until the end of the year."
Gordon knows how Royalex canoes fare on the Buffalo River, though.
"We've been floating them about 19 years in our business," Gordon says.
Kerry Moore, owner of Moore Outdoors on Big Piney Creek (Pope County), says Gordon has corrected some early gunwhale and seat glitches with the boats.
"He's making a pretty good boat now," says Moore, who has been buying Buffalo Canoes for several years. Moore says it's handy to be able to get a Royalex boat quickly when he needs one.
Several retailers in Arkansas sell Buffalo Canoes. Sports Xchange Plus in North Little Rock, Mountain Man in Fayetteville, Williams Furniture in Delight (Pike County), Rush Sporting Goods in Russellville and Outer Layer in Fort Smith are some of the outlets.
A few of the liveries that rent Buffalo Canoes are Buffalo Outdoor Center on the Buffalo River and Turner Bend and Byrd's Campground on the Mulberry River.
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|Title Annotation:||Gordon Motel and Canoe Rantal, Jasper, AK|
|Article Type:||Company Profile|
|Date:||Apr 3, 1995|
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