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 31, 2007

Lake Vermillion - The East Side - May 2007

Lake Vermillion – May 2007

Today I cruised up the east side of Lake Vermillion from the east site of the Lake Vermillion State Recreation Area well into the East Fork Vermillion River.


The east site of the recreation area is a public access and no park sticker is necessary to use that launching area. There is a spacious paved approach and parking area, a dock, and a toilet at this site. This part of the lake is very close to the dam at the southern end, and it is across from the main part of the recreation area. As I have mentioned in earlier Lake Vermillion posts, the lake is in the form of an “L” with the lower arm extending west back up into Battle Creek. This arm is an area that is popular with kayaks and canoes because there are few boats that venture up that way. The main part of the lake is oriented north and south and extends north for a couple of miles from the dam where it narrows down as it transitions into the East Fork Vermillion River.


Today there was a moderate wind out of the south, which created a following sea condition going north on the main body of the lake. There are enough coves along the lake so that wave conditions and wind strength varied as I moved north. I moved close to the eastern shoreline so that I could check out conditions for wildlife. Also, I tried to move into calmer waters when possible. At the northern end of the lake, the waterway narrowed considerably as it transformed into a river. I continued upstream on the river for another mile or so until I checked the time and saw that I had been out for 70 minutes. I was aware of the conditions likely on the way back, so I turned and made my way back south toward the launching point.


The wind on the way back had increased in strength and the waves had become noticeably larger. The return trip required constant paddling and no slow cruising along the banks. Instead, I began to focus upon the next point or tree to mark progress; sometimes I counted strokes to validate that I was moving from point to point. As I picked up speed, the kayak took waves over the bow and spray was coming back at me. It was not especially risky, just a steady slogging ahead trying to get back. While it took me only 70 leisurely minutes to make the run north, it also took 70 minutes to get back – 70 minutes of vigorous paddling along the shortest distance between points.


There were lots of pelicans on the lake today. I came across two large flocks at different points; one group was up on the river portion of the cruise. I find these birds beautiful as they wheel overhead. In addition, I saw several great blue herons and lots of ducks. On the way back along the shallower east side of the lake, I came across several gigantic carp just below and alongside the kayak. Occasionally, they would jump out of the water – snapping at bugs, I guess.


The last time I cruised up the main body of the lake (November), I thought that the east side looked more interesting. As I was moving up the east side today, I thought that the west side looked more interesting. It seems like the east side is shallower with more aquatic grasses growing. For that reason, perhaps, there also seems to be less boat traffic on the east side. I guess that either side has its positive points. Once you get far up into the northern part of the lake, the water narrows down as it becomes a river. At that point, you can move from side to side easily.

On this Thursday morning, I saw a couple of fishing boats out on the water, and there were a couple of guys fishing at the dock at the launching point when I returned. As I have noted before, Lake Vermillion seems best on a weekday when there aren’t speed boats racing up and down. If I were to go there on a weekend day, I would be sure and start off from the east launching point and stick to the eastern side on the cruise up the lake.


Lake Vermillion is pretty close to Sioux Falls and offers the closest larger body of water. There is limited development along the shoreline, so there is the feeling of being in an isolated waterway. There is also plenty of birdlife and probably other wildlife to observe, especially as you move north on the water.

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