Shallowest Draught Available?


Searching google & various forums hasn’t yielded much on this. The mfgs don’t typically mention this in specs for obvious reasons.

I’m looking for a kayak to get into the shallowest, most lily-pad & underwater obstacle-ridden swamps imaginable, for the purpose of quietly getting close to the critters that live there and photographing them. Can anyone offer an opinion as to what boats, past & present draught the absolute minimum amount of water? I’m 6’, 175lbs, in pretty decent condition. I’d like to keep the weight at 50lb give or take, so I can manage the loading on my Jeep Cherokee w/o a hernia.

What I’ve tried:

Loon 138

Prodigy 12

My trusty 17’ Grumman aluminum battleship.

Ironicaly, the canoe will run in a mud puddle, but it’s a handful for one person.

What I’m considering/wondering about:

Native Ultimate

Featherlite 12

Stability and room to stash cameras & gear are important.

I know there are gonna be compromises in speed, directional control, etc, with a wide, voluminous hull. But I welcome all comments & advice. Thanks for reading.



bobcat boats

on what is available to you.

I’d say the WS Pungo 120 which I consider to be a great kayak and what you are looking for.

Paddlin’ on


Think big flat barge.
Add your weight and weight of gear and boat together. That’s how much water you will displace. A larger flat hull will displace the water with the least depth, think that canoe…

Pamilco 120 would be better

– Last Updated: Aug-22-08 8:46 PM EST –

it has a much flatter, barely arched hull shape than the Pungo, which has a shallow V shape hull. That v shape will hang up quicker on stumps, rocks etc, just like shallow V canoe hulls. And actually the Pamlico 140 wouldn't sink as much under your weight as the 120s will.

Demo the native ultimate

After checking out the ultimate videos on their web site. Fishing and photo platform videos are interesting. I’ve paddled the Native Ultimate 14.5 solo and tandem several times when I want to take the dog and a lot of gear or a passenger for a day of leisurely fun.

Get one of these

If it will float with all those lard-asses in it, it will probably levitate with just you.

Pamlico 100
That thing will skim in moments of water. My Montour (Dagger) is only slightly deeper but faster. Any wider boat will run shallower through the water.

Think big, long, wide, and flat-bottomed. My Manta Ray 14 is a pretty good example and only has about 4 inches with 250 lbs on board. It’s quite a bit heavier than what you want though.

I remember the Acadia 13 having a fairly shallow draft too. A lot of flat bottomed canoes would work too.

Don’t rule out some of the long skinny boats too if you are looking for speed and tracking. For a flat bottom boat the surface area is all that really matters, long and skinny can give you the same area as short and fat.


Maybe Phoenix Poke Boat

One comment got me thinking

– Last Updated: Aug-23-08 4:18 PM EST –

You mentioned how the Grumman will ride in a mud puddle but that it's just too big, but I think that a solo canoe might be worth considering. A fairly flat-bottomed canoe will go in mighty shallow water, and and a decent solo canoe will outmanuever any "recreation-class" kayak. In addition, you'd have the advantage of not constantly waving those flags (paddle blades) over your head when trying to get close to wildlife. the only disadvantage I can see in this case is the cost. An economical solo canoe will cost a quite a lot more than an economical rec-kayak (a cheap-but-decent solo canoe will run you about $1000 if you get it new).

I'm not being anti-kayak. I'm just recognizing a particular situation where something completely different might be better than the boats you are looking at so far.

Oh, one more thing. If you are in such shallow water that absolute minimum draft is a concern, you will travel much more easily and with more control from the higher kneeling position of a canoe than if you are grabbing the bottom with your kayak blades some distance from the boat, creating a lot more wig-wag in your travel. While kneeling in a canoe, you can easily keep the point of contact for propulsion right alongside the hull no matter how shallow the water gets, so there's no increase in wig-wag..

Ultimate 12 for shallow water
A couple weeks ago, I posted a review of this boat after my first paddle and was impressed. Now I have paddled it four times and it is a fabulous boat. I’m 6’3" and 228 lbs. I’m amazed at how it performs in shallow water, I mean 3 inches or so and this is important, because I too paddle in very shallow water at times.The comfort of the seat is beyond description and the open design leaves ample room for cameras and gear. Performance is very good particularly with the rudder deployed. I paddled a Loon 138 for five years except for a brief period with a Pungo 120. The Loon is a great boat but the comfort of the Ultimate 12 is superior to the Loon. The Pungo has a sharp V hull design and does not do well in shallow water. I know after often getting hung up. You can’t go wrong with the Native Ultimate 12.

my 2 c worth

– Last Updated: Aug-25-08 11:40 AM EST –

hi ..i have a WS Pamilco 135 tandem w/rudder & rear hATCH ( green COLOR). that i have rigged for solo use. i'm 5'7" @ 200#'s lots of room with front seat out,huge open cockpit, with room behind rear seat. I can even lay down in it. a bit heavy though @ 69 #'s. but i can 1-man load the boat on my Saturn Vue using a suv roller and saddles. i have also test paddled the ultimate 125 ....nice boat, stable, I can swing it end for end with a wide sweepstroke movement. good room for camera on a tripod and gear. reference link below for "SUV roller"..

PS: any boat/any style will get "hung-up" when the water gets shallow enuf. you can't take 50-70#'s of boat , throw in 200# of person and 30 #'s of gear and expect it to float in 1/2 " of water. against the law of physics. also/with a 2 -piece paddle , u can break the paddle down and use 1/2 of the paddle to sneak in on wildlife, using a ruddered boat helps here. good luck

If you’re looking to photograph stuff underwater, the Peekaboo might be good - it has a clear “glass” bottom in the kayak. It’s a SOT, made by Ocean Kayak:

If you live in the New Hampshire area, we’d love to sell you one. Our customers have loved this boat!

Consider the humble pirogue
Designed to skim and slip through sloughs and bayous.


Thank You All
I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who responded here. I’ve read all the replies carefully, and appreciate the comments & advice. The next time I’m near one of the two shops I know of that demo and maintain a good inventory, I’ll demo the boats suggested here.

The kit looks tempting, but the fiberglass work is something that I think takes a fair bit of practice to get right, and I’m a bit short on time these days…

RE: 1 man canoe, there is one I saw that I fell in love with, weighs about 25-35 lbs, probably perfect for what I want to do, but since it’s a carbon or kevlar composite, it’s way too pricy for my current budget, which is why I didn’t look at it long enough to even remember the mfg/model. Trying to do this for under a grand. If I come up w/ some hard & fast numbers for hull depth below the water line for specific boats, I’ll post back, since it may be useful to someone else who’s looking to run really shallow.

Thanks again,



The Riot kayaks
with their “channelled” hull, have a very shallow draft (draught?), sorry spelling is not my strong suit.

Shallow draft
I use an Old Town Camper.

1-It’s only 58#, only slightly heaver than your target weight.

2-16’long, faster than a short boat.

3- Royalex, it’s quiet

4-flat wide bottom, stable for standing and carrying a large load.

5-Can be paddled tandem or solo

6- I have seen them for less than $800. @ Dick’s

You need to displace a volume of water with a mass equal to you, your boat, and your gear.

The shape that will give you that volume for the least depth would have a perfectly flat bottom spread out over the largest possible area. The most efficient structure would be a large shallow vertical cylinder. But since you want to actually go somewhere, you need to find the flattest shape that has the paddling (or poling) characteristics you want.