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
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Lake Herman - Mid-August 2008
In preparation for a kayak trip this morning, last night I loaded the boat on top of the Honda Civic and made sure that all my gear was ready for an early morning departure for one of the area waterways. I decided to return to Lake Herman, near Madison, SD, and about 58 miles north and west of my eastside Sioux Falls home. I left town at 7:00 a.m. and arrived at Lake Herman State Park about 8:00. The winds were calm, the temperature was in the 60s, and the lake was deserted. Although this is known as a busy lake on weekends and holidays, on this Wednesday morning in mid-August, I did not see another boat on the lake; it was completely deserted throughout my entire cruise.
Lake Herman is a good-sized glacial lake with a general north-south orientation. The surface area is 1,350 acres, or about 15 times that of Lake Alvin. The map of the lake resembles a seahorse shape, divided into a northern larger portion and a smaller southern part, with the lake narrowing through a strait at the dividing point. The distance from the northern shore to the southern is about 2.5 miles, and the lake is about 1.5 miles wide at the greatest separation, east to west. I paddled in my usual perimeter fashion and covered about 2/3 of the shoreline. I ran out of time and did not cover the northern half of the larger portion, even though I spent two hours on my paddle. My rule is to spend less time in the car than on the paddle, and I needed to spend those two hours in the boat in order to live up to my self-imposed personal expectation. My route along the lake was rather slow paced with time to appreciate the landscape and to take photos. I would guess that two hours of steady paddling would be adequate for a circuit around the entire lake.
The South Dakota Department of Game Fish and Parks manages a park along the eastern shore, and there is a very functional launching ramp, ample parking, and a vault toilet just inside the park entrance.
The park property extends from about the middle of the eastern shore of the larger portion of the lake, down south around a peninsula, and continues south toward the middle of the southern portion of the lake. Even past the park property, though, there is nearly continuous tree growth along the shore to the west side of the southern portion. I kayaked for 30 minutes or more before coming to a group of about a dozen cabins on the eastern shore of the southern portion.
Passing offshore of the cabins, I noticed a flock of pelicans hanging out on a narrow spit of land along the east side of the southern body of water. I was able to get pretty close to the flock without spooking them into flight. As I got closer to them, they began edging off their point and moving a little farther away from me. There must have been a couple dozen pelicans, along with some of their pals, the gulls.
I continued along the eastern shore, past a resort that was a 4-H camp, until I reached the eastside public access point. This launching area is across the northern portion of the lake from the park, and this is the widest part of the lake. While the park itself is a “fee area,” no park sticker is generally required at “lake access” points.
When I arrived at the lake, there was nearly a flat calm upon the water at the park launching area, and this calm extended about 100 yards off shore. The sun was low on the horizon at 8:00 a.m., so I was able to stay in the shade as I made my way south along the western side. On the way back north, however, the sun had come up higher, and I was in direct sunlight; in addition, the wind came up, creating 6-8 inch waves in unsheltered parts of the lake, especially noticeable as I headed west back to the dock.
But, again, the lake was deserted. There was no worry about wakes to avoid or concern about being run down by a maddened power boater. No one was even fishing!
I was very pleased with the paddling opportunity this morning. The shoreline of Lake Herman is mostly wooded, and there are cabins on only a few scattered parts of the lake. Much of the shoreline is ringed with large boulders to prevent erosion. There are no islands in the lake, nor much in the way of coves to be explored. This is a fine lake for paddling, with a good bit of variation in topography. The lake is pretty large in terms of prairie lakes, and wind will always be a factor when venturing out on such a large body of water.
A few years ago, I visited Lake Herman with my Folbot, but I was not much impressed by its possibilities; it did not draw me back. This time, I have a very different view. The nearly perfect conditions observed created a warm feeling in me toward this body of water. I like the tranquility of the lake, the foliage along most of the shoreline, and the variations presented by such a larger body of water. I recommend Lake Herman and will be returning.