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
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
The Last Attempt: The ice is in on Lake Alvin
Yesterday the temperature rose into the low 50s, and I became obsessed with the notion of kayaking here in the Sioux Falls area in December. Last week on the Big Sioux River was a record late cruise for me; the idea of taking a real last cruise of the season was nearly overpowering. I loaded up my kayak yesterday so that nothing would dissuade me from going out, and Lake Alvin seemed just right to me. We have had a series of days here on the northern plains with nighttime temperatures in the high 20s and low 30s and a daytime high of into the 40s. The forecast was for nearly 50 degrees today. Kayaking in December! I could not resist the possibility.
So, with the kayak loaded up, I headed out to Lake Alvin about 9:30 a.m. with a temperature about 35 degrees and sunny skies. At the public access area of Lake Alvin, I found that the dock had been pulled out and the lake was deserted. I saw ice sparkling out from shore, but I thought that I could just paddle along the shoreline where the water was relatively free of ice.
As I set out, it seemed right away that I was cutting through the ice cover. Perhaps the ice was a quarter inch thick, but I found it increasingly difficult to make much headway. The paddle would break through the ice, and the kayak would slide along. Soon I began to wonder if I could get caught up in ice too thick to get through and find myself stranded off shore. I back paddled to the open lead that I had originally followed and continued along the shoreline. I had about 10 feet of open water between the pack and the shore. After about 100 yards, however, even that shoreline stretch of open water began to narrow until again my kayak was functioning as an icebreaker.
Moving in this restricted space was not much of a cruise, and I regretted not heading over to the Big Sioux River for another run between 26th Street and the bridge over the bicycle trail. But, since I was at the lake, I made another attempt to find open leads for a little longer cruise. Soon it was apparent that I wasn’t going to be able to do much more than duplicate the cruise along the shoreline for that short distance.
I just moved back to the public access area and managed to get out of the kayak without getting my feet wet. With the kayak loaded up, I looked back at the lake and thought about the four months or more before it would be possible to get out on the water again here in the Sioux Falls area. Four months seems like a long stretch to me. I guess that the winter is truly here; the temps are falling, and the forecast high does not seem likely. Cold days are predicted, a wind is blowing, clouds have formed up, and the ice is in. I think that it is now really time to take the kayak rack off the car, unload all my gear from the trunk, and shift focus for the season.