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:

Saturday, June 28, 2008

White Caps on the Big Sioux River

The Big Sioux River: Flandreau - Pow Wow Grounds to Low Head Dam
Today, I joined a group of SDCA members on a trip down the Big Sioux River, beginning at the Santee Sioux Indian Pow Wow grounds and ending 10 miles downstream at the low head dam just south of the Flandreau Indian High School. This cruise continued downstream another two miles from the Flandreau City Park, where the first SDCA cruise of the year concluded this past April.
The put-in at the Pow Wow grounds requires a pass over a set of rapids created with the remains of an old sidewalk put across the river years ago. The remainder of the river is free of navigation hazards and is often a tranquil and scenic cruise. Today, however, the ride was anything but a quiet float trip downstream; instead, there was an expedition quality about it. The winds were blowing out of the northwest at up to 40 mph and it was raining for part of the trip. The temperature was in the 60s, and the skies were cloudy. Because of the serpentine course of the river, sometimes there were wind waves 18 inches or more in height breaking on the bow of our kayaks and spraying up into the cockpit and faces of the paddlers. These winds necessitated continuous paddling, often hard paddling. At other times, we were in the lee of trees and high banks, and the ride was easy.
We saw a number of great blue heron and several hawks. Jarett thought that he spotted a river otter along the bank. About four miles into the trip, we came across a tributary creek and headed up that waterway to find unsettled waters and a brief respite from the wind and waves.
There were four of us on the trip, Jarett Bies was the cruise leader, and Pat Wellner and his pal Arnold came from Pierre to join us. Tom, a bloger from Elkton (, came along to record our departure and provided a shuttle for the four of us. We all enjoyed the three hours spent moving downstream in sometimes trying conditions. As a certified geezer, I felt good about being able to keep up with the three younger guys, the oldest of whom is nearly 27 years younger than me. Heading down the river is to me incomparable to going to the gym. I can’t imagine a better way to get great upper body exercise, enjoy the outdoors, and laugh it up with an agreeable bunch of guys.
The trip ended at a take-out just above a low head dam. As I have marveled before, we were able to take a ten-mile kayak cruise on the river that began on the north end of Flandreau and ended still north of the main street, just south of the Flandreau Indian High School. This is just amazing to me. The river runs through the countryside with heavy tree growth along the banks with no indication that it is anywhere near a settled community. I think that this is one of the nicest cruises along the Big Sioux River in the general Sioux Falls area.


Jarett said...


Stellar work again, and thanks for the link to your Flickr site, I might have some fun with those shots of me shooting the rapids.

Like you, I took yesterday with a sense of "this is important to me" and I thank you for being there, documenting it, and reminding me that there's more to life than the daily grind.

Looking forward to Grass Lake!

Pat Wellner said...

Nice pictures. My post is up too.

LJLickfelt said...

Great to see you so active. I think I might want to join you some day when I am in SF. It looks like fun and the rivers and lakes in the area are beautiful. Enjoyed our visit a couple weeks ago. Hope to talk to you again soon.
Larry L