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 17, 2011

Lake Pahoja (Iowa) May 2011

Yesterday the forecast for today looked good, and the prediction for later in the week called for rain; so, I just left my kayak on the rack and thought I would take advantage of another sunny moderate day ahead.
It has been four years since I last visited Lake Pahoja, just across the border in Iowa. I checked the blog entry for that visit (see Lake Pahoja on the location menu on the right side of the blog) and followed my directions the 20.4 miles. The easiest way there from my eastside Sioux Falls home is to head south on Highway 11, past the Lake Alvin turn-off, to 276th Street. I turned east there and drove on for about three miles, across the Klondike Canoe Access on the Big Sioux River and into Iowa until I saw the sign on the right for the park. Lake Pahoja is a really nice Lyon County park that offers a range of wonderful recreational opportunities, especially for families and particularly for those interested in shoreline fishing.
There is a $5 entry fee for the park, but the office was deserted and there seemed no way to pay this morning. As I arrived, there was a pick-up and boat trailer in the parking lot; otherwise, I was alone.
The lake is oriented generally east and west with deep bays extending south. It is rather long but narrow and surrounded by county-owned land. There are no houses visible, eliminating the feeling that I sometimes have that wealthy people have built their large and ostentatious homes overlooking the lake and making me feel like an intruder.
This carefully developed park clearly caters to families and fishing. There are earthen extensions projecting out into the lake to give fishermen an advantage. No gas motors are allowed on the lake, and that provides an assurance of some tranquility. A rental business at the launching dock offers rowboats, canoes, and paddleboats - both “water bikes” and the more traditional type.
I set out first heading east along the shoreline of this nearly 100 acre lake (flood stage) and then moved south into the wetlands surrounding a couple of inlets at the southeastern end.
There was a great deal of bird life to observe; this time, I saw lots of redwing blackbirds among the variety of perching birds. There were also a number of duck of various kinds.
The wind was light, but I wanted to give my Spirit sail a try and found myself sailing back along the east-west axis to the next south extending bay. I found myself fumbling with the sail; as the wind increased, I tried to take it down or move it to a different setting and felt myself losing control of the sail. I could not seem to get it down, and my balance was slipping. The wind was not enough to make me feel any sense of anxiety, but I wondered what I might do with stronger gusts. I believe that the umbrella may be the best bet for me when sailing the kayak: it is easier to manage and safer.
I did not see any sign of wildlife except for turtles and the birds. This park is a wildlife refuge, so I assume that there are “critters” about, although they are probably wily with the developed state of the site.
As I was finishing my trip around the two-mile perimeter of the lake, a school bus pulled up. The passengers, I found, were high school students from a PE class at West Lyon High School. They were festooned with fishing poles and spread themselves out along the shoreline and on the docks. I had a chat with the driver and found that he was a retired social studies teacher who had become a bus driver for the same school he served as a teacher. As we stood there, he reminisced about how back in the 1960s he had hunted pheasants out in fields that were now at the bottom out in the central portion of the lake. He told me that there was a little creek flowing through, and that some visionaries had decided to try and create a lake and park. That effort certainly was successful, and Lake Pahoja is a magnificent addition to the quality of life in this part of Iowa and South Dakota.
My impression of the lake has changed since my first narrative. Paddling Lake Pahoja is not high adventure, but it can offer an hour and a-half of tranquility without driving too far. The park is only about 25 minutes from my home – just ten minutes further than Lake Alvin. So, for tranquility and a contemplative paddle or as a venue for teaching a novice beginning kayaking skills, this is a good spot and I recommend it.

1 comment:

Steve said...

I've almost gone over more than once trying to get that sail down, mostly in the open ocean. Or else I've gotten it down only to have the top lean into the water, almost causing the kayak to somersault. The harder the wind blows, the more difficult it becomes to take down the sail.

However, it helps to take the top half of the sail down first, lessening the stress on the sail mount and thus making it much easier and safer to remove the rest of the sail from the mount. You may want to try that the next time you go out with the intention of sailing.

In the ocean with moderate swells, I need to use my paddle to brace & adjust, especially in following seas, while my feet steer with the rudder, so an umbrella wouldn't work. You may find the same to be true on, for example, a windy day on the Missouri between Yankton and Vermillion.

Glad to see you out and about, Jay! My boats are still dry docked - I hope to get out one day soon.