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Wood Drift Boat by Keith Steele

Posted by Sandy 
Wood Drift Boat by Keith Steele
August 21, 2006 03:34PM
Was given a wood drift boat a couple of weeks ago from a family friend who just sold his ranch in Big Timber Montana. The last day of the vacation, we walked up to the barn, he pulled back a cover, said, I am old and the place is sold...its yours! So...does anyone have any information on Wood Boats by Keith Steele, Leaburg, Oregon? Any idea on an estimated value or where to get one? Just found this website today and I think I will be spending some time on it. Keep your lines tight all ! Thanks for your help! Mike.
Wood Drift Boat by Keith Steele
August 21, 2006 06:12PM
If you want to sell it, I'll buy it.
Else you've got a classic wood frame boat.
Keith Steele made boats in Springfield Oregon (near Eugene).
Most were made with fir gunwales and ribs, but a few
were made with Port Orford Cedar (lighter and almost as

Pat Barnes and Stan Todd
ought the first wooden driftboats
to Montana in the early 1950s. They both started off
working for Dan Bailey. Then Pat started his own business in West
Yellowstone and Stan worked for him. They both used Keith
Steele boats.

Wood Drift Boat by Keith Steele
August 21, 2006 06:19PM
Welcome to the Forum. You'll likely find a lot of knowledge, tempered by a good dose of whit and cynicism.

Great score on the boat. I wish we all could own a woody that easily! You might try to bounce a message to Roger at River's Touch (http://www.riverstouch.com/). He is litterally writing the book on drift boat history.


Wood Drift Boat by Keith Steele
August 21, 2006 11:12PM
Keith Steele had a cabinet shop in Leaberg, Oregon. His shop was on the banks of the McKenzie River. One corner of the cabinet shop was dedicated to building boats and there was always a boat in progress. As far as I know he built one style of boat, the double ender with transom, in a 16'length.
Keith was old school and used resorsinal glue, ringshank nails and a plywood shoe to protect the bottom. His craftmanship and his boats were legendary. I purchased my first drift boat from Will Godfrey in 1978. It was a 16' double ender with transom, builder unknown. Dragging a woodie around Wyoming and Montana in those days always drew a crowd and I began hearing about the Keith Steele boat. Pat Barnes had one and the guy at Point of Rocks on the Yellowstone,I've forgotten his name now, had a small fleet of two or three. I always wanted a "Keith Steele". In the mid 80's a buddy of mine living in Seattle found a beauty and I drove out pulling an empty trailer to pick it up. My route was by way of Leaberg to meet the "man". Keith was in his shop which was a busy place but after introducing myself and telling him I was on my way to pick up a ten year old boat made by his hand he put aside what he was doing and took me on a tour. There was a boat in progress in the corner of the shop and several more in the yard. I got the now famous speach about how the pointed end was really the stern, "Son,you always row a boat with your back to the bow
and the bow is the upstream end". He showed me a fine line of driftboat trailers that were built by his son. When I asked him about maintenence he said "a boat is like your house, use the best paint you can afford and repaint it when it needs it. His approach was simple and straight forward.
Ray Heater knew that I had met Keith and had one of his boats. I learned of Keith's passing in 1995 in a letter from Ray who admired his craftmanship and joinery skills.
Keith's boats are still around and will become collectors items.
Wood Drift Boat by Keith Steele
August 22, 2006 03:56PM
Wow, really cool deal. a FREE Keith Steele! Please post or email pictures!
Wood Drift Boat by Keith Steele
November 26, 2006 08:29PM
I have a keith steele driftboat I've owned three of them, He built boats up till the mid 90's he died and his son took over. Before there were auluminum boats the keith steele was the boat to have, Its a great rowing boat, I bought a new one from him in 89 my partner has that one in canada I founde another around here and bought it restored it,I prefer the lower sidded one the one I have now is a higher sided one its ok but the lower sided one is better in shallow water because of the oar angle, let me know if you want to get rid of the one you have now I would be interested in it, On the lst boat and the one I have now I put a pieace of uhmw on the bottom of it that makes a big differance, its a great boot and water just makes the stuff slick so it slides real good over the rocks, let me know if you want to part with that boat my email address is michealjmccarthy@comcast.com my number is 425 745-4766 thanks
Re: Wood Drift Boat by Keith Steele
July 08, 2015 06:53PM


My father owns Pat Barnes Drift Boat 'Ye Old Pro'. We just had it refinished, and it still floats down the Missouri River near Wolf Creek, MT as a tribute to Pat Barnes. My father is a Realtor here in Helena and new Pat that way. We've restored the Ye Old Pro so it stands out. I think there must have been about 20 different coats of paint on that boat when we got it.
Re: Wood Drift Boat by Keith Steele
July 08, 2015 07:11PM
Thanks for that photo. I drifted the Missouri in that boat, with Pat himself, at least twice.

By the way....although many of the posts at the top of this thread have my name on them it doesn't mean I made them. I transferred all the posts from a home-rolled discussion forum, written by me, to a more powerful database-driven forum a few years ago. I got lazy and wrote a program that transferred all the old posts but did NOT keep track of the poster names. So re-entered them all, in the new forum, with my name on them.

Love that boat. I've rowed it too. It's a hotrod when all the passengers sit up front. But it does get hard to handle with a rear-seated (or knee brace standing) fisherman.

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