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:

Monday, June 12, 2006

Grass Lake

Grass Lake is one of my favorite small lakes in the Sioux Falls area. The lake is located west of Sioux Falls, north of Highway 42 between Hartford and Humbolt. Going west on Highway 42, you would go north on 459th Avenue, a paved highway, for about three miles to near 262nd Street. There is a public lake access point with a primative boat launch area, but also a good place to launch a canoe or kayak.

A person entering the lake at this point is unlikely to encounter anyone on the lake. There are two islands in the lake, and pelicans and great blue herons along with egrets are likely to be seen in large numbers. I have also seen racoons and muskrat in this lake. Once while cruising along, I heard a buzzing and looked up to see some guy in a powered parachute sort of flying craft moving slowly across the sky.

Like most prairie lakes, Grass Lake has varied banks with generally enough trees and bank height to provide shelter from the wind, at least on parts of the lake. It generally takes me about 90 minutes to cruise along the perimeter of the lake. This is a very tranquile cruise, and it provides a great opportunity for bird watching, looking a cloud formations, and checking out the shore life along the banks.

Update: Today, June 14, I took a cruise on Grass Lake. As I kayaked along the shore line, I came across a family of five racoons. They were moving through pathways that they had created through the tall grass and willows along a high bank. The racoons seemed unconcerned about me. I was able to come up to within three feet of them, and I just hung around that spot for about ten minutes observing them. There were adult racoons and several younger ones in the group. I saw one of them gnawing on a fish. The racoons were chattering among themselves as I sat there in my kayak caught up in the pleasure of observing this rare sight. After a time, I just moved off down the lake.

As I came around a point, a great blue heron that had been sitting on a rock took off and flew low to the water, passing the bow of my kayak within about five feet. As I made my way down the lake, I came to another rocky point that provided a resting spot for a flock of 12 big white pelicans. As I approached the point, first one and then all the pelicans took off and circled over the kayak - gliding along with big wings outstretched. It was a delightful sight to see these great birds soaring above and around me.

Water in the lake was just fine today. It was a little windy, but a good portion of the lake was in a lee because of the high banks and direction of wind. The only sounds on the lake were birds, the lap of waves on the bow of the kayak, and the dip of paddles as I slowly cruised along.

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