Several canoe styles have been developed and produced on the coast. This variation in style was directly related to the type of water the canoe was intended for. This was an especially important consideration for the Stó:lō people, as much of their water-based travelling was either on large rivers, such as the Fraser River, and sheltered ocean waters, such as the Georgia Strait or in the smaller, faster waters of the eastern Fraser Valley. With this in mind, the Stó:lō devised two types of canoes to allow for easy travel and navigation within their territory.
The uniquely shaped shovel-nosed canoe is the most common of the Salish river canoes, characterised by a gently sloping bow and a rounded bottom. The bow, with its square nose, is very flat, giving it a shovel-like appearance-hence the name. The wood was usually a finger's width thick, and the gunwales were concave. This is in sharp contrast with Western or Northern Coast canoes, which were designed for open ocean travel. These open-ocean canoes had a thicker wood construction, higher sides and a larger bow, all to handle the larger waves which could exist in the open ocean. The shovel-nosed dugout was especially suited for moving across fast flowing rivers as the smooth shape and shallow draft of the boat prevented it from catching quick currents, and it was less easily trapped in eddies .