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:

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Split Rock Creek - Garretson City Park - April 2010

Saturday is a day that I usually avoid for kayaking, biking, or hiking. On weekends, people are out in their boats or gathered along beaches, the city bike trail is crowded, and people take their dogs out for a run in the area nature areas. During the week, I am almost always alone or nearly alone in most of my outdoor activities. Today, though, our routine was a bit different for a Saturday, and there was an opportunity to slip away for a cruise. I decided to continue with my early spring review of area paddling opportunities, and today I went to Split Rock Creek, beginning at the Garretson City Park and paddling upstream from the dam to the end of easily navigated waters.
When I take guests or one of my sons out for a paddle, this is the waterway that is always among the first choices. Paddling through the quartzite palisades with their towering height and the interesting range of bushes and trees growing on top or in cracks is just a delightful visual scene.
As nearly always, I was alone on the water as I moved along in about 60 degree temperatures under mostly sunny skies. The grass and some of the bushes are “greening up,” but the trees are still bare. The wind varies as it blows across the impounded waters of Split Rock Creek and through the sheer cliffs of the palisades, creating visual displays of flat calm areas interwoven with areas of ripples from the breeze.
I found myself lingering in the shadow of overhanging cliffs of the palisades, gazing at details of the rock face and looking at the struggling vegetation growing out of cracks and along ledges.
Sounds along this stretch of Split Rock Creek are an interesting blend of modern life and the eternal flow of water. There is a large railroad yard in Garretson, and today a very long fast moving freight train sped along on tracks that parallel the shoreline. Then, a light plane flew alongside the creek for a while. There is a well-used park maintained by the city of Garretson that provides opportunity for nature walks, fishing, picnicking, and camping. So, especially on weekends and in the summer, the sounds of children playing rings out over the water for a few hundred yards along the main part of the park. Also in the summer and fall months, a sightseeing pontoon boat takes passengers for a cruise up the main body of Split Rock Creek, the same route that I use for my kayaking. Mostly, however, after leaving the launch area, there are no people heard or seen, especially after the first hundred yards or so.
Today, there were lots of geese out along the shore. They must be getting ready for nesting. The pattern seemed to be for a pair of geese to hang out together along a spot on the shoreline or hover in the water just offshore. As I cruised by, the geese tended to rush over to the water’s edge and honk loudly at me until it was clear that I was moving on. There were lots of ducks out on the water today as well, including some small ones that swam in groups and did not seem very spooked by me and the kayak.
As usual, I slipped through the arches of the bridge into Devil’s Gulch. This is a very secluded waterway, and it is one of my favorite spots on this part of the creek. The gulch moves along under a railroad bridge and extends deep into the rock formations.
I was on the water for a little over an hour, but this included lingering for photography and looking at the change in seasons. As usual, I picked up a bag full of plastic bottles that I fished out of the water.

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