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
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Split Rock Creek – Molly’s First Cruise
Molly, the girlfriend of our son Derek, expressed an interest in kayaking, and this morning (Sunday) she joined my wife, Finnegan the family dog, and me for an introductory cruise on Split Rock Creek from the Garretson city park upstream to the set of rapids that defines the normal end of upstream navigation. While Finnegan and my wife, Marsha, took a stroll around the park, Molly and I set out on the cruise.
It was a glorious day with little wind, sunny skies, and a temperature in the low 80s. Since this was a weekend, there were a number of people in the park: campers, a couple of people out in a rubber raft, and people passing, including some on motorcycles. After meeting the rubber raft, though, we did not come across anyone else on the water until our return. Just as we were getting off the water, a couple with their kayaks and a swimming dog appeared.
The water is high on Split Rock Creek, but that only means satisfactory depth on the cruise upstream with little danger of running aground. I had not been on this stream since spring, a time when only the evergreen trees offered any hint of color. Now, the banks and cliffs are covered in green; the landscape is now in the full glory of summer in South Dakota.
Molly was tentative in her early minutes, paddling in my Dagger 13 foot kayak. I coached her from my Folbot, and we slowly cruised upstream. She quickly got the “knack” of paddling, keeping a straight course, and negotiating turns. On the ride back downstream, I showed her how to engage the rudder, and that provided another experience. She said, however, that she liked padding without the rudder: she liked the sensation of using a set of different paddle strokes to keep moving in the desired direction. With the rudder, she said that she felt that she was “cheating.” I, on the other hand, nearly always use the rudder and enjoy the ability to easily move along a desired course, especially to sneak up on “critters” or to watch the changing landscape without concern about “corrective strokes.”
We continued upstream for about 30 minutes to the rapids at the end of this section of the waterway, a spot where a couple of homes built along the creek are visible. We turned back at that point and returned to the arched bridge located adjacent to the launching point, the “put-in.”
As we went through the arched bridge and under the railroad bridge, we encountered nearly continuous algae cover on the water. Still, Devil’s Gulch, is one of my favorite spots along this waterway. It is a secret and secluded area with great rock formations and vegetation that I find fascinating.
Molly liked her initial cruise in a kayak, and I think that Split Rock Creek from the Garretson City Park upstream through the palisades is a wonderful first trip. We spent about an hour and 45 minutes on the cruise and have already made arrangements to go again tomorrow to Lake Vermillion.
As we departed the park, the pontoon boat “Jesse James” was just leaving on its daily tourist cruise along the same route we took. My wife is eager to go for this narrated cruise on the pontoon boat, and I'm sure that we do so later this summer.
For those interested in past narratives and photos of this waterway, check out "Split Rock Creek" from the menu along the right side of the blog.