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:

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Lake Vermillion - A November Cruise

Lake Vermillion- Kayaking in November

Earlier in the blog there is a description of my kayaking cruises at the southwestern end of Lake Vermillion, running into Battle Creek. Lake Vermillion is about 25 miles west of Sioux Falls, just north of Highway 42. I found this part of the lake to be more tranquil because of a lack of other watercraft. Also, it is a sheltered part of the lake and not nearly as subject to wind conditions. Today, however, I decided to return to Lake Vermillion and cruise up into the main body.


Lake Vermillion is generally in the shape of the lower case letter “j.” The curl of the letter is the lower, southwestern arm that is fed by Battle Creek. The longer arm is oriented north and south and is much narrower than it is long. The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks maintains two access points. On north shore of the east/west lower arm, there is a well developed launching point with a first rate dock and boat ramp. There is also a restroom facility, picnic areas, and camping sites, including three of those small log cabins. In addition, there is an access point on the southeastern shore just north of the dam.


I put in at the main launching point in the park and headed east to the main body and then went north along the western shore to the point where the lake turns into the Vermillion River. The lake is probably about three miles in length, including the lower arm. I moved up the western shore pushed by a southerly wind. When moving with the wind, there are frequently waves generated, and on this occasion the waves were, at times, perhaps six or eight inches in height. The water offered a clear view of the bottom at four feet depth. I kept looking for wildlife along the banks, but there was little to be seen. About a mile into the cruise, I must have flushed up a group of pheasants. Maybe a dozen of them shot up through the grasses and took off flying. Now, I had hoped not to see any pheasants! I had visions of guys with red caps and guns tearing through the brush trying to get their limit, and that notion had caused me a little anxiety even before taking off for a cruise. But, there were no hunters to be seen nor gun shots heard. I did see a group of cormorants moving off as I approached. Other than those birds, though, I saw no wild life.


I came across a single fishing boat about halfway up the lake. As I approached, I called out a greeting, and the guy seemed startled; he kept swinging his head around in different directions trying to localize the sound. Perhaps he was lost in his own thoughts and just didn’t see or hear the silent approach of my kayak. Later, on the trip back down the lake, I came across him again. I observed what a wonderful gift a great day like today is to us; he said, “Yeah, we’ll pay for it though!” With that affirming conversation, I paddled on.


The lake continues as a rather wide body of water for about two and a-half miles upstream. At that point, the lake narrows from the western shore until it blends into the Vermillion River. I made it to that northern end of the actual lake in about an hour and a quarter. It took me about the same time to get back. I was going into the wind, but I was also moving right along in the main channel. So, the trip took me two and a-half hours, and that is about all the time that I can manage in a kayak without getting out.


The lake has a few expensive looking homes along the southeastern shore, right across from the state park. Then, there is a community of homes at the very southwestern end along the highway and across from the launching point at the park. After leaving the launching point, however, I did not see another dock. The eastern side of the lake seems more scenic to me, with high cliffs and no development after those first few expensive homes at the very southern end of the lake above the dam. The next time I go to Lake Vermillion, I think that I will take advantage of the southeastern launching point and move up the eastern shore.


Going out in my kayak in November was a real treat to me. Today, the temperature was expected to reach nearly 70. I was kayaking with no jacket, just a wind shirt for the morning. I generally have taken the kayak rack off my car and put my boats away for the winter by now. Of course, I am in the first year of retirement, and I have more opportunities to take advantage of very nice days in the late fall. Still, I feel fortunate to have had this opportunity for another cruise this year.

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