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:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lake Vermillion - The West End into the Marshes

Lake Vermillion – the West End
This morning began with clear skies, little wind, and a temperature of about 70 degrees. It was too fine a day to let pass without getting out on the water. Each year I take, perhaps, three cruises on Lake Vermillion, located in a State Recreation Area about 30 miles west of my eastside Sioux Falls home. There are a number of posts regarding this body of water with further details of the three basic cruise possibilities, and you can access them on the menu on the right side of the page.
The water is the lakes is quite high at this time of the year, especially with all the recent rains. I wanted to check out the wildlife and vegetation along the western arm of the lake, that portion of the lake that receives fewer visitors and that is less wind-blown. At this time of the year, there is sufficient depth in the feeder creeks and little bays that extend to the north and west to permit deep exploration.
Leaving the public dock within the recreation area, I moved off and under the bridge to the right. The cliff swallows have established themselves under the bridge, and it is an interesting sight to see them flying out of their mud nests and circling just outside of the bridge until an intruder departs.
There was a flock of pelicans on the western arm today, a flock of perhaps twenty birds. As I approached, they initially flew off and then returned circling above me. One senior bird seemed to have the role of sentinel while the others flew away and awaited developments.
There are two general routes into the marshes of the feeder creeks. The one to the south passes by a home built just on the banks with its own dock. The other entrance to the feeder creeks requires the paddler to continue west into what seems the mouth of a river or creek. It was possible today to continue into the marshy conditions for quite a while, until I was deep within the growth along an increasingly narrow waterway. Even though the waterway narrowed to the point where I could just pull the kayak along by grabbing grasses along the bank, there was plenty of depth to the water – consistently 3 to 4 feet deep. I traveled up-stream for about 20 minutes from the main body into this very narrow waterway until I reached what seemed a beaver dam. Coming back, I had to back out for a while until I reached a spot wide enough to, with some difficulty, turn the kayak back around.
This is really a great way to be isolated and alone within the marshes. There were no people anywhere near, no boats, no homes: nothing but the water, the vegetation along the dense banks, giant carp occasionally passing or jumping, ducks nesting, and many types of birds enjoying their lives off the beaten path. The only sounds were natural: wind through the grasses, water gurgling by, birds chattering, and the kayak passing through.
Going up the north/south length of the lake is okay, and I do this a couple times a year. There is also a great area within the entrance to the Vermillion River where interesting natural sights can be found. But, it takes a 45-minute paddle up the lake to reach that spot. Heading into the western arm quickly takes the paddler into the isolation of winding waterways that are home to great blue heron, geese, ducks, pelicans, a variety of smaller perching birds and swallows, turtles, and muskrats and beaver. During the weekend day, when all the working stiffs are hard at it, any of these routes into the lake are okay, as long as the wind force and direction are acceptable. On the weekends, this cruise up into the western arm would certainly be more tranquil. Or, like with me today, this trip up into the western accommodates a desire for personal isolation and tranquility without motorboats.


Pat Wellner said...

So, you have anything more about the closing of Alvin Lake (to swimmers)?

Joe Bartmann said...

Thanks for the tip on the west end of Lake Vermilion. I love to launch into the Vermilion River at Hawk Drive (a couple miles north of the mouth of the lake) and paddle through the winding river, marshes and creeks. It's really great. Thanks for your blog! Paddle on...

Jay Heath said...

I visited Lake Alvin today, June 23, and the GFP guys told me that the beach had been closed but that it was now open. I went to the beach and saw no sign of closure. So, it appears to be back in business now. In fact, the water seemed remarkably clear today.