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
Friday, July 18, 2008
Clean-Up Cruise on the Big Sioux River
This project was managed by Mary Finck, the conservation officer for the SDCA. Paddlers assembled at Rotary Park at 6:00 p.m., and a fleet of one canoe and three kayaks set out with plastic garbage bags. The task was to cruise along the shoreline picking up litter that was either floating or caught up in the deadwood.
Generally, the canoe served as the “mother ship” of the fleet. The kayaks were able to get in close to the shoreline or within the deadwood caught up along the river bottom. The kayaks would load up with debris and transfer it to the canoe. Two of the kayaks collected the debris and contained it within plastic garbage bags. In anticipation of this event, one of the paddlers at the Grass Lake event advised me that a plastic “milk crate” would fit on the forward deck of a kayak and could be secured by a bungee cord; so that is what I did. I just grabbed items and tossed them into the milk crate. When it filled, I pulled up alongside the canoe and transferred my cargo of trash into a big plastic bag.
There was plenty of flow in the river, perhaps helped along by the one-inch rain that fell the day before. The depth was generally about three to four feet. This sort of cruise is not planned for sightseeing or a way to appreciate the landscape. On the other hand, it was a good opportunity to practice paddling technique as we moved in to score a point with a particularly challenging plastic bottle. We pulled out about four large plastic bags of litter in this 2.2 mile cruise (1.1 miles each way). The litter collected included many plastic bottles, styrofoam beverage cups and packing materials, sheets of plastic, and several arrows, apparently from the YMCA archery range within Camp Leif Erickson.
A deer crossed the river ahead of us and presented a great view, one that I have not seen on that stretch of the river. There were also several families of ducks that included lots of little ones that swam along with us for a while. But, there were also more than the usual number of bugs and spiders within the deadwood that we had to move through in search of litter. This was a dirty job. My kayak was covered in mud, I had mud on my clothing and face, and even my glasses were smeared. When I got home, I placed all my clothing in the wash, jumped in the shower, and then went out for a late dinner with my wife.
The cruise took a couple of hours, and it was a collegial project with good cheer felt by all, pleasant conversation, and a feeling of doing a good job for the environment. As Jarett Bies would say, “this was a good op.”