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 12, 2011
Lake Lakota - April 2011
Here in Sioux Falls, the weather has been wonderful today. Upon learning of the probable weather for this week, it was clear that a kayaking cruise had to be on my agenda today. This seems likely to be the last such day for the week; there is even snow forecast for this week in southeastern South Dakota. North of here, in the Watertown area and further north, there is still ice on lakes.
This morning, I left town about 8:00 a.m., and the temperature on a bank I passed read 46 degrees. The forecast called for a high today of nearly 70 degrees.
Lake Lakota is part of the Newton Hills State Park and located just south of Canton. It is about a 25-minute drive from our eastside Sioux Falls home. The lake is set within the boundaries of the park and is a protected nature area. This is a very tranquil spot, surrounded by trees – mostly coniferous trees that provide nice color regardless of the season.
The public areas of the lake are set in a hollow among low hills. The launching area is on the north central part of the lake and includes picnic areas, a swimming beach, a boat ramp, toilets, and new this year is a fishing pier just to the west of the swimming beach.
The wind was light when I launched my kayak. There was a flat calm on some sheltered parts of the lake and light waves elsewhere: a wonderful surface for my kind of nature-watching contemplative paddles.
I set out on my usual circle around the shoreline, heading southeast from the launching area to the first of the bays or inlets. I like to move into these inlets and look for wildlife as well as observe the vegetation along the shoreline and into the trees. These are the areas where I am most likely to see interesting animal life.
Inevitably, I seem compelled to proceed into these inlets as far as I can go in my kayak, then usually having to back out because of the narrowing course of the waterway.
As I moved south on the lake toward the dam on the southeastern end, I saw the largest flock of pelicans that I can recall. There were several dozen of them clustered like a floating white island across the southwestern part of the lake.
As I began my return trip north on this main body of the lake, the flock began slowly moving away from me. I would paddle toward them, and the flock just didn’t seem to close much.
When the flock began to sense that my kayak was close enough, it first split into two parts and then the pelicans began to fly off to circle nearby.
I wondered what would bring so many pelicans to this small (90 acres) lake. Then, I thought about the large number of fish that I saw. In the bay along the northwestern end, I came across large schools of fish that were four or five inches in length. These fish flashed by my kayak. I also saw very large numbers of small fish – fingerlings. It occurred to me that perhaps the SD Game Fish and Parks staff had “stocked” the lake this spring and that the pelicans were having a feast of these small fish.
My favorite part of the lake is the northwestern arm that extends up to the entrance of Pattee Creek. This is the area where I tend see the greatest variety of wildlife. In the summer, there are large lily pads and lots of aquatic grasses on and just below the surface. Big frogs are frequently seen sitting on the lily pads, and turtles of all sizes are seen.
Today, I came across a great blue heron, ducks, geese, and one turtle.
The water conditions and the lay of the trees, bushes, and grasses are always interesting to me along this shoreline.
I thought that I was alone on the lake, a condition that I usually enjoy in these small prairie lakes on a spring weekday. But then, I came across a guy fishing from the southwest shoreline in that western arm of the lake. We exchanged pleasantries while he was casting his line out into the lake.
The circle of the lake shoreline and my meandering up into bays took me about an hour and fifteen minutes. By the time I began making my way back to the launching area, the wind had increased in strength and the lake had developed a noticeable chop. The lesson for kayaking the lakes of South Dakota: start early in the morning!