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, October 04, 2007
SDCA Cruise Down Split Rock Creek
By Jarett C. Bies
Last Saturday Eugene Preston led a group of nearly 20 paddlers on a four-hour trip down the Split Rock Creek and Big Sioux River under a partly cloudy sky with windy conditions.
Low water levels didn’t thwart the plans of the group, who assembled their boats at McHardy Park in Brandon. Preston offered a detailed scouting report from his early journey down the route, and provided maps for the group.
Putting in just below a snarl of rocks and rapid-moving water, the group slid into the creek and made good time along the shallow stream. Most of the paddlers were in single kayaks, but a few made the journey in canoes. A tandem open-hulled kayak was among the group, and one paddler made the journey in a white-water kayak.
Low water and rocks led to a few logjams of boats, but using their hands, most of the group avoided the “in-and-out” effect of the day. Split Rock Creek winds out of the Brandon area behind Huset’s Speedway, then cuts back to the west where it connects into the Big Sioux River.
Wildlife was present; one paddler saw a large white-tail doe crash from the scrabble brush and descend the bank in front of her. As the deer ran across the shallow riverbed and ascended, the paddler said she was amazed at the sight at midday.
Of course, no trip on a river or stream in South Dakota would be complete without a cattle encounter. These moms and calves seemed startled but did not trample any boats. They were willing to share their river now, and their delicious meat later, one hopes.
Not every paddler had an easy go. The two young men in the tandem kayak found plenty of shallow spots with their heavier boat. The young boy and his older companion who made good time down the route in their canoe seemed to find a few snags and trouble spots as well.
The wind was strong enough to create some waves on the river, but it did not bunch the group; and all the battles with shallow water and wind were not daunting but did remind paddlers that yes, this sport is called paddling for a reason. This was no carefree float.
This author regretted, at times, putting glass on the rocks with his fiberglass boat, but it is a boat after all, not a museum piece, and she did great. I never had to get out, save for one time to help another paddler in a shallow spot.
The take-out posed few problems and even led one paddler to rejoice the end of the trip with a dip in the murk of the Big Sioux. Muddy conditions at the take-out were not pleasant but they couldn’t stop the smiles and conversations at the conclusion of the day.
Preston’s scouting work paid off as everyone made the take-out around the same time and no one left without a better understanding of “hunting the channel” and shallow-water navigation.
One hopes this trip will be a part of the South Dakota Canoe and Kayak Association’s annual offerings. Split Rock is close to Sioux Falls and challenging, no matter what time of year one dips an oar or paddle blade.