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:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ethan Lake - May 2013

Yesterday after visiting Lake Hanson, Dave Finck and I took the short drive south down 421st Street to Highway 42 and continued west about seven miles to 413th Avenue until we reached the well-marked turn-off to Ethan Lake, just a couple of miles east of the small town of Ethan. 
Flatbed trailer used as a dock on Ethan Lake
Ethan Lake is described as being about 39 surface acres, having a maximum depth of 11 feet, and formed by impounding the flow from Twelve-Mile Creek.  The lake was developed in 1937 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and named after the nearby town of Ethan (  While the lake is rather narrow, it extends northwest from the spillway for about a mile and a-half until reaching twin culverts passing under a road that feeds the creek waters into the lake.
Dave Finck in his Wenohan kevlar canoe
The “put-in” is on the southwestern end of the lake in a newly developed park.  We did not find a boat ramp, but putting in the canoe along the shoreline was easy.  There were two docks out into the water; one of them was new to me:  a flatbed trailer that must have been used behind a semi was just backed into the water.  That seems like a fast and efficient way to install a dock!
Heading north on Ethan Lake 
There are a few trees in the park area and a few along the spillway.  Otherwise, this is a pretty open body of water.  The lake continues northwest, gradually narrowing down as it approaches the inlet from Twelve-Mile Creek.
A great number of turtles seem to inhabit the lake, perhaps the most turtles I have seen in such a body of water.  Turtles seem to have enough visual ability to slide off rocks as soon as a canoe or kayak approaches.  We found some large flat rocks with a dozen turtles sunning themselves.  Then, there were some large turtles swimming just beneath the surface.  We also saw large carp moving through the shallow edge of the lake; they seemed to stir up the mud and then swim by us.  I didn’t see any jumping today. 
We passed one northern pike that was vertical in the water and seemed to be gasping for air.
Ethan Lake might be a good place for those with a keen interest in classic cars. 
There were several spots where old cars had been abandoned or dropped of along the bank.
Of course, there was no one else visible in the area. We were alone on the lake with just the birds, turtles, and fish.   The only development along Ethan Lake is the small park; there are no cabins and few trees.  The water depth is adequate, although there are some large rocks lurking just under the surface in some spots
The distance from Sioux Falls to Ethan Lake makes it outside the paddling circle for me.  Still, it is an interesting cruise, especially for someone interested in observing birdlife – or junked classic cars.
Inlet from Twelve-Mile Creek into north end of Ethan Lake
There are three lakes in this general area that I have visited over the past few years: Lake Dimock, Lake Hanson, and Ethan Lake.  Each of them has some unique quality and all are worthy of a cruise.  From Sioux Falls, all of them could be visited in one day; the cruise and lunch in one of the small towns would be a really fine outing!  Narratives for all three lakes can be accessed through the menu of area waterways located on the right side of this blog.
A complete set of the photographs for this cruise on Ethan Lake can be found on my Flickr account at the following URL:

1 comment:

Mike said...

Hey Jay. What a shame that uncaring folks think the "best" place to abandon junked cars is a lake? Wonder how many toxic contaminants have leeched out of the rusting cars and into the lake waters over the years?