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:

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Grass Lake - May 2007

Grass Lake – May 10, 2007


This morning I returned to Grass Lake for the first time this year. This jewel of a lake is located 22.5 miles from my eastside Sioux Falls home. I headed out on 10th Street, which turns into Highway 42 to 459th Avenue. There is a big microwave tower on the south side of Highway 42 at this point marking the turn north on 459th. Grass Lake is located about 3 miles north along this paved road of many curves. The lake is just past a big curve in the road and visible on the left past 263rd Street. There is a small white SDGFP public access sign on the left side of 459th which leads into the launching point. This is an unimproved area with just a very primitive launching ramp and parking area.

As usual, this lake was deserted at mid-morning on Thursday. I unloaded the kayak and dragged it over to the launching point and left it with the bow on the shore and the stern two thirds of the boat in the water. I moved my car to a clear area, changed into sandals, and walked back to the launching point only to discover that my kayak had disappeared. This is a situation that I have read about often in canoe and kayak literature: don’t leave the boat without securing it first. Well, somehow the wind or wave action had lifted the kayak off and it had floated away. I ran down the shore line and saw it down the lake and about 15 feet off shore. Without much forethought, I ran into the lake and chased after the boat. I wadded out with the water getting progressively deeper. When I reached the boat, the water was up nearly to my waist. I grabbed the end of the kayak and dragged it back to the launch area. This has never happened to me before, and I felt relatively lucky to have been able to get the boat without swimming after it or running to another point in the lake where the wind might have blown it. I will remember this incident and ensure that I am more careful in the future. This is a potentially serious situation for the lone paddler.


On this morning, there was a light wind with varying effects upon the lake surface. In the windward area, there were small waves from 2-4 inches. It was warm, with the temperature about 80 degrees and sunny.

As I set off down the northern shore line headed west, I came first to the large wooded island fairly near to the launching point. There were lots of geese and ducks about, especially geese. As I approached the island, geese stalked me and flew about honking. I came across goose eggs in the grassy area of the island shore line. As I continued along the northern shore I chanced upon a large raccoon at the water’s edge. I came back around that point trying to get my camera out, but he had moved on ahead of me. Then a couple of deer leaped out of the grass and took off. The only wildlife that I was able to photograph today was a couple of turtles sunning themselves on a rock.



This is a lake where I have nearly always seen great blue heron and pelicans. On this cruise, however, these birds were absent. There were loads of geese and ducks nesting, and perhaps this is a little too early for the pelicans – although I did see one on Beaver Lake a couple of days ago.


This was a quiet and peaceful cruise. The only sounds were the continuing bird calls, the lap of waves on rocks along the shore, and the light splash of paddles as I slowly moved along. It took me about an hour to cruise the circumference of the lake. I like peering into the growth looking for animals and observing the varying vegetation. As always, I enjoyed my cruise on Grass Lake and continue to recommend it for people who want a tranquil hour or two and like being in this sort of environment to look at the bird life and scout out other wildlife.


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