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, July 08, 2013

Big Sioux Recreation Area (North) to Madison St. Bridge

A couple of Big Sioux River cruises took place over this past weekend that I missed because of family scheduling concerns.  So, today I seized the opportunity to cruise with Dave Finck down the river from the north end of the Big Sioux Recreation area in Brandon to just past the Madison Street bridge, a distance of about 4.5 miles.
Originally, we had planned on the quick three-mile trip from the north end of the Recreation Area downstream to the southern end: the so-called Brandon-to-Brandon cruise.
Dave left his kayak at the northern put-in and joined me at the southern end of the Recreation Area.  The mud at the “take-out” was discouraging, so he suggested that we move the shuttle point and the cruise ending to an area just downstream of the Madison Street bridge over the Big Sioux, just upstream from the confluence of Split Rock Creek with the Big Sioux.
We left his van at the take-out and took my Honda Civic back to the put-in at the northern end of the Recreation Area.  The put-in there was muddy also and I nearly toppled over as I was approaching my kayak.  Dave was there, however, to provide a steady shoulder and a push-off through the mud.  It seems that the older I get, the more willing people are to assist the old gent on his way, and I take advantage of that sentiment.
We easily moved downstream on the Big Sioux.  My last trip down this segment of the river was in November, and the river was much narrower.  As the water flow decreases over the summer months, the river seems to mostly just get narrower; there always seems to be a channel in the river that permits passage downstream.
We had no problems cruising downstream.  The few strainers in the stream were easy to avoid, the water was deep enough so that we did not run aground, and the weather, while hot, was beautiful. 
The growth of trees and bushes along the shore offered the notion of cruising through a deeply forested landscape.  There were scattered high cut-banks that provided a vertical perspective to the river.  Little evidence of the massive ice storm of April remains along the shoreline, and much of the old strainers have been swept downstream with the spring flood.
We cruised under the pedestrian bridge linking the two shorelines of the Big Sioux Recreation Area, and I thought about how many times my wife, our little dog, and I have hiked over the bridge and up onto the long ridgeline that defines the Prairie Vista hiking trail.
About 45 minutes into the cruise, we passed by the muddy take-out at the southern end of the Recreation Area and continued downstream toward the Madison Street bridge.
Along the way, we passed a large turkey vulture sitting in a tree and giving us his full attention.  We also saw a deer moving through the undergrowth along the left bank, but it disappeared before I could grab my camera.
Downstream, we passed one of the crushed classic cars that are sometimes seen in use as a bank stabilizer. 
A large herd of cattle were cooling themselves in the river as we passed, and I wondered what it would be like in a kayak should a crazed stampede send them dashing further out into the stream.
By the time we passed under the Madison Street Bridge and approached the somewhat sandy unmarked take-out, we had been on the water about an hour and fifteen minutes and traveled about 4.5 miles.
This is a nice segment for most people to cruise.  Today, we did not experience any hazardous conditions, the water was deep, the wind welcome, the skies clear, and the joy of cruising down the river during working hours delightful for a couple of retired guys.  


greg stevens said...

Thanks for the great blog post. We are from the Okoboji area, and we hope to do the Big Sioux soon. You give me hope and some ideas.

Toby said...