South Dakota kayaking laws are set by the South Dakota Legislative Research Council and governed by the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks Department. South Dakota law enforcement officers enforce those kayaking rules and regulations.
South Dakota has thousands of acres of lakes and miles of rivers thanks to the Missouri River reservoir system. Water activity spots in South Dakota are abundant, so it’s not surprising that South Dakota is popular for kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding.
Here’s a summary of what you need to know about South Dakota kayaking laws.
Not a Lawyer Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. More importantly, I am not your attorney. This article is not legal advice. If you desire legal advice, consult a competent, licensed attorney in your area.
South Dakota Kayak Laws Summary
- South Dakota Kayaking Laws – South Dakota law considers kayaks and canoes to be non-powered boats.
- South Dakota Kayak Registration – All non-motorized vessels over 12 feet in length must be registered.
- Motorized Kayak Registration – All motorized watercraft must be registered and display a valid registration decal on each side of the vessel. This includes a trolling motor on a canoe or kayak.
- Kayak Operator Licensing in South Dakota – No license is required to operate a kayak or boat in South Dakota.
- Motorized Kayaking Age – Anyone under the age of 12 cannot operate a motor vessel with more than 6 horsepower unless a person 18 years or older is also on board. (See below for further restrictions)
- Kayaking BUI Law – South Dakota has a Boating Under the Influence (BUI) law. In South Dakota, a BUI charge results in the boat being impounded and an arrest being made. A person is operating illegally when their blood alcohol content is .08% or above. (see below for additional regulations)
- Kayaking Life Jacket Law – All canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards must have on board one USCG approved wearable PFD for each person on board. (see below for kayak and canoe specifics)
- Kayak Lights Law – Nonmotorized vessels must at least carry a white lantern or flashlight that is visible from at least two miles away.
- Kayaking Sounding Devices – Kayaks and canoes require a whistle or signal capable of producing a sound that carries one half of a mile. (see below additional for regulations)
- Kayaking VDS Law – Only federally controlled waters in South Dakota require USCG approved Visual Distress Signals (VDS).
That only summarizes South Dakota boating laws applied to kayaking and canoeing. The details are more in-depth and specific. Read on to find out how to paddle legally in South Dakota.
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South Dakota Kayak Registration
Do you have to register a kayak in South Dakota? Occasionally. “No one may operate or give permission to operate a nonmotorized boat over 12 feet in length . . . unless a valid registration decal is displayed on both sides of the boat” – South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks Boating Handbook
Do you have to register a kayak with a trolling motor in South Dakota? Yes. All motorized watercraft, unless specifically exempted, must be registered and display a valid decal on both sides of the boat. Registrations are good for one calendar year.
South Dakota Vessel Titling: Canoes and kayaks cannot be titled in South Dakota.
South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks page – Boat Licensing Page
Related Article: Paddle Board Registration
South Dakota Kayaking Operator Education Laws
Do you need a license to kayak in South Dakota? You do not need a license to operate any vessel in South Dakota.
Do you need a license to operate a motorized kayak in South Dakota? No license is required to operate any vessel in South Dakota, but South Dakota highly recommends completing an official training course before setting out on any motorized vessel.
Operators under the age of 12 may not operate any motorized vessel propelled by a motor of more than 6 horsepower unless a person 18 years or older is on board.
South Dakota Kayaking OUI Laws
Can you get a DUI on a kayak in South Dakota? Yes you can get a DUI on a kayak in South Dakota. In South Dakota, it’s against the law to operate any boating vessel while under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or any controlled drug or substance. You can get the equivalent of a DUI, a BUI (Boating Under the Influence) in South Dakota with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08%, or if under the influence of controlled drugs or other substances.
Related Article: Can You Get a DUI on a Kayak?
South Dakota Kayak Life Jacket Laws
Do you need a life jacket to kayak in South Dakota? Yes. All canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards must have on board one USCG approved wearable PFD for each person on board. And all persons under 7 years of age, while the boat is operating above no-wake speeds, must wear a USCG approved PFD unless within a cabin or below deck.
South Dakota PFD Details:
- All PFDs must be in serviceable and good condition, meaning free from tears and of proper size for a person on board.
- All vessels have at least one Type I, II, III, or V PFD that is USCG–approved, wearable, and of the proper size for each person on board. Type V PFDs may be carried only if used according to the condition for which it is approved (shown on its label).
PFD Age Laws
What age do you have to wear a life jacket in South Dakota? Life jackets must be worn by all youth under 7 when they are on a vessel operating at greater than no-wake speeds, unless they are in a cabin or below deck.
Type IV Throwable PFD
Do I need a Type IV “throwable” on my kayak in South Dakota? No. Kayaks and Canoes are exempt from South Dakota’s law that all 16 foot and longer vessels must have a USCG-approved Type IV onboard.
Related Article: Kayak Life Jacket Laws by State (50 State List)
South Dakota Kayaking Lights Laws
What lights do I need on my kayak at night? Powered Vessels (kayaks and/or canoes with a trolling motor) must have red and green sidelights as well as a white light on the stern or bow.
While anchored, only the white light is necessary.
Unpowered vessels must carry a white lantern or flashlight that can be seen at least two miles away on the horizon. The light must be displayed in sufficient time to avoid a collision with other watercraft. This applies to kayakers and canoeists on unpowered vessels.
South Dakota Kayaking Sounding Devices Laws
Do I need a whistle on a kayak in South Dakota? All vessels between 16 and 26 feet require a sounding device capable of producing a sound that carries for one half a mile.
The best “sounding” device for kayakers and canoeists is a whistle attached to your PFD in a place that’s quick and easy to deploy.
Here’s what we consider to be the best whistle for kayaking.
VDS – Visual Distress Signaling Devices
Vessels operating in South Dakota do not require USCG approved Visual Distress Signals (VDS).
No Visual Distress Signals are required.
No Visual Distress Signals are required.
South Dakota Kayaking Fire Extinguisher Laws
Do I need a fire extinguisher on my motorized kayak in South Dakota? No. Even if you have a trolling motor on your kayak, if the fuel tank isn’t permanently installed or in an enclosure, you aren’t required to have a fire extinguisher.
Regardless of the law, we recommend carrying a small class B-I fire extinguisher if you have a trolling motor on your kayak or canoe. The worst thing in the world is a fire on a boat with no way to put it out, especially if you’re far from the shore.
Additional South Dakota Kayaking Laws Resources
Boating Law Enforcement
Law Enforcement officers of South Dakota enforce South Dakota’s boat and water safety laws.
As always, USCG officers enforce federally controlled waters in South Dakota.