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 10, 2011

Split Rock Creek - Through the Palisades: August 2011

With a forecast for today similar to yesterday, I just left the kayak on the car top and planned on another cruise. This morning was nearly perfect: temperature about 60, calm winds, sunny skies – just right for a return to Garretson City Park and a cruise upstream from the dam and through the palisades. My last trip on this waterway was April, a time when the spring growth was just developing.
Garretson City Park was nearly deserted this morning. I have never come across another kayak or canoe during my cruises on this section of Split Rock Creek. Occasionally, I see the pontoon boat “Jesse James” taking people on a sightseeing cruise upstream, but not today.
While at 9:30 a.m. there was plenty of sun, it was below the cliffs on the right side going upstream, creating interesting shadows that highlighted reflections of the cliff face and the vegetation growing on ledges, in cracks, and on top.
There are high cliffs scattered along both sides of this impounded creek. The water is quite deep in the channel, although there are rocks just under the surface along the low banks. These are the type of rocks that can “highside” a kayak in water that is sometimes three feet deep. Getting off these rocks can present a risk of upset since it is difficult to fend off the bottom or to get out of the boat. I did find myself caught on rocks a couple of times, but I got off without incident and just moved further out into the channel. In the channel, I could not touch bottom with my extended double-bladed paddle.
I did not see much wildlife today – really only some perching birds, a few jumping fish, turtles, and a muskrat, similar to yesterday’s paddle on Loss Lake.
There are a couple of homes built on a rise at the end of the impounded waters at the entrance of the creek flowing through. While the water level is no doubt a bit lower than it was earlier in the season, there was no problem moving up through this familiar waterway.
On the way back, as usual, I ducked through the arched bridge leading into Devil’s Gulch. This is one of my favorite sections of the cruise, and I never miss the opportunity to slip into this secluded world. There was a section of heavy algae and aquatic grasses midway in the Gulch stream, but the water was fairly clear at the far end where a brook feeds into the creek and then clear again as the water passed through the bridge.
This cruise offers solitude and a chance to observe the great variety of plant life that find ways to thrive on the cliff faces. A railroad runs off to the right side going upstream, but the vegetation obscures the train itself; when a train passes, there is the romantic sound of the whistle and a distant roar of passing cars. Cruising along, I glanced up to watch east-bound passing jet planes with their contrails extending back as the aircraft swept over this “fly-over” state. Water pouring over the dam spillway is clearly heard upon departure and return from the put-in.
I lingered on the water for about 90 minutes this morning. As I have noted before, this is perhaps the most scenic paddling opportunity in the Sioux Falls area, and it is a place I almost always introduce to friends or relatives who are new to kayaking.
A full range of narratives from previous cruises upstream from Garretson City Park as well as other sections of Split Rock can be reviewed in the "Area Waterways" list on the right side of the blog.


Anonymous said...

Really appreciate your blog. We kayaked this stretch of Split Rock yesterday and enjoyed it very much. It was great to be able to see your review before trying it, as we are old folks and not very experienced kayakers yet. We kayak a lot on Oak Lake, near where we live (not Oakwood Lakes, just Oak Lake - it's a few mile southeast of Toronto). SDSU owns a field station there, but there is a public access ramp on the north side. Lots of wildlife (green and great blue herons, kingfishers, and we even saw a bald eagle back in the spring).

Anonymous said...

i appreciate the blog, the fotos of south dakota rivers. split rock looks interesting. living near the hudson, i like seeing rivers and terrain out there.

Jay Heath said...

Thanks for the comment. I am a fan of your blog and like to linger on the photos of tugs around the world.