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
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
The First Cruise of 2011: Lake Alvin
This was the day I have been waiting for since last November! Although the lakes 100 miles north of Sioux Falls are still ice covered, the paddling season has returned to lakes in this part of the state. The ice is out on Lake Alvin, and the Department of Game, Fish, and Parks has installed the docks. With the forecast of a glorious day and temperatures into the high 50s, I could not resist the opportunity to take my first cruise of the season.
I loaded up my kayak about noon and drove the fifteen minutes to Lake Alvin. The skies were partly sunny and there was a moderate wind out of the northeast. As I passed a digital bank thermometer near East 26th Street and Sycamore, the temperature was 58 degrees.
A few weeks ago, I saw an ad in Canoe/Kayak Magazine for a kayak-carrying strap; I ordered the strap and today used it for the first time. This strap makes it easier for a geezer like me to carry the kayak, and I think that it will reduce the strain of moving the kayak from the car to the waterway.
There was a moderate wind blowing down the lake, so I headed southwest and into Nine Mile Creek. For those who would like to explore this creek, you must move down the southern shore, keeping close to the left bank. There is a shallow area that extends over about two-thirds of the southern end of the lake leading up to the entrance to Nine Mile Creek, and failure to keep to the left bank will probably lead to grounding in the mud and gravel shallows.
Nine Mile Creek is the most promising area for spotting wildlife in the Lake Alvin system. The creek winds along, moving steadily south, under the bridge, and into a game production area. The waterway narrows down as it moves further south; still, the depth is generally sufficient throughout the year to continue for a little more than a mile. The width of the creek ranges from about 10 to 20 feet.
Along Nine Mile Creek, I came across a group of four egrets, and they allowed me to approach to about 30 feet or so. I also saw a great blue heron, lots of ducks, nesting geese, a muskrat, and my first turtle of the year.
A close examination of the vegetation revealed the first signs of new growth in the shoreline grasses.
Coming back into the main body of Lake Alvin, I found that the wind strength had increased, and I decided that I had been out on the water long enough for this first cruise.
As usual, I was alone on the water. I saw no one along the shoreline either. I really like this time to cruise along in silence, listening to the water along the shore, the constant chatter of birds, and the sound of the wind moving through the trees.