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, August 09, 2011

Loss Lake - August 2011

The heat wave seems to have passed for now here in Sioux Falls. As I looked at the weather forecast over the next few days, I knew that now is the time to get out on the water again. So, this morning I got back into my morning paddling routine and stopped by my bagel spot for a bagel, coffee, and an hour-long read before heading out to Loss Lake, a small lake west of Sioux Falls (west on SD 42 to SD 19, north 2.5 miles, back east along a dirt road for about .5 miles to the lakeside).
Like most of these small lakes, there is very limited signage and no location identification. Because of an error in one publication, there has been some confusion about the name of this lake. Some people call it Lost Lake, but that is not correct. The South Dakota Game Fish and Parks identifies it as Loss Lake, and that is the agency that owns the access area – parking, dock, fishing pier, vault toilet. The data about the lake can be found on the SDGFP web site at the following URL: Loss Lake is south of I 90, Lost Lake is north several miles, near Humboldt.
The lake was deserted when I arrived at 7:30 a.m., and no one appeared during my 90 minutes at the location. The skies were sunny and the winds seemed light when I arrived but steadily build to a moderate breeze by the time I finished my one-hour cruise around the perimeter.
The shoreline around Loss Lake is generally grasses, with some tree cover limited to the southern shore. The banks are high, so that even with a wind there is a lee to be found under the shelter of the bank, at least along the shore from where the wind is blowing.
There is one home on the western side of the lake, and there is an old structure on the eastern shore that was the official’s station for hydroplane races that were held on the lake many years ago. I have often speculated about the atmosphere that might have characterized this lake years ago when the hydroplanes were roaring across the surface and the crowds were cheering on their favorite. The official’s station seems to just be a little bit more weathered each year.
Sometimes I have seen pelicans on the lake. Today, though, wildlife was scarce; I came across a muskrat, an egret, a few duck-like waterfowl, some jumping fish, and the occasional turtle’s head poking above the water to check out the passing kayak. My favorite time to visit the lake is in early spring when ducks and geese are nesting. I waited too long this year for my annual visit.
While the water was pretty smooth when I set out this morning on the west side, by the time I got around to the east side the wind had increased. There were enough waves by then to provide a little bounce to the ride, and one wave slopped over the cockpit coaming to douse me. From the water stains on the dock, it would seem that the lake level is between one and two feet lower than when the dock was installed this spring.
Loss Lake is not an exciting lake to explore. It is pretty small and includes only the main body and one bay that extends off into the northeast. What seems to be the feeder creek is fenced off with an electric wire. It does, however, provide the opportunity for a quiet and contemplative one-hour paddle. I have been informed by those fishing the lake that the water is deep and seems to provide good habitat for the fish. The distance from my eastside Sioux Falls home to the lakeshore is about 25 miles. Further details of earlier cruises on Loss Lake can be found in the "Area Waterways" inventory on the right side of the blog.

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