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
Monday, October 11, 2010
Beaver Lake, A Fall Cruise: October 2010
I was traveling overseas during the last part of September and have not been out on the water for the past two and a-half weeks. We have a guest visiting here now from California, and today I took him kayaking on Beaver Lake (see past Beaver Lake narratives on the menu at the right side of the blog home page.).
We got a late start this morning and arrived at Beaver Lake about 10:30 or so. There were a few other people on the lake today, mostly retired type gents out fishing in boats or from the dock. There was very light wind when we started, and that wind just diminished as the morning wore on. The temperature was in the 70s and the sky was clear: a beautiful fall day in South Dakota.
My friend, Bill, used my 13-foot Dagger, and I took the Folbot. We set out from the ramp at the public access area and headed out toward the island. I had hoped to see a variety of waterfowl, as I normally do; today, though, there were no birds visible on the island. We cruised along the shoreline looking into the island through the trees and bushes. Fall is in full form by now, and lots of the trees and bushes are changing colors, some are already bare and getting ready for the long winter months. Today, though, was almost a step back into summer. The water got calmer and more reflective as the morning moved on.
Nearly always my next stop along the Beaver Lake cruise is around the island, along the shoreline to an entrance through the reeds to a wonderful wetlands made up of a channel leading into a large pool hidden away from the lakeshore. The landmark for this channel entrance is an old windmill just inshore but easily visible from the lake.
In this channel and in the pool are a number of large beaver lodges that seem to have been freshly rebuilt for the coming winter. The last time I came up this pathway, there were a couple dozen egrets nesting. Today, the egrets were not visible; perhaps they have left for a land with a gentler winter. Instead, we saw perhaps ten beaver lodges.
I find great tranquility moving slowly and silently through these waters looking at the wetlands community of cattails, lodges, and usually a large number of waterfowl.
We then moved to the northwest corner of the lake and into a wetlands area that I had not seen before. Maybe the high water level has created this new opportunity; today it was another entrance into a channel that runs west into the reeds for a few hundred yards.
This is the spot on the trip where we at last ran into substantial numbers of waterfowl and perching birds. I also saw a beaver swimming down the channel towards me, but I was unable to get my camera ready before he submerged. We continued until stopped by a barbed wire fence across the channel.
After spending an hour and a-half or so paddling, we headed back to the dock. It was a really fine day to spend in South Dakota. Some people consider Beaver Lake as one of the best paddling areas in the area. I also really like this waterway, but about half of my experiences on this lake have been in quite windy conditions. When the winds are calm, I love Beaver Lake, especially for the bird life along the island and into the wetlands. When there is a wind out of the west, though, this can be a difficult paddle through sometimes big waves, at least big waves from the perspective of a kayaker.