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:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Big Sioux River in Sioux Falls: 57th to 26th St.

This noon as I was just fixing my lunch of cold cereal, Dave Finck called and invited me along on a Big Sioux River cruise with his old pal Ken, one of the group on a Boundary Waters Canoe Area trip last summer. My immediate response to an unexpected invitation is normally to decline; I guess that I am not the most spontaneous person around. There are too many other things that I have in my mind set for the day: reading my novel, watching cable news on TV, taking a nap. But, when I can get out of my rocking chair and do take advantage of a spontaneous invitation, I am nearly always so thankful that I could shake myself out of a sense of inevitable routine and do something.
So, after reflecting for a few minutes and reminding myself of earlier resolve to take advantage of unanticipated opportunities, I called him back and agreed to meet at 1:15 p.m. at the 57th Street put-in. Dave and Ken had already left a car at the 26th Street take-out, so in short order we were underway and out into the stream.
The 57th Street access point is an easy put-in, even with the high water and fast flow. After pushing off and entering the main current, we were off on a fast ride downstream. The distance between put-in and take-out is about 4.5 miles, and we made the trip in one hour and fifteen minutes.
The river was very high; I could barely touch bottom with my double paddle when I checked the depth along the way. I would say that the most common depth was between five and six feet.
The growth along the river is at its seasonal height now, and moving downstream was like being in a green tunnel with tall trees fully leafed out and tall grasses along the banks. The river is perhaps 100 feet or so in width along the way; there were no sweepers that impeded our progress, and no gravel bars or shallow areas.
The rapids just downstream of Cliff Avenue that begin under the bike trail bridge are a special challenge on most trips down the river. I normally begin to tense up a bit as they approach. Today though, the river was so high that the rapids were nearly unnoticed. We took the right side of the stream and just cruised through.
Moving fast downstream, we saw little in the way of wildlife. I saw a couple of turtles, including a big one; but, the current was so fast that we just flashed by.
The take-out at 26th Street is used by the YMCA staff at Camp Leif Erickson, so it is filled with cars. The exit from the river was pretty easy, and suddenly the cruise was over. It was a great interlude in the day and another reminder to take advantage of unexpected opportunities.

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