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
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Grass Lake: The Islands and Pelicans
One of the great benefits of being largely retired is the freedom to seize the day and make spontaneous plans. This morning was glorious in Sioux Falls: sunny skies, light winds, temps in the 60s and 70s, and an uncluttered personal agenda. So, I decided to take advantage of the day and revisit Grass Lake, a jewel of a waterway less than 30 miles from my eastside Sioux Falls home. I go out to Grass Lake several times a year and try to see it in the three seasons that we have for kayaking here in SD.
As always, I was absolutely alone on the lake. The lake access area and the lake itself have been deserted every time I have visited; and, of course, that is the way I like it. Here in SD, it seems, if there is another person in sight, the area is crowded. At least, that is how I see it.
I put in at the very rough launching area and headed west along the north shore. I decided to see if I could land and stroll around on the two islands within the lake. I had not ever set foot on either of them, and this seemed like a good time to do just that. These islands are covered with growth: small trees, willows, and tall grass. In the spring and summer I would expect to find ticks galore on the islands; they look like a tick haven to me. Now though, the ticks seem to have faded away, and I had to take advantage of the moment.
The island on the north side of the lake is at least twice the size of the other island, and that is where I went first. I was able to easily land the kayak, get out, and stroll around about half of the shoreline. Then, I went inland through some deep weeds. There were a couple of goose eggs left from the brooding season, eggs that never made it for some reason.
I also landed on the smaller island, but the willow growth creates a dense wall of vegetation that effectively bars easy access to the small interior of the island. So, I contented myself with moving around a little on the shoreline.
Still, I did get out of the kayak and explore to some extent both of the islands.
There was a flock of pelicans on the water, and I was able to get fairly close to them. As usual, they were hanging out along a rocky peninsular at the northwestern end of the lake. Hanging with the pelicans was a large flock of gulls, and these were a bit more flighty than the pelicans. I found it interesting to approach as closely as they would allow while trying to capture good photographs of them on the water and then as they took off. Pelicans are usually at home on Grass Lake, and I wonder how long they will stay into the approaching colder weather.
There is an old windmill along the southwestern shoreline of the lake, and I often stop for a view of it. It must have been used long ago to pump water.
Grass Lake is not well marked, and without an area detailed map it would be quite difficult to find. The only sign is an old and faded one that indicates a public access area. There is a very rough launching area, one I would not want to use to back a trailer into. Still, I did see tracks in the mud that indicated that someone had recently used this ramp. For kayaks and canoes, it is an easy carry down to the shoreline and an easy put-in.
I have never been disappointed in the lake. It has always been deserted, and I have always found a variety of wildlife, vegetation, and water conditions. It takes me about an hour to kayak around the lake, more if I stop along the way. You can check prior entries about Grass Lake by clicking on that link among the bodies of water listed on the right side of the blog page.