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, May 16, 2011
Beaver Lake - May 2011
After a string of cool, rainy, and windy days, the Sioux Falls area is slated for about three days of sun with temperatures up into the high 60s. I could not let the opportunity for a peaceful cruise on an area lake pass, so this morning I headed out early to Beaver Lake, just on the southern edge of Humboldt and within sight of Interstate 90.
The road to the lake access area runs along the edge of the cemetery and just west of the Humboldt elementary school. Today, the road was pretty rough with lots of potholes. Approaching the southern edge of I90, the road turns east and winds along the edge of the lake. The entrance into the public access area has a small and easy to miss sign. For most of these “out of the way” lakes, the state does not expend many resources to guide the traveler to public access areas. It is essential to have a detailed map or set of directions.
The temperature as I arrived at the lake was in the high 30s, the sky was cloudless, and there was a light to moderate wind blowing out of the north; as usual, the lake was deserted. I could hardly wait to unload my kayak and set off.
I followed my normal Beaver Lake cruise route and headed first out to the island located offshore, just northeast of the access point. This large island is a favorite of mine; it seems like a bird sanctuary, and today it was populated by flocks of blackbirds with the occasional egret flying overhead. I circumnavigated the island, peering into the interior looking at the vegetation that is in its early spring growth, listening to the cacophony of bird sounds, and searching for “critters.” As I paddled around the island shoreline, I could hear duck and geese sounds from the grasses and reeds just into the interior.
From the island, again following my usual route, I continued east into the rising sun and headed north along the shoreline into the large northern appendage of the lake. My landmark along this route is an old windmill along the eastern shore that marks an entrance to a wetlands, a place full of beaver lodges, tall grasses and reeds, and a nesting place for a variety of perching birds and waterfowl. This is a tranquil spot, regardless of the windy conditions that so often characterize this wide and open lake.
After cruising around the pool that marks the end of the wetlands channel, I headed back to the main body of the lake and continued down the northeastern arm to another entrance into a wetlands, this time moving northwest. This channel leads inland about 200 yards or so past more beaver lodges and tall grasses.
I love these wetlands with their channels and wider ponds. This is where the cattails grow, the beaver build their lodges, and the mama ducks teach their babies how to stay away from the man in the red kayak. There were lots of yellow-headed blackbirds perching on the reeds along my transit down the channels.
My return path led me back along the southern shoreline toward the island. As I reached the far eastern shore, a few hundred yards from the island, I spotted another red kayak. In my eight previous cruises on Beaver Lake, I have never seen another kayak or canoe. I could not resist heading over to chat with the paddler, a woman bundled up in a lightweight parka who lives in the area and frequently kayaks the lake; in fact, she told me that she thought of this as “her pond.”
In rather typical fashion, the wind had freshened since I arrived and the light winds became decidedly moderate with temperatures up to the mid 50s.
As I finished up my cruise and headed to the access area, I saw that an older gent had arrived and had his fishing equipment spread out at the end of the dock. We chatted a bit and I loaded up my kayak. My cruise this morning was about 90 minutes.