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, August 07, 2008

Mid-Summer on Lake Alvin

In retirement, it seems to me that one of the major tasks is to keep fit. Each day I try to engage in a set of outside physical activities for two hours; in a given week, I will go kayaking once or twice, go on a circuit of the Sioux Falls bike trail (20 miles) once or twice, and take a long hike in one of the nearby nature areas, usually with our dog, Finnegan, the other days of the week. This was a day I had set aside for kayaking. While I most enjoy going to a new or seldom visited area, sometimes going out to Lake Alvin is my best bet, especially if there are other obligations coming during the day. A trip to Lake Alvin can be accomplished in 2½ hours, providing a good 1½ hours or more on the water. It is 15 minutes from my driveway to the dock. I go out to this body of water about a dozen times a year.
While it may seem as though this lake might become “old hat,” I nearly always find a new slant to the water, the skies, the angle of the sun, the shoreline, the birds, and the foliage. Each trip to the lake is unique, there are always subtle changes to observe, special nuances about the environment that capture my attention.
Today, I put in at the public access area and found it deserted, as usual. There was only a light breeze that ruffled parts of the lake. I considered taking my umbrella to sail a little, but there was too little wind to make that worthwhile. Parts of the lake were in the lee of the wind and were a millpond. This phenomenon creates sharp reflections, and I enjoyed looking at the foliage as it formed a dual pattern of images.
The surface of the lake was varied. In those areas touched by the wind, there were 2-inch waves lapping the side of the kayak. In those sheltered areas, there was sometimes a thin green coating of algae spread out from the shoreline. There are a number of little coves along the shore, and this was a good day to move into them to observe the still waters.
One boat was out on the lake with two guys on their first time fishing this lake. They asked me were the fish were biting, but I’ve never fished the lake. In fact, I have never been sport fishing. A couple of times in my life, I have worked as a deckhand on fishing boats in the Pacific Northwest, but I don’t know anything about sport fishing. I had no advice for these guys. I did, however, see lots of carp in shallow waters, but I doubt that this is the sort of fishing they had in mind.
I did the normal circuit of the lake perimeter, beginning at the public access area, going across the lake and up toward the fishing dock, around to the spillway, and then back down the shoreline past the swimming beach and the Recreation Area dock, ending up at the public access dock again. I did not go up into Nine-Mile Creek today. I was to meet my wife and a couple of friends at a restaurant downtown in Sioux Falls at noon, and my time was running out.
Lake Alvin is a great place to paddle for exercise and also provides a bit of scenery. I have never been able to maintain a gym membership; I prefer outdoor activities for caloric expenditure and to keep my muscles toned rather than work on machines in a gym. So, I have to remind myself that Lake Alvin is a good spot for paddling and looking at the environment, and it is not always necessary to drive so far to another lake every time I want to go out.
A guy and his dog were in the public access area as I wrapped up my little cruise today. He told me that his daughter and her husband have kayaks and have been out in the Pacific Ocean with their boats, as well as down whitewater rivers in Colorado. Maybe he was offering a contrast to my rather tame circuit around Lake Alvin. But then, he was standing on the shore, and I was out in my kayak on the lake: Better Lake Alvin on a calm day than kicking back in the recliner watching the day pass.

No comments: