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
Friday, May 06, 2011
Split Rock Creek - The Palisades May 2011
This morning was the start of a beautiful day in Sioux Falls, and I took advantage of it by taking my kayak out to Split Rock Creek for a cruise upstream from the dam at the Garretson City park through the palisades.
It was 50 degrees under hazy sunshine as I passed through Garretson to the park. Within the park is a dam that impounds the creek upstream for something over a mile. Downstream, the creek passes through Palisades State Park, moves on through McHardy Park in Brandon and joins the Big Sioux River just a little southeast of Brandon.
My cruise this morning was upstream of the dam. This is an area with high palisades of Sioux quartzite festooned with a variety of flora, including spruce trees growing on ledges and out of cracks.
Cruises on this body of water are for me an opportunity to examine the rock formations; marvel at the tenacity of plant life growing on the tops, along the sides, and in the cracks; and watch the bird life, especially cliff swallows and geese. Today, I saw a few ducks and several pairs of geese, loudly honking at me as they protect their nests from intruders. There are a couple of farms in that area on the left moving upstream, and cows were out chomping the fresh spring grass along the left bank.
There is a set of rapids a little over a mile upstream, and this is generally the limit of cruises along this stretch.
On the way back, I nearly always duck into one of the arches supporting a bridge leading deeper into the campground. There is a gulch that leads back for a couple hundred yards, and I like to move along this body of water that is also framed by palisades, although not as tall as those along the creek. The gulch ends at a brook that flows into the creek. This gulch, of course, is locally known as Devil’s Gulch, the supposed spot where Jesse James escaped by jumping across as a posse chased him after a bank robbery in Minnesota.
The only other water craft that I have seen on this portion of Split Rock is a large pontoon boat that takes passengers on a cruise up the same route I traveled, except under the arched bridge into the gulch. Today, the boat was taking a group of children on an adventure. The “SS Jesse James” skipper told me today that there are people who kayak this stretch on weekends. My lake cruises, however, are nearly always during the week; as a retired gent, I have that liberty and enjoy kayaking during what are working hours for most people and were also for me for 45 years or so.
I have written frequently about cruises on this portion of Split Rock Creek, and the reader can just move over to the menu on the right side of the blog and access earlier narratives of this route. As I have said before, this is one of the places I take guests of mine out for their first or second kayak ride. The scenery is spectacular, at least for waterways in this area.