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:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

OLLI Paddling for Seniors

Over the past three years, I have been increasingly engaged in classes offered by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), a national lifelong learning program offered primarily for seniors throughout the nation.  A center has been established under the sponsorship of University Center here in Sioux Falls, and a wide range of programming is offered to the membership.  Part of the programming is a range of activities to promote fitness, especially for seniors.  A contribution of mine has been to offer sessions on kayaking and hiking in the Sioux Falls area. 
This morning, I presented a two-hour session on an introduction to kayaking.  It was held in collaboration with the Outdoor Campus in Sioux Falls, a program of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks.  We began with an orientation to kayaking in the auditorium and then moved to the large pond on the campus behind the main set of buildings for our on-water segment.
Ten OLLI members came to the session, most of them with no or very limited kayaking experience.  This was a first attempt in what seemed an interesting activity for them.
Working with me in the activity was Derek Klawitter, a SDGFP naturalist who is an experienced instructor in watercraft operation and safety.
Following the orientation, we all moved out to the boathouse by the pond.  Derek had already set out the kayaks needed for our class, and we fitted all participants with lifejackets and paddles. 
Derek and I helped all participants into the kayaks and launched them from the beach; they didn’t even have to get their feet wet. 
Soon all ten participants were on the water and padding easily about the pond.  There were small conversation groups for some, and others were happy to just move about the pond. 
While Derek supervised from the shoreline, I moved about the paddlers encouraging and coaching them.  Within minutes, the paddlers seemed to have picked up enough technique to easily move themselves along. There were lots of smiles and feeling of accomplishment, and a good time was had by all.
We spent about an hour and fifteen minutes on the water.  As the session concluded, the paddlers drove their boats up onto the shore and we pulled them up so that they could just step out of the kayak. Nobody even got their feet wet throughout the cruise.
This was a great opportunity for seniors to have a tailored introduction to kayaking, to try out the boats, and to consider whether they might want to continue with this fitness activity.
We in Sioux Falls are fortunate to have the Outdoor Campus and the OLLI program available for seniors.  The Outdoor Campus, by the way, is a gem for the community.  There are lots of paddling opportunities for anyone through the facilities of the Outdoor Campus, including paddling classes and opportunities at the campus pond, Family Lake, and the Big Sioux River.  They are even willing to put together special group events for those wishing to have a paddling experience.  More information is available at the Outdoor Campus website and through contact with the staff there.  

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