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, June 05, 2007

Lake Marindahl

Lake Marindahl – June 2007

For a long time I have wanted to visit Lake Marindahl. I had heard good things about it from fellow small boat enthusiasts and colleagues at the University of South Dakota, and today I finally made the trip. This lake is on the outside of my normal cruising perimeter; it is 70 miles from my eastside home in Sioux Falls, and I normally resist spending more time on the drive than I do on the water.


This morning, I set off in my Honda Civic with the big red kayak on top and drove along secondary roads through the springtime green with Joan Baez singing to me on a set of CDs as the decades dropped away along the drive. I drove down Highway 11 to Canton, west on Highway 18 to 19, through Viborg down to Irene, west on Highway 46 for a few miles until I saw the sign to Lake Marindahl. The sign indicated that the lake was three miles south on 446th Ave. That was the last sign to be seen. With my South Dakota Atlas, I saw that the launching point was at the south end of the lake. From 446th Ave, you have to turn back east to 447th Ave. and go for about a mile or so until you get to 301st Street. At that point, you head north for a mile or so on a gravel road to the State of South Dakota Lake Access point. The launching area is at the extreme south end of the lake just north of the dam and spillway and is well developed with a good gravel approach and parking area, a dock, and a toilet.


The lake has been created by damming up Clay Creek which feeds into the northern end. It is a beautiful setting with heavy tree cover and high banks at the southern two-thirds of the lake. There are some spectacular cliffs, especially on the eastern side, that are perhaps 100 feet high. The lake is long and relatively narrow with irregular shoreline on both sides. I was impressed with the large trees that are dominate along the southern end. The lake is pretty deep for prairie waterways and is about a third again as large as Lake Alvin.


There is plenty of variation along the shoreline and high banks so that there would nearly always be a sheltered side. On this trip, the wind was quite light, the temperature was about 70 or so at 9:30 a.m. when I arrived, and there were only a couple of fishing boats out on the water. By the time I returned, I was alone at the site.


As I cruised up the length of the lake, I moved along the shoreline peering into the growth of trees and bushes and up at the cliffs. As I got further north, there was much more birdlife, including ducks and great blue herons. The tree cover and hills begin to diminish as you move into the northern third of the lake. Still, this is an area where there seems to be more bird life. I saw lots of turtles sunning themselves on logs along the shore and jumping carp in the shallower areas. I did not, however, see any mammal life on this cruise, although the habitat seemed as though it would support a variety of animals.



Lake Marindahl is really a jewel of an area waterway. It is a tranquil and beautiful setting that provides great visual variety. It is fun to hover along the shore and stare up at the high cliffs. Still, it is a pretty long drive from Sioux Falls. I spent the whole morning for those 90 minutes on the lake. But then, I am retired and riding along listening to Joan Baez and Bob Dylan is not a bad way to spend the morning. For people who live in Vermillion or Yankton, this would be a great trip to take frequently. For me, I suppose that once a year is probably going to be my scheduled visit to Lake Marindahl.


P. Block said...

Mr. Heath,

Just wanted to drop you a note of gratitude for this site. I ran across it a few days ago while searching for info on Swan Lake and because of your write-up and photos, ended up taking in Marindahl Lake yesterday instead. Well worth the extra few miles from Vermillion. Excellent reporting. Thank you for the great info.

Some time you may want to check out Yankton Lake just below Gavin's Point Dam. A nice little paddling lake with plenty of bird watching.

Thanks again.

P. Block

Jay Heath said...

Thanks very much for your kind remarks and for taking the time to respond. Your experience in discovering new paddling opportunities is, of course, a major reason for the blog. I appreciate the mention of Yankton Lake, and perhaps I will make the trip down there. I have seen it at a distance, but never have actually paddled it.

Best wishes to you, and, again, thanks for taking the time to respond.

Jay Heath

photojournalist said...

I just went on Marindahl last week - absolutely beautiful.

Laura W.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Heath,

Although I’m not a paddler, I too appreciate the beauty and tranquility of Lake Marindahl. Every year the men in my family try to make a boating trip to the lake around September. We enjoy the fishing aspect of the lake. Even though recently the fishing has been bad, the setting of the lake, especially with the fall foliage, makes the trip well worthwhile. My family has always been fond of the lake and we’ve regarded it as almost a “family secret” over the past four generations. We only hope that others can experience Lake Marindahl in the same way we have. Thank you for the pictures you uploaded. They made my night.