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:

Monday, April 05, 2010

Lake Vermillion - Up the West End - April 2010

Continuing to take advantage of this streak of beautiful early spring days here on the northern plains, I decided to go to Lake Vermillion State Park this morning. In the spring, with waters so cold and my isolation as the only boat on the water, I try to stick to area waterways that are easily accessible and have a shoreline that extends deep into shallow parts of the watershed. I don’t have much interest in heading out across the wide parts of isolated lakes when a capsize would present a life-threatening situation.
Lake Vermillion State Park is west of Sioux Falls along Highway 42 (West 12th Street), and then north about four miles. The turn-off from Highway 42 is clearly marked. I arrived at 8:00 a.m. under partly cloudy skies and a temperature of about 42 degrees. As nearly always, the area was completely deserted. The lake surface was mirror smooth; the shoreline was encircled by reflections of the bare trees and bushes. There was some snow still visible under the trees in deep shadow.
I headed out from the launching area and turned right into the southern pass, headed west under the bridge, and entered that portion of the lake seldom visited by power boats. This is the shallow area with fingers extending deep into the watershed.
As I moved into the west end, I came across a big group of pelicans spread across the lake. They moved west as I paddled toward them, but eventually the distance closed until they flew off, circled around as I passed, and then landed again on the surface to continue their activities as before
I continued on into the first of the bays that open to the north of this western arm of the lake. Soon, I spotted the first of several beaver that were crossing from the northern side of the arm. They were too crafty for me to get very close. When they spotted or sensed me, they tended to dive out of sight. Since the morning was so chilly, I was wearing gloves to paddle. By the time I could get the gloves off and my camera out of its case, the beaver would typically be vanishing.
There were a good many geese and ducks about, all seemingly calling to each other. I passed them along the shoreline, and they seldom remained in place long enough for me to get my camera out.
With the abundance of water at this time of the year, this western arm of the lake has many creeks, both permanent and temporary, flowing into the main body. I like to move deep into the watershed to follow these creeks until I can’t navigate any further. This takes me very far from the main body, up gradually narrowing streams, sometimes for half-a-mile or more. This deep into the narrow waterways, large waterfowl disappear, although perching birds remain plentiful.
The waterway tends to get so narrow that it is not possible to turn the kayak around, and it becomes necessary to paddle backwards for a hundred yards or so. There was plenty of depth to the water in these waterways, usually from two to four feet.
After wandering around in the waterways for 45 minutes or so, I headed back to the dock. Altogether, my cruise this morning was nearly two hours.
A few days ago, my wife and I were out hiking in the Perry Nature Center east of Sioux Falls with our dog. We happened across a birdwatcher who had several plastic containers and some rusted out junk in his hands that he had picked up to discard in a trash container or carry home and place in his own garbage. I have often thought that each of us ought to make some minor effort on our hikes or paddles to pick up some trash, to leave the site a little bit better than we found it. So, I have begun carrying a plastic bag in my kayak and have been filling it up on each cruise. Usually, I pick up five or six plastic bottles and a few beer cans. I feel a little righteous about making this even minor contribution to a cleaner outdoors environment.


Karl Kroger said...

Hello. Just stumbled upon your site from another kayak blog. I'm sort of from Sioux Falls, but I am currently living abroad. However, I'm looking forward to moving back and developing the kayak hobby. I look forward to following your stuff. Thanks for making SD a cleaner place and for sharing your adventures. I love the picture of the waterways!

Aaron said...

I always try to remember to bring a plastic sack with me when I go geocaching. It never ceases to amaze me how I can find bottles and other trash that's heavier-than-air in the most beautiful parts of Virginia. Every little bit helps though! Have a great day, Mr. Heath!