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
Friday, September 17, 2010
Changing of the Seasons: Lake Alvin, Sept. 2010
The nighttime temperatures here on the northern plains have dropped into the 30s at various places and have been in the low 40s here in Sioux Falls. It is apparent that the end of summer is upon us and that the fall is at hand. The trees and bushes seem to have lost their luster, some leaves are falling, and a frost could happen at any time. Also, the hunting season is rapidly approaching and with that greater care in kayaking on isolated waterways is warranted. When hunters are toting shotguns, I tend to limit my kayaking to waters bordering state parks and protected areas.
Sometimes I feel that I have to constantly paddle a variety of waterways in order to present a range of locations on this blog. That feeling sometimes inhibits my spontaneous paddling opportunities on familiar and often described waters. Going to familiar and local waterways seems “lame,” and I feel sort of a sense of duty to move out on the edges of my paddling circle so that the narratives seem fresh. But, today I beat that feeling down and returned to Lake Alvin, only 15 minutes from our eastside Sioux Falls home.
I got a late start today because of lingering too long with my coffee and novel at Bagel Boy on East 10th Street and arrived at the public access area on the southwestern end of the lake just before 11:00 a.m. The lake was crowded today with perhaps three fishing boats out and a few guys fishing from the shore near the state park and at the public access area. I felt the press of this teeming mass of people and headed in solitude up into Nine Mile Creek. There was plenty of depth to the water, and I was able to continue upstream to the usual point where navigation is halted because of a set of low rocky rapids. This trip is perhaps a mile upstream and is my favorite part of the lake. Motorboats cannot make it up Nine Mile Creek. This is also the part of Lake Alvin where wildlife might most easily be observed.
Today was largely overcast with moderate wind out of the north and temperatures in the low 50s. Going up Nine Mile Creek, the wind was not noticeable. On the way back up the main body of the lake, there was a fairly stiff headwind and choppy conditions. I moved up the lake and greeted a couple of fishing parties. Along the way, I picked up my self-imposed quota of floating trash – mostly bottles and cans. I carry a plastic bag in the kayak and expect to pick up from 5-10 items on each cruise. This isn’t much, but it is a minor contribution to a cleaner environment and provides me an opportunity to practice maneuvering my kayak in along the shore and into foliage as I grasp the offending pieces of trash.
On the way back down the lake to the public access area, I set the umbrella and sailed the complete distance, perhaps a mile or so. I am able to take photos while sailing when the wind is not too strong. When it gusts, however, I need both hands on the umbrella as I steer with my feet on the rudder pedals. So, taking photos while sailing is a bit tricky; using an umbrella sail adds some additional risk to kayaking
Today was a day for exercise and contemplation. Traveling with a group, as on river cruises, is really an enjoyable experience. I also like to move along through the lake by myself, observing the grasses, the bird life, the wind across the water, while searching for wildlife.
Today, all I saw was a single great blue heron, some jumping fish, a few turtles, and very few perching birds. I guess that much of the bird life knows when it is time to go, time to move away to sunnier and warmer climes for the winter. They want to get out before the freeze. The older I grow, the more I share that sentiment.