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, May 23, 2009
Skunk Creek, May 2009
An early departure offered the hope of seeing wildlife along the route, and we did see a number of geese and ducks along the waterway; a herd of six deer flashed past us about half way through the trip. Generally, though, it is only the lead kayak that has much chance of seeing interesting “critters.” The noise of a fleet of kayaks with paddlers chatting back and forth does not offer much encouragement for wildlife to stick around in easy sight.
Skunk Creek runs through the northwestern part of Sioux Falls and joins the Big Sioux River around 26th Street and Louise Avenue. The creek passes along the edge of Dunham and Legacy Parks and flows under at least three bike trail bridges before crossing under the I29 overpass. . There is a great deal of vegetation along the waterway with big trees overhanging and some high banks. The creek is about 50 feet wide during most of the flow. For a good part of the course, there is a feeling of being off in a remote area rather than in the midst of the largest city in South Dakota. For long segments, there are no buildings visible. Occasionally, it seems that one is cruising along the back yard of homes built along the creek. This waterway is a secret treasure for people living on the northwest side of Sioux Falls, especially those with a home on the banks of the creek.
From Jerry’s home, we just carried the seven kayaks and one canoe from his driveway down to the water’s edge. Our cruise extended 5.36 miles, and we took out at behind Granite City along Louise Avenue, across from Home Depot. We paddled 2 hours and 15 minutes on this cloudy and intermittently rainy morning. Actually, the rain added an interesting element to the cruise; the temperature was in the 50s, and we all had rain jackets and hats.
There are several sets of riffles along the course of Skunk Creek. We all made it through all of them without difficulty; I was the only one among the group who had to get out of a kayak during the trip. For me, it was because of being centered on a big rock and unable to wiggle myself off. The water was generally around 4 feet deep or so, and it was fairly easy to follow the deep channel. Jerry Foy told me that the critical water depth gauge for Skunk Creek is 4.5 feet. I checked today; the reading was 4.47, and that worked fine for us.
This was a new waterway for me. It seems odd that I have lived in Sioux Falls for nearly 30 years and never focused on Skunk Creek. Somehow, the west side of town, beyond Interstate 29, seems like another place to me. I feel a little guilty at not learning more about this paddling possibility until now. For an interesting cruise within the city of Sioux Falls, I recommend Skunk Creek. It is a really fine option for a two-hour cruise, and I am glad that I joined the group for this Saturday morning start to the weekend.