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Morley Canoes - Montana Handcrafted Cedar Canoes


Mandy Mohler : Is a Montana Photographer that creates Fine Art Prints from her "Things Organized Neatly" installations of tools and collections. This blog highlights Behind-The-Scenes looks into the lives of local craftsmen and collectors, as well as adventures and art from her portrait studio.


Morley Canoes - Montana Handcrafted Cedar Canoes

Mandy Mohler

There is something so regal, timeless, and elegant about a handmade cedar strip canoe. That’s probably why I’ve received so many requests to put together this print. Lucky for me, Morley Canoes is right down the road! They are notorious around these parts, and it’s easy to see why. Regardless of their proximity, I couldn’t imagine a better representative to help me put together this taxonomy. I hope you love this print as much as I do.

Steve Morley was kind enough to answer some canoeing questions for me. Please enjoy the interview below:

The Canoeist  art print.

The Canoeist art print.

What is Morley Canoes, and how did it come to be?

Morley Canoes is a family run business that came to be because of my dad’s passion for paddling canoes and my mom and dad’s desire to create a life in the mountains and close to nature.

Morley Canoes : Flathead Living Magazine Fall 2017

What inspired you to take on the craft of wooden boat building? 

I have always respected my Dad’s work and as I grew older and started a family of my own I realized following in my dad’s footsteps and carrying on the legacy was something I wanted to pursue. 

Greg and Steve Morley in front of their shop,  Morley Canoes .

Greg and Steve Morley in front of their shop, Morley Canoes.

Briefly, what does the design process of a custom canoe look like? 

 Confirming the type of paddling the customer intends to use the canoe for so that we can match that with the right hull design and also any special requests they may have for inlays and design strips.

What is your favorite step in the process? Why?

Hand shaping and sanding the gunwales and decks because these are the surfaces that your hands and eyes have the most contact with.

Morley Canoes : Flathead Living Magazine Fall 2017

What is your least favorite step in the process? Why?

Probably starting into a repair/rebuild project on an old canoe because there are so many unknowns that get uncovered that usually end up with cost and time overruns.

What is your favorite tool to use?

Hand plane.

Do you have any special "trademark" designs, or are your boats "traditional"? If so, what makes your designs special? 

Most of our designs are traditional in appearance but proprietary in actual design and performance.  The hull shapes and the materials used in construction allow the designs to have exceptional performance. 

Morley Canoes : Flathead Living Magazine Fall 2017

How long (typically) does it take to complete a boat - from conception to completion?

It typically takes about a month to complete a boat.

What keeps you motivated, inspired, creatively challenged?

Spending time paddling on the upper Swan river.

What is your favorite thing about canoeing?

Being out in a beautiful place engaging my mind and body with the water and surroundings. 

Where is your favorite place to go canoeing?

The upper Swan river.

Morley Canoes : Flathead Living Magazine Fall 2017

What would you recommend to someone who wants to get started in canoeing? What boat? What size? Stroke technique? etc... 

Our 17’ Guide model canoe and a copy of the book “Path of the Paddle” by Bill Mason.

Morley Canoes is a family business. Tell me what it's like to carry on a family tradition. Do your children plan to carry on in the boat building business? 

I’d love to have at least one of my three kids carry on the business!

Morley Canoes : Flathead Living Magazine Fall 2017

What are your future goals? 

Continue building beautiful and functional watercraft.

What has been your biggest takeaway? What has boat building, or running a family business taught you? 

 Hard work and spending time developing a passion are worth the effort.

What is something that's been on your to-do list (life or work), that you haven't ticked off yet, that you think about often?

 Building a light weight solo canoe - packing it into the headwaters of the South Fork of the Flathead river in the Bob Marshall - paddling the full length of the river (with the exception of the gorge).

Early bird or night owl?

When I was younger I was an early bird…now I would say I am a combination. 

Morley Canoes : Flathead Living Magazine Fall 2017

Do you listen to music while working? If so, what is your favorite? Do you and your father share musical taste?

I do listen to the radio while I work and I usually listen to top 40. My dad and I don’t really share musical taste. He will usually have NPR playing in the background and I go back and forth between NPR and Pop radio. 

If you could describe yourself as a fictional character - or even an animal, what would it be?

Sea Otter because I love being in the ocean and rivers.

Any parting words?

Happy Paddling!