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, November 21, 2009
Late November on the Big Sioux River: An unexpected fall cruise
We here on the northern plains have been blessed with a temporary respite from winter. Today the temperature was in the low 50s, the skies were partly sunny, and there was an unexpected opportunity to get out on the water again. November 21: I have never been out on the water this late in the season.
Dave and Mary Finck offered an e-mail invitation to SDCA members to join them on a cruise today on the Big Sioux River in Sioux Falls from the canoe launch point off 57th Street, past Western Avenue, to the canoe launch point at 26th Street and Southeastern Drive. Paddlers with three kayaks and two canoes gathered at the “put-in,” arranged a shuttle, and set out at 1:30 p.m. down the river with a brisk wind at our backs.
The river has a stark beauty in the fall as the trees and grasses along the banks shut down for the winter. While I prefer to see these colors of the sleeping foliage in the spring as we await the returning sun and color, late fall has its own attraction. In this case, I felt as though we had a gift today, a gift of sun, moving water, decent temperatures, and good fellowship for an unexpected paddle. I have been working out of state for the past couple of weeks and never got around to taking the kayak rack off my car. Today I was grateful for my procrastination.
I had never seen the canoe launch point off 57th Street. This improvement along the river sure makes it easier to launch boats, and I think that it adds great potential to river use within the city.
There were a few muskrat seen by the group as we moved along. Ducks and geese were also out on the river today. I wondered why they had not gotten the seasonal message and begun their journey south to warmer climes. There were lots of people out on the bike trail enjoying the day walking, on roller blades, and biking. Families were roaming along the shore laughing and enjoying the wonderful day.
The only rough spot on the Big Sioux through Sioux Falls is the rapids under the bike trail bridge, downstream from Cliff Avenue. This can be a challenging ride through the rocks in fast moving water. There is a portage signed on either side of the rapids, but the portage would mean dragging boats up through the brush, across the bike trail, and through the brush again to a point where they could be launched. Today, there was enough water through the rapids so that all five boats easily made the passage through.
We spent 90 minutes on this section of the river, and all of us felt happy to have slipped the cruise into our Saturday schedule. I thought about working on paperwork and other seemingly pressing tasks at home, but then I thought about the regret that I would feel if I did not take advantage of the day. It was a really fine afternoon!