Our Story

History at Downriver Canoe Company

Downriver Canoe Company was founded in 1974 as an equal partnership between two paddling buddies, John Gibson and Harry Stimpson. 

Originally located in the old Limeton general store just three miles north of our current location, we offered canoe trips with shuttle service in one of our 22 Michicraft aluminum canoes hauled up river in our 1968 Oldsmobile Vistacruiser station wagon. We lost money that first year, mainly because we grossly underpriced our product ($8 to $12 per canoe) and the Arab oil embargo, but we learned a lot and gained confidence in our business model. 

In year two we doubled down by purchasing another 20 canoes (15 Grumman aluminum and 5 Blue Hole Royalex) and adding an old Ford Econoline van as a second shuttle vehicle.  We made a slight profit. 

The next year (1976) we bought our first new shuttle vehicle (Dodge Sportsman 15 passenger van), added a few more plastic canoes, and actually made money.  We were on our way.  In 1979 my partner, Harry Stimpson, graciously allowed me to buy him out.

1974 – Downriver Canoe Company established
1977 – severe drought
1978 – moved location to Indian Hollow Bridge in Bentonville
1979 – John buys out Harry
1980 – expands to 80 canoes
1983 – establishes Golden rock campground at Compton Rapid
1984 – John takes on a marriage partner (Marjie), best move he ever made
1986 – kayaks added to rental fleet
1988 – severe drought
1990 – son Alex is born
1992 – tubing added to services
1996 – rafts added to fleet, hurricane Fran reeks havoc 
1999 – severe drought, Shenandoah River State park established
2002 – severe drought
2003 – excessive rainfall limits operations
2005 – devastating fish kill in river, no smoking gun cause
2007 – great porch added to canoe store
2013 – storage barn added
2018 – excessive rainfall limits operations (closed 62 days due to high water)
2020 – COVID-19 changes society