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: http://hikingsiouxfalls.blogspot.com
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Back to Grass Lake
This morning I decided to take advantage of a relatively nice day before the arrival of considerably colder weather. I left our eastside Sioux Falls home and drove out to Grass Lake, along 459th Ave, north of Highway 42 – about ten miles west of the city. I have described past paddles on Grass Lake earlier in the blog, and you might want to review that material along with my observations from today.
The lake was mirror calm and the temperature was probably about 45 degrees. I arrived at the launching point about 9:00 a.m., got the kayak off the car, put on my water sandals, and moved off into the lake. The lake was deserted, as normal for that body of water.
I set off down toward the west end of the lake, past the larger island, and began to encounter lots of waterfowl. The first birds I saw were great blue heron, and then there were lots of gulls flying about. Geese in great numbers were on the water and flying over the area. There were also a few ducks to be seen. I was happy to see that the pelicans had not left the lake yet. I first came across a small flock of about eight pelicans; then, as I continued down the western end of the lake, I came to the spot where I normally see pelicans in large numbers on a shelving gravel peninsular. On this trip, I saw an additional 30-40 more pelicans in a large group in the shallow water off the peninsular. The geese seemed skittish and flew off as I approached; the pelicans, however, seemed calmer and remained in place watching as I passed them in my kayak.
Along the way, I saw a beaver and a skunk, both moving away from me as I approached. On the south side of the lake, however, I came across a brown ferret moving along the water’s edge. The ferret seemed fearless. I stopped the kayak and moved along the shore to be close – less than ten feet. The ferret stayed in place and climbed up on a rock, stood on his hind legs and gave me a close examination. We looked at and followed each other along for about five minutes. To me, it was a real privilege to get so close to the ferret and share a mutual observation. The experience was much like the one I had with the family of raccoons as described in my earlier post of Grass Lake.
I continued kayaking for nearly an hour and a-half. By the time I made my way back to the “put-in,” my feet were pretty cold. I was wearing only the water sandals, and I had to wade in to launch the kayak. After I got the kayak back on top of the car and took off, I turned on the heater of my car for the first time this year. I need to look into finding some type of water shoes that might serve me better as the cold descends over the area.
Again, you can add these observations to my earlier posting on Grass Lake. It still is one of my favorite small lakes in the area. As I reached Highway 42 for the turn east back to Sioux Falls, I saw a real estate sign with a “for sale” notice for two sites “on the water” two miles north – it has to be Grass Lake. I suppose that it is only a matter of time before people begin constructing lake homes on this body of water, much as happened to so many other lakes. The only public area on the lake seems to be the boat access spot owned by the Dept. of Game, Fish, and Parks.