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
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Lake Lakota - August 2011
We finally escaped from a prolonged heat wave here on the northern plains; this morning the temperature was in the low 60s, the skies were clear, the wind moderate, and the high only expected to climb into the mid 80s. For the past month or so, family events and then the heat have moderated my kayaking. I have taken people out on Lake Alvin a couple of times, but my routine summer cruising has been on hold. This morning, I left home around 6:00 a.m., had my usual bagel, coffee, and an hour for reading my latest novel before heading out to Lake Lakota, a part of Newton Hills State Park.
I arrived at the launching area by 7:30 a.m. and, as expected, found it deserted. My last trip to Lake Lakota was in early April, and the first hints of spring growth were visible. Mostly, though, the area was still clothed in the drab brown that follows the snowmelt. Today, the area looked transformed and predominately green: grass, flowers, leafed-out trees, and a good share of the lake surface.
As I moved my kayak over to the launch area, I saw a pair of pants lying on the surface of the ramp: jeans, belt, and some loose bills both on the ramp surface and in the pockets of the jeans. There was no identification. I wondered how a person could forget his pants; was he so absent minded or was he wasted so much that he was unaware of his circumstances. I hung the pants with the cash on a posted sign and took off. When I returned two hours later, there was a parks guy driving a mowing machine. I let him know about the pants and the cash, and he told me he would take them to the park office for Newton Hills.
The lake was tranquil, and I began my usual clockwise circuit, heading left (east) from the dock. There is an inlet on the eastern side that extends back into the bush for a few hundred yards, and I always move up into this creek-like flow until I reach the point where further travel is no longer possible.
I like to sit quietly in the kayak to listen to the sounds resuming after my passage. This seems to me like a special place where I can listen to the backwaters sounds of wind in the trees, insects, and bird life.
Continuing on my cruise around the shoreline of the lake, I headed south to the dam and spillway for Pattee Creek. The entire lake is within Newton Hills State Park, so the shoreline has no visible reminder of the larger outside world.
There is a great deal of aquatic growth on the lake now and extending in deep banks of seaweed-like plants just under much of the surface. The surface growth generally extends out about 10 feet from the shoreline on much of the lake. Even away from the shoreline, however, there are walls of plant growth that are several feet deep. This degree of growth seems present in the summer, but it is not so evident during the spring and fall. I imagine that motorboats would have some difficulty in keeping propellers clear of this growth, and fisherman would have the same trouble in casting their lines. A kayak, however, can just glide over most of the aquatic growth. Motorboats would seem restricted to the open areas in the center of the lake.
From the dam, I cruised back down the western shore and into the arm that extends west to the Pattee Creek inlet, and this is where the surface growth is most intensive. As I moved through heavy plant growth, my kayak slid along the surface and my paddles brought up heavy “seaweed” with each stroke. I was reminded of my snowshoeing this past winter. I was, in effect, skimming along the surface of pretty deep plant life. It was not quite thick enough to be “poling,” but it was certainly not normal cruising. Once, I found myself aground and thought about how unpleasant it would be to have to exit the kayak and wade through the muck to a deeper spot.
In any event, I was able to move back into deeper water and continue on. I noticed that there were streaks of clear water weaving through the seaweed, and I headed over to these river-like passageways through the plants. It seemed rather like following a lead in the polar seas between ice floes.
This was a good contemplative cruise, and I enjoyed it very much. I was out for an hour and a-half and was able to experience a variety of waters. On most of my cruises, I try to pick up six bottles or cans that I find floating or embedded along the shore. That is about what I can fit into the bottom of my kayak without feeling crowded, and I did that today.