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:

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Older Paddler: Low Impact Kayaking on Tranquil Waters - Part III

A Continuation..........
The Right Gear: Part III

I never go out in my kayak without wearing a first rate life jacket that is properly adjusted and secured. Too often, I hear about mishaps in kayaks or canoes where a life jacket was tucked away under the deck and unavailable when an upset occurred. Trouble occurs quickly, and there is just no time to fiddle around trying to put on a life jacket when the boat is caught up in a strainer or about to capsize in the waves. A couple of years ago, a pair of kayakers was going down the Big Sioux River in the area around the Klondike and got caught up in a strainer. They managed to hang on to the tree and made their way along the trunk with great difficulty as the current foamed around them. Their kayaks were swept downstream; when they were found a few days later, the life jackets were stowed under the decks. I also keep a whistle attached by a lanyard to my life jacket. If I should find myself in the water and struggling, I don’t want to waste my breath trying to yell for help. A whistle will attract attention, if there is anyone about to hear it!
I also have a 15-foot line attached to my kayak. Recently, I was on a group trip down one of the area creeks when one of the kayakers got caught in a strainer and lost her paddle in the current. No one in the group had an extra paddle, and I was the only one with a line that could be used for towing.
After that incident, I noticed some paddlers using a leash to secure the paddle, carrying a “throw bag” of line, and attaching an extra paddle to the kayak hull. The savvy older paddler carries an extra paddle and a length of line for such emergencies.
A portable water pump that can be secured to the deck is highly desirable and sometimes critical, especially for the older paddler who might not have the strength to wrestle a water-filled kayak ashore. I used to think of a water pump affixed to the deck as an affectation for recreational kayakers: an idealized vision of the expedition paddler headed out along a wilderness river or a sea kayaker. But then, a couple of years ago I was with a group of experienced paddlers on a trip down Split Rock Creek from McHardy Park to the Highway 42 bridge. At the end of the cruise, an experienced paddler tipped his kayak when trying to exit the stream. The kayak flooded just off a rocky shore, and he was left trying to drag a very heavy water-filled kayak. Anyone observing such a mishap can identify with the situation and wonder how he or she would deal with it, especially without a pump. Within a few days, I had purchased a pump and it has become part of my gear on all cruises.
While I have not yet tipped my kayak over, the potential is always there. This season, in fact, I got caught between a fence and accumulated debris on Kanaranzi Creek and my kayak filled with water up to the gunwales. It was only a lucky break that I did not roll over. On that occasion, the banks were too high to exit the stream, so I had to pump out the water and float it downstream and to the other side before I could reenter the kayak. So, a pump should be part of the cruise gear for any kayaker, especially the older paddler.
A wheeled cart can save the back when hauling the kayak from the car/truck to the “put-in.” Although I recently saw a guy with an improvised carrying brace mounted on his kayak just behind the seat; most of us grab the kayak by the cockpit coaming and haul it over whatever distance is required to enter or exit the water’s edge. When carrying the kayak, the first pain seems to come from gripping my 55-60 pound kayak around the cockpit edge and then staggering to the “put-in” or to the car. I now have a pair of heavy leather gloves that I take with me on all trips that at least alleviate that pain and help keep me from groaning aloud with the effort. A carrying strap is perhaps the simplest answer for the older and solo paddler. More efficient and less stressful, though, is to use one of the wheeled carts specifically designed to allow for easy transport of a kayak over a variety of surfaces. The cart can save the older paddler from the potential of throwing out his or her back, a heart attack, or just an exhausting carry. I bought mine for about $65 from Tom’s Kayak, a retail outlet I saw advertised in one of the journals
A cord to secure eyeglasses is a small but essential piece of gear for paddlers of all ages, especially the older paddler who might be impaired without corrective lenses. Some years ago I was aboard a sailboat on the Missouri River as a guest of old friends. As most of us are quick to do, I lent a hand in lowering the sail. A halyard whipped across my face and I watched my glasses descending into 90 feet of water. It cost me hundreds of dollars to replace those glasses, money that I didn’t have stuffed under the mattress. Then, Dave Finck, one of my kayaking pals, told me that he tipped over in his kayak on Split Rock Creek last week and lost his glasses in the murky waters. Without a safety strap to secure glasses, a capsize is almost certain to result in an unrecoverable loss. The savvy paddler who wears glasses will always use a safety strap to minimize the potential of an expensive and unrecoverable loss. For many of us, the cost to replace glasses is nearly the value of the kayak.

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