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:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Lake Alvin: A Mid-Summer Cruise

This morning I decided to head out to Lake Alvin for an early morning paddle.  We have been through a long string of sweltering days here in the Sioux Falls area, so an early start seemed essential.  I have not been on Lake Alvin since late April and looked forward to seeing the transformation from spring to full summer.
I arrived at the public access point on the southwestern shore about 9:00 a.m.  The sky was clear, the temperature about 80 degrees, and there was a brisk wind coming out of the south.
As usual, I paddled across the lake and began my trip south into Nine Mile Creek.  When approaching the southern end of the lake and the entrance into the creek, it is critical to keep to the left (east) side of the shoreline to pass over the silted bar of mud and sand that comes down the creek into the lake. 

I continued south into the creek and easily passed under the bridge and into the narrow stream than flows south.  There are a number of curves in the stream, and the channel tends to move from one side to another.  A paddler has to keep examining the flow and be ready to scoot over to the appropriate side as dictated by the bottom.  In the channel, the water depth is generally two to three feet and is generally a few feet wide. 
The creek is where I most often come across wildlife, including beaver and waterfowl.  Today, a great blue heron kept ahead of me; it would rise out of the bush upon my approach and move upstream until I approached again.
After paddling upstream, I lowered my rudder and coasted down the current to the mouth of the creek.  I guess that the distance on the creek portion of the cruise was about 3 miles roundtrip.
Even though the lake itself was a bit choppy from the brisk south wind, the creek was tranquil.  The bank and towering plant life provides a windbreak of about 8 feet, so the creek is nicely protected.
After exiting Nine Mile Creek, I decided to explore the waters on the southeastern end of the lake.  Because of the shallow conditions and muddy bottom, I normally avoid that portion of the lake. I cruised over to the side and found myself fascinated by the many schools of small black fish.
Looking over the surface of the water, these schools looked like shadows on the water that moved about.  Some of the schools were several feet in length and seemingly contained hundreds of fish.  They would approach my kayak and surface for a moment in a sparkling display as they came to the surface for a moment. 
These schools would move about that section of the lake, forming into various shapes.  At any one time, I could see six or eight groupings.  My attention was riveted on these fish for a few moments.
After passing through the fish, I continued moving north and passed groups of carp swimming generally in the direction of the fish schools.  I wondered if the carp were headed for a meal of small fish!
Heading north on the main body of Lake Alvin, I was traveling with the wind, and little paddling effort was needed.  As often occurs on a windy lake surface, the waves were sometimes outpacing my kayak, creating a following sea condition.  I continued north until I was across from the recreation area launching site, about two-thirds of the way up the lake.  From there, I turned and headed into the wind for my return trip to the southeastern access area. 
The wind created a healthy chop in the water, and I moved over to the western shore to make my way back.  When waves develop on a lake, I feel safer paddling close to the shore.
In the wind, I resorted to my old paddling instruction in which I learned that it is the push of the arm that translates into power rather than pulling.  And, as normal in these conditions, I made my way from one landmark along the shore to another and counted my strokes.
Today, I spent about 90 minutes on the water and didn’t see anyone, either on the water or on the shore.  It was totally a solo experience. 
For the past three weeks, I have been serving as a paddling volunteer at the Outdoor Campus in Sioux Falls.  Last Tuesday, I performed this service at the pond behind the Outdoor Campus complex and worked with two people who had limited experience in paddling.  For further information of paddling opportunities available through the Outdoor Campus, check out the heading in the menu on the right side of the blog.

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