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, November 08, 2010
Split Rock Creek – Upstream from Garretson City Park
This was another gorgeous day, and I am so glad that I have left the kayak on the car. I decided to visit Split Rock Creek, beginning at the Garretson City Park and continuing upstream through the palisades to the rapids. This is a cruise that I have taken many times, and it is also the cruise of choice when taking visitors in the area out for a kayak ride.
I rolled into Garretson about 10:30 a.m., and the temperature was 53 degrees under sunny skies with only a light breeze. As nearly always, I was alone in the park and alone on the water.
The palisades are always spectacular with cliffs of quartzite rising a hundred feet or more out of the creek bed. Quartzite is a hard stone that was used in the construction of many early public buildings in Sioux Falls. The Old Courthouse Museum is a prime example in Sioux Falls, and the city park building along Split Rock Creek is another – a building constructed in 1936, probably as a WPA project.
The waterway was very quiet this morning. I did not see even a bird as I made my way up the couple of miles to the set of rapids that makes further upstream paddling a little rough, especially at this time of the year.
Instead, I concentrated on the landscape, the coniferous trees along the cliffs, the browning growth along the shore, and debris left high up in the trees and along the rock faces from the extremely high water earlier in the season.
As always, the play of shadow upon the water and the rock face of the palisades from the morning sun was a pleasure to watch. Moving along the cliff wall, a kayak moves from bright light to deep shadow and back into the light.
There are some caves on the cliff walls that extend deep into the rock, sometimes 15 feet or so. At some points, there are crevices that wind up from the creek level to the top of a cliff wall. Trees and bushes grow out of cracks or on small ledges of the cliff – brave plants that survive in the most trying circumstances.
On the way back downstream, I skirted the left bank and ran into some large, barely submerged rocks. My kayak became unbalanced as I hung up momentarily on one large rock that was hiding just a few inches underwater.
As usual, I went through the arched bridge near the “put-in” and entered that secluded world of Devil’s Gulch. I really like the flat calm, the overhanging cliff faces, the railroad bridge overhead, and the short ride up to a set of rapids. I saw a turtle in this section of the cruise, probably the last turtle that I will see until the return of spring.
There were no waterfowl visible on the water today, nor really much in the way of bird life at all. On the cruise back downstream, a large owl flew across the creek ahead of my kayak.
Split Rock Creek, through this section from the dam at the Garretson City Park, is always a nice cruise. This is the section cruised by the large pontoon boat, Jessie James, that takes groups on a ride through the palisades. I have passed that pontoon boat filled with cruise customers several times, and the skipper never fails to holler out, “I say, have you any Grey Poupon!”
As I drove through Garretson on my way home at 12:30 p.m., the temperature had risen to 66 degrees.
Who is to say how long this wonderful weather will hold out. Most of us here on the northern plains have our snow blowers gassed up and shovels ready. Winter is overdue now, and each day like today is just a marvelous gift – a gift to remember over the coming months.