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
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Lake Madison 2007
Yesterday I decided that I would go out for a kayak cruise today. The weather has been marginal for the past week with strong winds or rain predicted, and I felt the need to get out on the water again. I put the kayak on top of the car last night reasoning that an equipped car ready to go would ensure that I did not put it off again. When I got ready this morning, rain had started and the skies were overcast. Still, I thought that conditions would get better, and I headed for Island Lake, located 10 miles north and 3 miles west of Humbolt. When I got there, I found conditions much as they were the last time I attempted this lake: windy with big waves crashing on the shore. This is a natural lake and the banks are low with virtually no tree cover. With the wind out of the NW, there was no lee to the lake. It just looked like a rough ride with nothing to protect my kayak from the wind and large waves. So, I went on to Long Lake, just south of Lake Madison. There is a very rough road leading down to the lake shore (see my description of that Lake in the menu), and that road has been severely eroded – really nearly washed out with big ruts. I took a chance and navigated the terrible road down to the lake shore, but I was consumed with thoughts of what might happen if my car got hung up on the ruts, and I knew that there was a strong possibility of that happening. When I got to the lake shore, I saw a trail filled with mud. With the wind blowing pretty strong, the possibility of getting my car stranded on the terrible road, and the mud I would have to wade through with the kayak, I decided to move on to somewhere else.
Walker’s Point at Lake Madison is a state recreation area only three or four miles from the entrance to Long Lake, and I had passed the sign to that spot on my way in. I wasn’t too keen on kayaking on Lake Madison, but I also didn’t want to have driven all that way only to turn around and go home. So, I unloaded my kayak there in the recreation area. There is a very nice parking lot, toilets, and a dock in the lake. This is a “fee” area, so a park sticker is required to enter the site. I put my kayak into the lake at the dock and moved out into big waves.
The wind was blowing pretty strong by this time in the morning, but it had stopped raining. The sky was still very overcast: it was a grey day in many ways. I moved off the launch area and headed east on the lake around the recreation area land. As I moved out from the lee created by trees, the waves built up into white caps and swells of maybe 18 inches. My kayak is certainly able to handle this sort of water, and I rather enjoyed bobbing around in the waves. I moved along the southern shore of the lake both east and then back west for about an hour.
The lake is heavily settled by “lake people” with pretty swank homes. These look to me like “year around” homes, and most have docks out into the lake. Kayaking on this lake, at least in the area around Walker’s Point, reminds me of a big Wall Lake. There seems little habitat for wildlife, and I saw only a few geese. This is certainly not a good area to observe wildlife and shoreline vegetation. About the only attraction to the lake for a kayak is a broad area for paddling exercise and perhaps an opportunity to ride the waves. I should have wadded through the mud and gone on Long Lake, I guess. There are other smaller lakes in this area that might be explored: Brant Lake and Lake Herman, for instance. From what I have observed, though, Long Lake is the preferred spot for my kind of kayaking, and I need to scout out the area for a better launching point. If I ever return to Lake Madison, I think that I will try the far western part called the Payne Access Area, where Silver Creek flows into the lake.