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:

Friday, May 04, 2012

Big Sioux River Through Sioux Falls: May 2012

The Big Sioux River between the canoe launch site off East 26th Street and the bridge over the bicycle trail near the lift station is a great stretch for someone wanting to paddle an hour or so and just take in the foliage along the banks and the bird life in the trees and on the water. I live just off 26th Street east of the river, and the drive from my home to the launching site is about five minutes. The cruise along the river up to the rapids under the bicycle trail bridge is about 2.2 miles round trip. 

I arrived at the launching site about 9:30 a.m. and found it deserted.  This, however, will change as soon as the day camp at Leif Erickson begins operation; the camp staff uses this area for parking during the weekdays.

Setting off upstream, I found that the water depth within a twisting channel to be from three to four feet deep.  The water is much shallower away from the channel.  The navigational challenge is to keep within that channel while avoiding shallow bars, rocks, and driftwood jams.

The current was moderate.  Failure to maintain some power ahead would quickly cause the kayak to drift back downstream.  Still, going upstream was not difficult.  I sometimes found myself practicing shallow water strokes where the paddle just breaks the surface.

There were lots of geese and ducks out on the water.  I saw pairs of geese and ducks with their goslings and ducklings.  Sometimes the adult birds would remain as they were when my kayak approached, giving the young a chance to fly off to safety. Waterfowl were the major point of my interest today during both legs of this short cruise.

There were a few turtles to be seen and the occasional heaving waters where spawning carp were caught up in shallow waters.

The feeling along this waterway is a combination of muted urban sounds with life on the river and along the shoreline. Sometimes the calling of geese was the dominant sound; and then, at times, the croaking of frogs would take over.

The bike trail runs along one side of river and Camp Leif Erickson is on the other.  Through the trees, occasional bike riders could be seen.  Sounds from the athletic fields just beyond the bike trail could, at times,  be faintly heard.  Cars along Southeast Avenue were sometimes heard through the trees. Today, SD Air National Guard fighter planes screamed overhead. Oftentimes, however, there was just the sound of the river life and the sight of large trees looming over the river.  There was often no sight or sound of city life to disturb the tranquility of a short cruise on an urban river.

On the way back downstream, I stopped to pick up my quota of floating trash, mostly plastic beverage bottles. This offers an opportunity to practice maneuvering skills while in the downstream current.

The take-out spot (the same as the put-in) is a little tricky.  There has been a good bit of sand used to create the launching area, but there is a steep drop-off into the stream, and that presents a challenge in getting the kayak off the river.  My experience is that the easiest time to capsize a kayak is in the exiting process. 

I enjoyed my cruise this morning, and I spent about one hour and twenty minutes on the roundtrip paddle.

For those interested in the complete set of photographs for this narrative, please see my Flickr collection at:

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