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:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Split Rock Lake (MN)

It has been almost exactly one year since Dave Finck and I visited Split Rock Lake, an impounded section of Split Rock Creek – the stream than begins north near Pipestone and flows into the Big Sioux River south of Brandon, SD.
The lake is the centerpiece of Split Rock Creek State Park along Highway 23 just outside of the small town of Ihlen (MN), between Jasper and Pipestone. The park is a jewel: beautifully maintained with campgrounds, a swimming beach, fishing pier, a 2.5-mile hiking trail, and kayak rentals.  This little park is really a wonderfully tranquil spot that seems to me like a hidden treasure.  A Minnesota park sticker or a daily admission fee is required for entrance.
The fleet of rental boats available in the park is a special bonus.  The rental price is only $10 for four hours, and the park manager told us that midweek rentals are easy – they were all available while we were there.  Reservations for rental boats is not an option, they are first come, first served.
We arrived to a deserted lake, just as with most area waterways on a weekday late summer day.  The weather was magnificent: no wind, sunny skies, and a temperature of about 68 degrees.  It was a great day to be retired!
The lake is about .75 miles long from the dam at the southern end to the entrance of Split Rock Creek, then it extends north into the creek for another .75 miles.  At its widest spot, the lake is about .4 miles across.
There is an inlet on the east side of the lake that extends eastward for about .3 miles into the reeds until reaching a bridge that we could not pass – the water level was too high to permit passage of the canoe.
The lake gradually transitions into Split Rock Creek on the northern end.  We continued northwest until reaching a bridge on the eastside of Ihlen.  Passing under the bridge, we encountered the single wire of an electric fence, the same fence we found last year.  There was no passage possible under or around that fence.

The chief attraction of Split Rock Lake is the serene setting and the pleasing range of trees, bushes, and aquatic reeds.  Last year, we encountered a deer standing at the water’s edge.  This year, we did not see much wildlife: there were a few birds, including a great blue heron that flew up upon our approach.  Also, we saw a few groups of carp swimming along in shallow waters on the northern end of the lake.
There was plenty of depth to the lake this year.  The muddy eastern side and a rocky entrance into Split Rock Creek that we encountered last year were covered by much more depth this year.  We had no difficulty easily moving along the circumference of the lake, including the eastside inlet and the northern entrance to Split Rock Creek.
A hint of fall was in the air with some trees and bushes changing their color.  Those first signs of fall are like an electric prod for paddlers:  we need to get out on the water more often because a big change will be upon us in only a few weeks.  With fall, the long winter is on the horizon!
Our cruise this morning took us about an hour and a half, and we covered about five miles.  We stopped for lunch in Pipestone.  What a great way to begin the day!
The full set of photos for this cruise can be found at the following URL:
Dave Finck on Split Rock Lake

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