This blog is designed to highlight the paddling opportunities within South Dakota, mainly within a 50-mile radius of Sioux Falls. While Sioux Falls is far from the adventure of coastal regions, there is a certain satisfaction in utilizing the available waterways to observe weather, water conditions, and the landscape along the shoreline. In addition, there is a wealth of animal life on the waters of small South Dakota lakes, rivers, and creeks, including geese, ducks, pelicans, great blue heron, egrets, hawks, owls, perching birds, deer, raccoons, and beaver. Eagles, fox, and coyote are also sometimes spotted.

The sites described are places where I have kayaked over the past few years, mostly in South Dakota but sometimes including locations in Iowa and Minnesota. One of the best sources of information on the accessibility of small lakes is the South Dakota Atlas and Gazetteer, the large map book of South Dakota. Lakes with a public access are generally identified by a boat symbol marking the location of a launching site on public land.

You will notice the menu of paddling locations on the right side of the blog. Each of the postings is linked to one of the areas, and my intention is to provide a continuing review of the places where I paddle. Perhaps these narratives will help readers select waterways of interest to them. Please feel free to offer a comment regarding any of my postings; I would welcome the dialog.

I also maintain a companion blog that describes hiking opportunities within the Sioux Falls area. You can access that blog at:

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Folding Kayak - The Folbot

In my family, we have always driven small cars. Many years ago I had a Chevy Vega, and I carried a 17 foot aluminum canoe on top of the car. Living in South Dakota, I experienced lots of windy days as I drove along with this large canoe lashed atop the car. I was always concerned when meeting another vehicle along the way, fearing that the force of the slipstream would rip the canoe off the car. I could sometimes see the bow shift orientation, especially when passing big trucks. The possibility of the canoe blowing off the car was a constant source of tension whenever I went out on a paddling excursion.

Folding kayaks had always interested me because of the ease of transportation and storage. After all, there is a certain attraction in a boat that can be stored in a closet and carried in the trunk of a car. Folbot, one of the major builders of folding kayaks, used to be advertised in National Geographic, and that offered an image of being able to explore all sorts of waterways with ease. Through these advertisements the contrast with my enduring tension of a canoe blown off the car top was sharply etched. Paul Theroux is one of my favorite travel writers, and I found my interest in folding kayaks renewed after reading his adventure in The Happy Isles of Oceania, an account of traveling through the south Pacific in his folding kayak. Somewhere along the line, I also discovered the writing of Ralph Diaz, one of the best know proponents of folding kayaks. His book, The Complete Folding Kayaker, is a review of the history of folding kayaks as well as reviews of major brands, and an introduction to kayaking techniques.

About eight years ago I bought an Aleut model of Folbot. This is a 12 foot, exceptionally stable, entry class into folding kayaks. It has an aluminum framework that connects three ribs that then slides into the Hypalon fabric hull. My Aleut came in two bags that easily fit into the trunk of my Honda Civic Hybrid or on the back seat. The boat weighs about 40 pounds when assembled and is pretty easy to carry for short distances. It takes me about 15 minutes to assemble the boat and less than 10 minutes to take it apart.

The Folbot is very stable and easy to paddle. It tracks well without a rudder, although I do have a rudder which I no longer use. The boat is not fast, but I am primarily interested in slowly cruising along the shoreline looking at the vegetation and hoping to spot wildlife. This boat has served me well over the years. The only problem I have ever had with the boat is developing a leak in the air inflated sponsons inside the top of the fabric hull. Folbot, though, offers a lifetime warranty on these components, and replacements arrived within five days of my request. But, these sponsons lasted for at least seven years and were replaced easily – with the help of my wife.

Now that I have both rigid kayaks and the Folbot, I find that I use them both. When I want to take one of my sons or a friend out kayaking with me, I put one kayak on top of the car and then put the Folbot in the trunk. Early and late into the paddling season, I generally use the Folbot rather than put the rack back on the car. I have used the folding kayak in lakes and rivers, and there has never been a problem. I suppose that it would be easier to poke a hole in the folding kayak than in one of the rigid kayaks, but it has never happened to me. Folbots are more expensive than a rigid kayak, but then a person doesn’t have to be concerned with buying an expensive car top rack or in finding a place to store the boat. You can find more information on the Folbot by checking out the company website at

The following video clip was shot by one of my sons as I assembled the Folbot along Split Rock Creek near Garretson, SD, this past weekend.

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