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:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lake Alvin - Early May 2010

Seasons can change quickly here on the northern plains. It was just a week or two ago when the water in the birdbath mounted on our deck was frozen in the morning. Today, the temperature is expected to rise to about 90 degrees. We are into a series of windy days now; of course, it windy here much of the time, but I wanted to take advantage of the timing for an early paddle before it got too breezy for a comfortable time on open lakes.
So, this morning after my morning routine of coffee and reading at my favorite bagel place, I set out for the short drive to Lake Alvin.
After setting off from the public access launching area on the southwestern end of the lake, I set off with a following wind and headed across to the eastern shore and north toward the dam and public fishing dock.
Since I was going with the wind, I took out the big golf umbrella and sailed most of the trip north. The wind was strong enough to raise a respectable wake from the kayak; I held onto the umbrella and used my foot-mounted rudder to control direction.
I lost the wind toward the northeastern end of the lake and headed over to the shoreline to cruise along looking into the vegetation along the bank, hoping to spot some animal life. Suddenly, I saw a moderate-sized animal that was about 2½ feet long, with short legs low to the ground, a head something like a seal, and brown in color. This critter moved along the shoreline, stopped and looked at me, changed directions, and then vanished before I could fumble my camera out. This animal seemed like a weasel or perhaps a mink, although I have never seen either one in the wild and am only guessing.
My easy sail north on the lake meant that I would have to slog my way back south in the face of a stiff head wind. As I moved south, astonishingly, I came across another paddler. I paddled over to say hello to Jeff and check out his craft. He was paddling a solo Bell kevlar canoe – the type of boat I had before shifting to kayaks. Actually, as I have gotten older, I have considered moving back to a solo canoe.
Of course, I had to continue south into Nine-Mile Creek; a Lake Alvin cruise would be incomplete without including this segment of the paddle.
Nine-Mile Creek begins with a width of about 30 feet; as it continues south, it gradually narrows down over the course of about a mile to a steady width of about 15 feet. At the end, the creek is so narrow that it is difficult to turn around.
I got out of the kayak just before the bridge to take a photograph of the course of the creek. At that point, I came across a guy who I thought was hiking along the creek shoreline. I thought that such a stroll would be tough in that terrain. As it happened, he was retrieving a lure that he had lost while fishing. I met him again on the return, but he still had not caught anything.
Along the cruise, I came across a number of ducks and geese. Perching birds along both sides of the creek offered their continuing songs. Frogs were also croaking in wetlands that extended off the course of the creek. There were lots of turtles out sunning themselves.
As I ended my cruise and headed over to the “take-out,” I came across two kayaks heading south toward Nine-Mile Creek. I began to feel that crowds of paddlers were pressing in! These two kayaks disappeared around the point and up into the creek as I was packing up my boat.

I was out for about two hours this morning.


Steve said...

Glad to see you back on the water, Jay! Do you still use your Spirit Sail?

Jay Heath said...

Hi Steve,

I still have the Spirit Sail in the trunk of my car, and the mast mount is affixed to the hull of the kayak. I don't think that I have used it for a year or so because I have found that the golf umbrella does about the same job and is easier to set up. Still, I will use it again, and perhaps your message is the prompt that I need.

I hope that you get some cruising in this year. I miss your narratives.