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, April 22, 2008
Lake Alvin: An Early Spring Cruise
This morning as I walked home from my routine of reading a novel and sipping a few cups of coffee at the local supermarket coffee shop, I was struck by the beauty of the day. It was about 46 degrees, the sun was bright, and there was no wind. I was unable to resist the impulse and rushed home to lash my kayak atop the Honda Civic and head out for a late morning cruise on Lake Alvin. My last vista of Lake Alvin was on April 2, and it was almost totally ice covered still. I was fairly sure that the last couple weeks of warmer weather would have caused the ice to melt.
Lake Alvin is 9.5 miles from my eastside Sioux Falls home, and it took me only 14 minutes from driveway to the dock within the State Recreation Area. The dock has been installed, and there were two or three open fishing boats on the water.
The surface of the water was mirror calm. By the time I launched the kayak, I had rolled up my sleeves and was soaking up some rays.
On this trip, I was particularly interested in checking out the nesting ducks. I headed from the RA dock down the lake to Nine Mile Creek. The RA dock is high up on the north shore, and the entrance to Nine Mile Creek is at the far southwestern end of the lake. Moving down the lake to the south, past the public access area, it is important to keep to the left bank in order to avoid shallow mud flats in the central part of this portion of the lake.
Nine Mile Creek begins with a fairly wide course and gradually narrows down after passing under the bridge. I was able to continue up the creek for about 20 minutes until I ran out of navigable water. This is an area filled with bird life, especially ducks. I saw a large cormorant, dozens of ducks, pheasants, a beaver, the first turtles of the season, and lots of jumping carp.
I found it interesting to see the beginning of growth for the grasses of the area. Lots of green shoots are working their way through the brown grasses from last year. It is such a hopeful sign, especially here in the northern plains. The winter has been so long, and we have all looked for signs of spring for weeks now. I loved being out on the surface of this lake that just a couple of weeks ago was still ice covered.
Kayaking on a lake requires a little more effort that cruising down a river. Even though I went out for a trip on the Big Sioux River last Saturday, about 90 minutes of paddling was enough for me today. Still, what a wonderful way to open the day: moving along the shore line checking out the vegetation, bird calls the only sound to break the silence, basking in the sun, shirt sleeves rolled up, the feeling of being in control of my own self-propelled craft, no work staring me in the face. What a great day!