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
Monday, May 18, 2009
Split Rock Creek - The Palisades May 2009
Monday seemed like a good day to head out for a kayak cruise, and I decided to return to the city park in Garretson, SD, and cruise up Split Rock Creek through the palisades. This is a spot I return to several times a year; it also one of the places I am most likely to take a guest or friend out for a kayak ride. It is really a spectacular stretch of waterway here in the Sioux Falls area. There are high cliffs along both sides of the creek as it extends up from the dam at the city park.
Today, I was focused upon the vegetation, especially the plants and trees that have a tenuous hold on life within the cracks of the Sioux quartzite cliffs. These hardy plants grow in improbable places and suggest to me the power of life, the ability to survive in seemingly impossible conditions.
The overhang of the palisades creates interesting shadows, and a contrast with the sky, the water, and the colors of the rocks. The light creates a new look at the cliffs and growth with every shift of the kayak across the waterway.
As usual, I kayaked upstream to a small riffle that marks the end of the easily navigated section. It takes about 30 minutes to go upstream, even checking out the plant life and the geology. There is plenty of time to look at the birdlife along the way. Today, the cliff swallows were back and repairing the mud nests along the cliff walls that had deteriorated during the winter. On past cruises, I have watched beaver, seen muskrats, deer, and lots of birdlife including great blue heron, geese, ducks, and a great variety of swallows and perching birds.
The cruise back downstream seems to go faster, but then I also nearly always go through the four-arch stone bridge that leads into Devil’s Gulch. This little side trip is always a pleasure for me. The waterway moves on for a half a mile or so through another smaller but still spectacular set of palisades and ends at a little inlet that drains through the woods along the park.
My cruise today was 65 minutes. As nearly always, I was alone on the water. As I finished the cruise, however, a school bus had arrived at the park from a school in Rock Valley, Iowa, with a group of students on a field trip or end-of-the-year excursion. They had made arrangements to take a ride on the S.S. Jesse James, a large pontoon boat that provides cruises along the same stretch I had just paddled. The skipper of the pontoon boat had backed his big trailer into the ramp, and I had to carry my kayak out of the way and 50 yards or so to my car. I thought of that as my strength training for the day.
There are a number of alternatives on Split Rock Creek. Below the dam at Garretson, the creek continues down through Split Rock State Park, then on to McHardy Park in Brandon, and finally to the confluence with the Big Sioux at the edge of Brandon.
There are past narratives of this cruise that can be accessed through the menu on the right side of the blog.