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:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) Trip - Part 3

During our week in the BWCAW we sometimes moved about on day trips as a group, and several times I just headed out on my own to explore the lake and portages of Ensign Lake. I tried once to ride in the middle seat of a canoe with the group, but the experience left me considering the services of a chiropractor. After that short effort, I decided to just go out on my own cruises, much as I do here in home waters.
Ensign Lake is a rather large body of water, and I enjoyed paddling the shoreline, landing on islands, and hiking the portage trails.
There are several islands in Ensign, and these tend to be heavily forested and elevated. On one of the islands, the shoreline was exposed enough to allow me to hike around to check out the geology and flora.
Hiking the portage trails was a lot more manageable than trying to haul my kayak. Since I was wearing my aqua socks on the hikes, navigating the rocky pathway up and down hills required caution. The portage trails I took led from Ensign Lake to Trident Lake (100 rods) and then another trail to Ashigan Lake (55 rods).
The lakes that I visited all seemed pretty much the same, varying mostly in the nature of the shoreline. It seemed to me that one could get the flavor of the BWCAW in a short cruise that led through two or three lakes and a couple of portages. A longer cruise seems to me more of the same.
There is an aspect of journey, however, in doing an expedition type of cruise, a circular trip that provides for paddling and portaging most of each day with a different campsite each night. For groups and hardy individuals or teams, I suspect that there is great satisfaction in accomplishing the journey. If I were in my 20s or 30s, the journey would appeal to me. Perhaps with the right equipment, time, and expectation, I might enjoy such a journey even now at my advancing age (68).
I got the impression that there are generally two types of experiences in the BWCAW: the tripping sort of adventure that is measured in miles traveled and portages negotiated, as in “we did 70 miles and 10 portages on our week-long trip.” Then, there is the camping and day-touring type trip that provides for a week out in the wilderness with forays out each day but a return to the base camp for the night.
On a trip to the BWCAW, it seems that one must be prepared to adjust plans based upon daily conditions or events. The weather changes quickly: a morning calm under clear skies can change to heavy cloud cover, rain, and wind within hours. Then, there is always the possibility of losing gear to a bear or perhaps through capsizing a boat. Twisting an ankle on a portage or wrenching a muscle is certainly possible, especially for older more brittle paddlers. So, a journey on the lakes requires a tolerance for dealing with adjustments to the route plan and a willingness to be flexible in accommodating to circumstances.
In the final analysis, however, spending a week in the Boundary Waters is a wonderful addition to the life experiences of people who either enjoy camping in a beautiful natural setting or who enjoy a self-contained and self-propelled journey through the wilderness. It becomes an unforgettable element in a person’s life story.

1 comment:

Steve H. said...

Nice trip, Jay! I've paddled on Burntside Lake a couple of times, and the area is beautiful.