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, July 12, 2008

Grass Lake Water Monitoring Project - July 2008

This morning, Saturday, July 12, a group of SDCA members gathered at the public access area of Grass Lake to take part in a collection of water samples to determine base line data regarding water quality. Jeanne Fromm of Dakota Water Watch provided an orientation to the process, including the collection of water samples and the recording of observational data regarding water depth, clarity, temperature, and weather conditions on the water.
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The SDCA fleet consisted of eight kayaks and three canoes. Weather conditions at the beginning were moderate winds, clear skies, and a temperature in the 70s. It looked like a perfect day on the upper Great Plains, following a couple of days with temperatures into the 90s. Shortly after setting off, however, the wind freshened out of the west and swept, at about 30 mph, down the length of Grass Lake. The operation began at the eastern end of the lake, and that meant that the boats had to paddle into the wind down toward the western end. Crossing from the north side of the lake to the south meant going across the wind into mounting waves. Both directions meant hard paddling into wind and increasing waves.
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Each of the boats was given two locations on the lake from which to secure water samples and observational data. We all had several pages of data sheets and a clipboard as well as equipment to measure depth, temperature, and clarity. We also had sample envelopes and bottles to fill with lake water from our assigned spots. My assignment was the far western end of the lake where a creek flows in as well as a spot in the middle of the western end of the main body. Since mine was the most distant station, I set off on the trek into the wind ahead of most other boats. Steady hard paddling was required, and my boat crashed into the on-coming waves sending spray into the boat and my face. My glasses were soon covered with lake water. I tried, with limited success, to keep the monitoring paperwork dry.
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Most of us managed to gather the assigned data, but the paperwork got wet and it was impossible to gather some information, especially water depth, because of the high winds, waves, and drift. I was concerned that I would lose my paddle over the side while fiddling with the sampling and observation paperwork and equipment.
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One of the canoes overturned in the winds, but assistance was provided by Ed Hoffman and the paddlers were able to make it back to shore without injury. Another canoe was windblown onto the southern shore where the paddlers wisely decided that the conditions were too tough to continue, especially after taking on water. Larry Braaten took his truck over the opposite shore to assist the paddlers and transport their canoe back to the launching area.
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Returning from the western end of the lake, I joined Steven Dahlmeier in riding a following sea with the wind at our back and the waves heading in our direction of travel while surfing waves up to three feet high. It was an exhilarating ride back, although there was always the possibility of slipping into the trough and rolling. Alone, I would probably have kept closer to the shore and looked for less active water. In the company of Steven, however, I didn’t want to “wimp out” and take the easier route. It was fun, and I enjoyed riding up on the leading edge of the wave and then plunging down. Keeping some momentum on the kayak while being careful not to drift across the waves was the key, it seems.
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So, the trip was a little rougher than planned. There were some difficult moments because of increasing wind, but most of the observations were made and samples collected. The SDCA was able to make a contribution to the water-monitoring project, and participants also learned more about data collection and analysis. Hopefully our efforts will provide baseline data regarding Grass Lake to help ensure that this body of water continues to provide a safe and healthful environment for multiple recreational uses.
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Check out the SDCA web site for more information and photos regarding the monitoring project.
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Note on The Big Sioux River accident last week: The guys who lost their kayaks when caught up in a “sweeper” below the Klondike had their boats returned. Larry Braaten, again the “man of the hour” located one of the boats, and another guy found the other. The owner has been reunited with the drifting kayaks. More details can be found on the SDCA web site.

Also, the blog readers are reminded of the Big Sioux River clean-up project planned for Thursday evening, July 17, at 6:00 p.m. The group, under the leadership of Mary Finck, will gather at the 26th Street canoe access point near the intersection of 26th and Southeastern Drive, across from the YMCA camp. See the SDCKA web site for additional details.

1 comment:

Steven said...

As usual, excellent post Jay! I'll work on editing my photos and hope to post them on Sunday. Great paddling with you today!