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, October 10, 2013

Pelicans on Grass Lake

 We have had a great couple of days here in Sioux Falls for this time of the year, and a change seems to be coming beginning tomorrow.  The forecast for today called for “breezy” conditions, with winds from 15 to 25 mph and gusts to 30 mph.  Still, Dave Finck and I decided to take advantage of an otherwise really fine day. 
He picked me up with his van and kevlar Wenonah canoe strapped on top at 8:00 a.m., and we drove west on Highway 42 and north on 459th Street to Grass Lake. I have normally visited Grass Lake a couple of times a year, but I think that it has been at least a year since my last cruise on it.  It seems to have been unchanged since my last visit.
Grass Lake has a rough launching pathway that is just a rocky trail.  We went down the trail and then over to the right side of the shoreline to launch in a smoother spot. 
A strong wind was apparent as we shoved off and headed west along the northern shoreline.  The wind was coming from the southeast, so we made a rapid passage down the lake in a following sea with waves of about a foot in height pushing us along.
As we cruised west, it occurred to us that the passage back to the launching spot might be a bit more challenging.  Still, we pushed on toward the western end of the lake – about 1.5 miles from the put-in.
The landscape is quickly losing its color and reverting to the brown cover that will last until next spring.  Many of the trees are changing color now, and the sight is beautiful even though it signals a return to the dreaded winter months.
Our cruise this morning was highlighted by a very large flock of while pelicans.  It seemed to us that there were upwards of 200 of these magnificent birds lounging around a rocky outcropping extending out from the northern shoreline about a mile west of the put-in.  This is the spot where I have quite often come across large groups of waterfowl, especially pelicans.
We cruised in as close as possible, and they seemed to tolerate this approach.  Eventually, they decided to move a couple hundred feet toward the southern shore.
We continued on another quarter mile or so and then cut across the lake to the southern side.  As we turned and faced into the wind and waves, we found ourselves straining to keep on course heading east.
We decided to keep inshore and paddle within a lee formed by the high banks on the south shoreline.  This eased our passage markedly, and we thought that moving on down the lake to the east end and then across to the north side would be the best option.
First, though, we passed by the old windmill on the southwestern shore that has been one of my most photographed sights on the lake.  After all this time, it still stands, although perhaps a little more worn each year.
As we moved along the southeastern shoreline, we spotted a sign that had been peppered with bullet holes.  I felt a great need to land the canoe, climb the steep bank and check out the sigh.  I hoped that it would read:  “no shooting.”  No luck!  It was a sign identifying the collaboration of agencies to manage some aspect of the lake.  The sign has apparently become a target of sorts for people with a great need to blast away.
The climb up the bank was hard enough, requiring me to grab brush and grasses to help get atop the slope. I thought that I had found a better way to get back down to the canoe, but I fell into an unseen hole in the brush and got scratched on my neck and hand. 
Worst, though, I cracked a bent-shaft paddle of Dave’s that I was using as a walking stick of sorts.  But, I got the photograph!
We spent about an hour and a half on this windy lake today.  It was a strain paddling into and across the wind and waves, but my fall climbing down from the high bank was our only incident, and, of course, the crack in Dave’s paddle.
It was a great morning on Grass Lake.  A complete set of the photos of this cruise can be found on my Flick page at the following URL:
Other narratives of cruises on Grass Lake at various seasons over the years can be found in the menu on the right side of the blog in area waterways. 

No comments: