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:

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

This Seemingly Endless Winter

The Seemingly Endless Winter: No Kayaking on Lakes Yet

Last year at this time, we northern plains kayakers were out on the water. My first blog entry of the 2007-paddling season featured an early cruise by Steve Dahlmeier on Lake Alvin on March 19. This year, the winter seems endless. The temperatures have consistently been 10-15 degrees colder than normal, there has been lots of snow in March, the lakes are ice covered still, and my kayak has continued its service as a shelf for boxes and odd gear that has no appointed place in the garage.


I went out to Lake Alvin this morning to check out the conditions. It was my first visit to the lake since November; I drove out there in a snow shower and arrived to find the state recreation area deserted, the lake ice covered, and the dock pulled out. It was cold, and the wind was blowing. I was dressed in layers and had gloves and a sheepskin hat on. My little poodle came along with me, and he had his red sweater on. We went for a nice stroll around the recreation area, but the sight was the same all over: snow and ice.


Along the edge of the lake, a narrow break of open water was visible. The water there at the edge was clear, probably as clear as it ever gets in Lake Alvin. Migratory birds have returned, and there were geese at one of the wider breaks of open water near the spillway. Lots of robins were flitting about, but I wondered what they would find to eat. My wife worries about the early return of the robins, often just in time for a series of snowfalls in late March. They look so fat this time of the year, so I assume that they have filled up on worms from further south – enough to sustain them, anyway, during these first few weeks of their return.


After leaving Lake Alvin, I drove over to the Larchwood Road that crosses over the Big Sioux River to check out the flow there. The water was moving nicely, but the approach was a morass of mud. One look down the road was enough to convince me that going on would be a sad mistake. So, that approach to the river does not seem feasible for cars now during the thaw.


I guess that we all just have to hope for a rapid change of conditions here in the north. The temperatures this weekend are expected to climb into the low 50s. If that continues for a week or so, perhaps the lakes will open up. We also need some sunny and dry weather before taking a car down dirt roads to the banks of the Big Sioux. The first SDCA cruise is slatted for April 19 on the Big Sioux up near Flandreau. I read Jarett Bies’ blog the other day with photos of the ice-covered river in that area. We’re all just hoping for a big thaw and dry-out in the next couple of weeks.



Jarett C. Bies said...

Hey Jay.. I hear ya.. I can't wait to get out and start kayaking again!!! I've seen snow 7 months this year now, ahhhh... enough is enough!! I'm looking forward to the kayaking trip April 19th!! Time to get the rack on the car :-)

Laura Bies

Steven Dahlmeier said...

I'll be testing out the Big Sioux tomorrow and Saturday. Very excited.

Pat Wellner said...

I was just out in the Missouri yesterday and I'll go out again tonight.

John Adler said...

I KNEW there was an advantage to living in Pierre. Open water all year long. A friend and I made it out at least once every month this winter. With the plan of going out tomorrow, that will make 13 straight months for me.

Pat Wellner said...

Well, I finally got around to creating labels for my kayak posts on my blog. So if anyone's interested...