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, June 24, 2008
Lake Alvin - Late June 2008
This morning I loaded up the kayak and took the 15-minute drive out to Lake Alvin for a cruise around the lake. This time, I departed from the public access area and concentrated on the main body of the lake. There was a light wind, the temperature was in the 70s, and the clouds were just lifting. The lake was deserted at 9:00 a.m. except for a crew of Game, Fish, and Parks guys who were doing a “population survey,” or a fish census. The four guys were in a wide workboat and had a series of nets strung out at various points on the lake. They were counting and classifying the fish caught, and then the fish were released over the side. On an evening cruise last year I saw a series of nets set up and wondered at the purpose: now I know.
Lake Alvin is classified as a “no-wake” lake, something that had escaped me in the past. Years ago, the lake had a horsepower limitation; now, the restriction is that boats do not create a wake. I guess that is why you don’t see ski boats or jet skies on the lake.
I have always appreciated the lay of Lake Alvin. Even though it is only 90 acres, it was created over the Nine-Mile Creek bed and is characterized by high banks, some cliffs, and lots of mature trees. It seems that there is always a lee side to the lake. Even if there is a stiff wind, a good part of the lake seems to be in a lee. Standing on the high bank in the recreation area and overlooking the lake, this distribution of wind is apparent.
The lake has plenty of water in it now, and I was able to paddle up into the several bays extending off the main body. I like to go into the channel leading to the spillway, the outlet for the lake. Today, I cruised into the outlet with my rudder down, and it didn’t even touch bottom. The spillway at the end of the channel presents a danger if a paddler would get too close. Throughout the lake, the bottom was clearly visible up to about four feet. There was little algae growth in or on the water. In fact, I thought that the lake was remarkably clear for this time of the year.
There were no waterfowl on the lake today. In fact, I have rarely seen waterfowl on the main part of the lake during the boating season. There is too much traffic on the water, I would guess. There is waterfowl down into the outlet of Nine-Mile Creek as it flows into Lake Alvin, but I was at the other end today.
So, I cruised along looking at the vegetation and the landform along the shoreline of the Lake. There are some nice looking wildflowers to be seen at various points. I did not see any mammal life on the lake today. My cruise around the perimeter of the lake, even stopping to check out areas of interest, took me about an hour and 15 minutes. This fits nicely into my basic formula for such a trip: more time on the water than in the car.
Lake Alvin is experiencing some development, particularly just outside the park entrance. This is a familiar phenomenon that seems to have begun or is advanced at many of the state parks: Lake Vermillion, the Big Sioux Recreation Area, Beaver Creek, and at Lake Alvin. Some of these homes look ostentatious to me, an intrusion upon the tranquility of the park. Still, I guess that if I had the resources, it might seem an attractive place for me to live as well. Since I don’t, however, I can feel mildly resentful of that intrusion of private wealth looming over the public nature areas. At Lake Alvin, fortunately, there are no private docks and no homes on the waterfront. Nearly all of the lake is covered with trees and other vegetation. I am so glad that farsighted leaders preserved great swaths of land along our waterways and created parks and recreation areas before the land was grabbed up by private developers.