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
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Moonlight Cruise Through the Palisades
Over the summer, Dave and Mary Finck have led several moonlit cruises through the palisades along Split Rock Creek, and last night I joined them. The forecast looked good for an evening paddle; the temperature was about 50 degrees at 5:15 p.m. with the sun setting when I left my eastside Sioux Falls home for the drive to Garretson. Six paddlers gathered at the launching point, and we set off upstream in total darkness about 6:15 p.m. with the temperature then in the low 40s.
The sky was clear as we moved upstream; a rising full moon illuminated the silhouettes of bare trees along the right side, the big dipper was visible low on the left side, and the Cassiopeia constellation was directly above us. The rising moon illuminated the high quartzite cliffs along the left bank so that their reflection was cast upon the surface of the creek.
The creek is about 150 feet wide above the Garretson dam and the water is deep enough so that we weren’t too worried about rocks. Even with our night vision and the illumination from the moon and stars, the sight line on the surface of the water limited vision of the other kayaks to about 25 feet or less. The shoreline and silhouette of the trees and cliffs, however, were clear, and navigation was easy.
The kayaks tended to move in a tighter group than would normally be the case. I think that we all wanted to be in sight of other boats. Although photography was really a “point and shoot” process in the dark, every time I stopped and tried to capture an image, the other boats would move out of sight. As the temperature dropped, my fingers became increasingly numb, despite the leather gloves that I was wearing. I could only fumble at my camera when trying to turn it on or point it. The viewfinder was useless; it was totally black.
As the group moved downstream toward the “take-out,” I saw droplets of water from the paddle strokes of those ahead of me gleaming in the moonlight like miniature lights at the tip of the paddle blades. The sounds of the night were especially interesting to me as we moved along in the dark; we heard a turkey gobbling deep in the woods along the left bank on the return trip. We could hear distant sounds of vehicles passing on Highway 11and once we heard the far off wail of a siren. I think that my senses were especially alert in this environment of darkness on the water.
We spent about an hour and a half on the water, and by then the temperature had dropped into the 30s; ice had formed on the hull of many of the kayaks, the first ice that I have noticed this season. After loading up our kayaks, we all headed to “Annie’s,” along Main Street in Garretson, to share a pizza and have tall cups of hot chocolate with whipped cream. It was a very pleasant evening with good fellowship and an interesting shared experience.