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
Friday, August 21, 2009
Back to Lake Alvin - August 2009
I try to get out in my kayak at least once a week. Generally, my desire is to visit the area waterways in some sort of rotation so that I can update myself and the readers of this blog on conditions for paddling within an hour or so of Sioux Falls. Lake Alvin is like an old shoe; it is close, familiar, and predictable. So, I often feel as though I am not extending myself much when I go for a cruise on this very familiar body of water. Then, I sometimes snap out of my preconceived notion of destination and head out to Lake Alvin. You know, this is really a pretty nice place to go paddling. An important element for me is that time traveled from my driveway to the dock in the public access launching area today was 14 minutes. There are a number of other attractive features to Lake Alvin, which will again be emphasized in this narrative.
Today was partly sunny with a hint of rain in the big cumulus clouds moving across the landscape. It was also pretty windy, perhaps 20 mph, with temperatures in the high 60s. When I arrived at the lake, it was, as usual during a weekday morning, deserted. There were no other boats on the lake as I set out from the launching point.
Lake Alvin has an irregular shape that follows the old creek bed of Nine Mile Creek and is bordered by high banks along most of the shoreline. So, the wind across the lake is affected by the landscape. The shape of the lake means that wind conditions are nearly always variable. As you round one point, the wind tends to shift direction. There is generally a lee with relatively calm water along the shoreline below the banks.
Today, I set out from the public access area and paddled north and then east to the fishing dock on the far northern shore. It seemed to me that I was paddling into the wind, and I thought that I would just sail back to the south end after my cruise. On the way back, however, I found that shifting winds and the bends in the lakebed keep me still in a head wind. After passing the recreation area dock, though, the wind provided an opportunity for me to set my Spirit sail and cruise all the way back to the entrance into Nine Mile Creek.
Sailing today was a great experience. The wind provided plenty of drive, and my rudder gave me excellent control as I cruised south. The kayak was creating a bow wave and wake through the water, and I was kicking back, grinning at the ease of travel.
To extend the cruise, I entered Nine Mile Creek and found plenty of depth for the trip into this increasingly narrow waterway. This is one of my favorite aspects of cruising on Lake Alvin. Nine Mile Creek is where a paddler is most likely to see waterfowl, birds of all sorts, beaver, muskrat, raccoon, turtles, and deer. Today, I came across two deer sharing a drink of creek water. They seemed frozen in place at first, just giving me a close look but not immediately dashing off. I had time to take my camera out and catch a couple of photos before they fled. In addition, I saw a mother duck with a big group of little ones scattering at the sight of my approaching kayak. Nine Mile Creek is also where a paddler is most likely to come across turtles.
Once again, I began to feel fortunate to have Lake Alvin so close to my eastside Sioux Falls home. It has been nearly two months since I last paddled these waters, and I need to take more frequent advantage of the paddling opportunities it presents.