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:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Scott Lake - Minnehaha County

Even after several years of exploring and kayaking area lakes and waterways, I am always pleased to find a new site, particularly one within Minnehaha County.  This morning, Dave Finck and I set out to visit Scott Lake, a small secluded body of water located just one mile north and two miles west of Hartford, SD. The lake is sometimes, especially with local people, called Scotts Slough, although the official name as used by the South Dakota Games, Fish, and Parks and on maps is Scott Lake. 

This lake, like many others in the area, has no signs pointing the way and no identifying sign at the site. It is clearly marked, however, in the South Dakota Atlas and Gazetteer and there are Internet resources with maps to help in location.  Basically, the lake is located along 258th Street, just west of 462nd Avenue.  I suggest that anyone wishing to visit Scott Lake make sure that a detailed map or GPS is used to guide the way.

Scott Lake is listed by the SD GFP as covering 107 surface acres (about the same area as Lake Alvin) and described as follows: “Scott Lake is not listed as meandered public water in the State of South Dakota Listing of Meandered Lakes. Most of the lake lies within a Game Production Area (GPA) owned and managed by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks (GFP), however, the land under the very west end of the lake is privately owned.”

A concrete launching ramp, parking area, and a wooden fishing pier extending out into the lake are provided by the SD GFP on the south side of the lake, along a road that was marked “closed.”  Unlike my weekday trips to area lakes, there were several people and a few cars at the site; a motorboat was out on the water with one fisherman aboard, there were a few shoreline fishermen, and there were also a couple of guys fishing from the pier.  In relative terms, the lake was crowded!

We were using one of Dave Finck’s aluminum canoes today and set out on a counterclockwise perimeter cruise around the lake from the launching pad. There are two islands in the lake, and we first passed by the one on the southeastern shore, easily moving through a set of reeds between the island and the shore.

Woodlands cover the southern and eastern shoreline, and the north and western shore is largely crop land or pasture for grazing. Today, there was a stiff wind coming out of the west; so after moving past the first island, we paddled into the wind as we made our way along the northern shore. 

There were a number of birds sighted, but they were spooked by the canoe and flew off before I could get a photograph.  A group of gulls was dancing along the water looking for and finding food, and there were other perching birds that looked interesting but were too elusive for me to study closely.

We continued west along the shore and approached an island in the western end of the lake.  Since it looked easy to land with a canoe, we did go ashore and did a complete walk-around of the island.

From the island, we continued along the perimeter to the western end and returned past the fishing pier to the launching ramp.

The lake today was a bit windy, perhaps 20 mph from the west.  The guys fishing on the pier were wearing jackets; some of the trees have begun changing their colors as fall advances over the landscape. It was sunny, though, and altogether a beautiful fall day to be out on a new lake, new for me at any rate. 

Scott Lake apparently is a favored fishing site for area people.  We talked to the guys on the fishing pier, and they said that kayaks from the area are sometimes on the water, although I have never heard anyone mention kayaking this lake. Dave Finck remembers visiting the lake many years ago, before there was a launching pad or fishing pier. 

The lake is really fairly close to Sioux Falls, especially to the west side of the city.  For people in the Hartford area, it is well within the neighborhood.  I think that it is good site to add to the regular circuit for area paddlers. It is certainly a good fishing spot.

For those interested in the full set of photographs of the cruise on Scott Lake, please access my Flickr account at the following URL:

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