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:

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Split Rock Creek: From Garretson City Park Through the Palisades: Late October 2007


Friday morning (yesterday), on the spur of the moment, I decided to load up the kayak and go on a late October cruise. With the boat on my rack atop my Honda Civic low-powered hybrid and with the “Forty Licks” CD from the Rolling Stones cranked up loud, I took off on back roads to Garretson, SD. The city maintains a very nice park at the dam across Split Rock Creek, alongside Devil’s Gulch where Jesse James supposedly hid out after his bank robbery in Northfield, Minnesota.


As usual, the park and the waterway were deserted as I put my kayak in for a ride up through the spectacular quartzite palisades that line both sides of the creek at this point. The temperature was about 50 or so when I set out on the water and the skies were nearly cloudless. There was only the lightest of breezes, and for South Dakota such conditions would be like a flat calm anywhere else. As I paddled upstream from the dam, the weather only got finer. I was conscious that such days are dwindling here on the northern plains. The trees are bare of leaves, the last of the corn is being harvested, and winter is coming. I especially like to take a cruise at this time of year when most people are working while I am liberated from the job. The joy of living my own agenda while retired is a special treat not to be taken lightly.


Split Rock Creek at this point, as it moves past Garretson, is wide enough to be considered a river if it continued in that state. Going upstream, the land on the right bank seems to be public while most of the land on the left bank is private. High palisades rise up at scattered points on both sides of the creek. These quartzite cliffs house swallows during the nesting season, and the crumbling remains of this season remain affixed to the cliff walls. I find the vegetation growing out of cracks and on the edge of ledges to be interesting, especially twisted evergreen trees. The cliffs are high enough to cast interesting shadows and reflections, especially on calm waters. On the right bank, there is waterfall of about 20 feet down a quartzite cliff that can be heard for a hundred yards or so.


A railroad track runs up on a ridgeline along the right bank, and a freight train came by with a long line of cars. On the left bank, I saw cows lounging at one spot, and one came down to the water’s edge. There were some geese on the left bank that flew off on my approach and a couple of cormorants out on the water. I thought that these birds ought to be thinking of moving on to the south as colder weather approaches.


There is plenty of depth on this waterway, but occasionally my paddle would strike a rock below the surface close to the right shoreline.


Paddling this stretch of Split Rock Creek is always a tranquil ride, and each season has its special visual treats. I like to come here in the spring, during the summer, and then late in the fall. My cruises here tend to last about an hour and a-half, with plenty of time for poking into the palisades or up into Devil’s Gulch. Garretson is about 25 miles from my east side Sioux Falls home.


Check into the Split Rock directory listed on the menu over on the right side of the blog for more description and photos of this waterway.


Jason Heath said...

Looks like a beautiful day for a kayak ride!

Jarett Bies said...

Jay: Way to keep paddling into the fall! I'm jealous. I believe I will make the paddle to Lake Benton before the rack comes off and the boats go into winter storage.

Thanks for the nice work; always enjoy your blog.