The South Dakota Canoe Association sponsored a cruise today that began at McHardy Park in Brandon along Split Rock Creek and ended at the Highway 42 bridge over the Big Sioux River at the developing Arboretum to the east of the Perry Nature Center and across from Arrowhead Park at the eastern edge of Sioux Falls. Gene Preston of the SDCA organized and led the cruise, and there were four canoes and four kayaks that made up the fleet. One of the advantages of going on a SDCA sponsored cruise, of course, is the shuttle arrangements from the "take out" point back to the "put in." Gene made those arrangements and that made the trip so much easier for all.
The water was down a bit along Split Rock Creek, so the canoes put in at a point downstream. The kayaks, however, put in at McHardy Park along a sand beach. I took my older Dagger Bayou 10.5 foot kayak on the trip. Even though the kayaks bumped along on some rocks and scooted through some shallows, none of us had to get out of the boats during the trip. Split Rock Creek meanders along out of Brandon, past the race track, and through a variety of landforms and water conditions. There were a number of riffles to pass through, and occasionally some light rapids. The land was typical for prairie streams, low and high banks alternating and lots of old cottonwood trees. There was a good bit of bird life to observe, but the socializing aspect of a group cruise tends to warn wildlife off. Split Rock Creek passes the confluence of Beaver Creek and then the Big Sioux River. The passage becomes easier as each confluence is passed – more water, deeper passages, and fewer riffles.
The cruise for the kayaks took about three hours, with pretty steady movement. We did not stop for strolls along the sand and gravel bars. The road distance between the park in Brandon and the bridge at Highway 42 is about 6 miles. I would guess that the river mileage is more in the range of 10 miles. The temperature was about 50 degrees, it was sunny, and the breeze was light. Since none of the kayak paddlers had to get out into the water, it was a really great cruise.
This was a new waterway for me, although it has been frequently paddled. The SDCA has done this trip each year for some time. I am so glad to know about this paddling opportunity; I want to go on it next summer and
recreate the trip next fall as well. It is a wonderful half-day paddle.
I had considered selling my older Dagger kayak because I bought a newer one this summer with additional features. This trip showed me, however, how useful it is to have a smaller and sturdy kayak for use in rocky rivers. All the kayaks were able to slide through and over rocks, and none of us were worried about damaging the boats. I would not want to take my Folbot or a handcrafted kayak down a waterway such as Split Rock Creek. So, I will just hang onto the old Dagger and use it for rougher waters. It has served me well.
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