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
Saturday, June 07, 2008
Beaver Lake on a Saturday Afternoon in June
This morning I waited and waited for a call regarding a probable kayak trip with others, and the call never came. So, I decided that I could not waste this nice day with light winds and no rain. The endless rains of late have put a damper on plans for outdoor activities all across the area. The local rivers are rising to flood stage with fast moving waters. This is not a good time to venture out on the Big Sioux River, nor even on the local creeks that feed into the river.
I set out from my eastside Sioux Falls home and headed west along Interstate 90, following a National Guard convoy of trucks and humvees, and listening to Hawaiian music. It seemed a good day for my annual visit to Beaver Lake, located just outside of Humboldt on the north side of I 90. Directions for locating the lake can be found in earlier narratives about Beaver Lake located on the right side of the blog home page.
As has always been the case, the lake was deserted when I arrived. In my three trips to the lake, I have never seen another boat on the water. I thought that Saturday might be different, but I again had the lake to myself. Just as I was about to set off, a couple arrived on horseback and stopped for a brief chat. The guy told me that they were going to build a house on the lake for next year along with their own dock. That would be the first such development along the shoreline. Perhaps the population growth in the Sioux Falls area and the attraction of a non-developed lake makes such building inevitable.
The wind was out of the west and there were small waves on the water. The skies were broken overcast, and the temperature was probably close to 80. It was nearly a perfect paddling day.
Beaver Lake, at 306 acres, is more than three times as large as Lake Alvin. The lake is generally oriented east and west and is more than a mile wide along that axis. There is a large wooded island north of the public access point, and this is where I seem drawn each time I visit the lake. I guess islands exert some attraction to me, and I can’t resist heading in that direction, regardless of the wind direction. This island has some elevation with high banks and a thick covering of large trees. The eastern end of the island is lower and filled with willows. This is where I have frequently found varieties of birds, including large waterfowl. Today, I saw an egret, a great blue heron, and a single pelican on the shore of the island.
The southern and eastern end of the lake and the island are the most interesting landforms. This is where the wooded shore runs. There are many bays extending off of the main body of water, so there is an extensive shoreline to explore.
Beaver Lake is a wide and open body of water where wind can create quickly changing conditions. With a moderate wind, large waves can quickly form. It is best to keep alert to weather developments when on this lake, especially in a kayak or canoe.
I am often drawn to old windmills that I find along the shores of lakes in this area, and Beaver Lake has one located on the eastern shore in a marshy area. I paddled close to get a good view of the structure and could not help contrasting it with the sleek, aerodynamic wind generators that we now see situated in wind farms here in the northern plains.
The public access point on the lake includes a path leading through a grassy area to a wooden swinging bench overlooking the lake. This bench is a memorial put up by his family to honor Adam Millikan, a young man who loved Beaver Lake.