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, November 14, 2013

Fensterman Slough--Too Late for this Year

For a long time, I have wondered about Fensterman Slough, a long east/west oriented body of water located west on Highway 42, just northwest of Wall Lake.  I suspect that this is one of the least known paddling opportunities in the general Sioux Falls area.
Fensterman can be reached by tuning north off of Highway 42 at 460th Avenue and traveling a short distance to 265th Street.  There is a Dead End sign along 460th Avenue, but don’t let it discourage you; just continue until Fensterman Slough is in sight ahead.  Signs identifying it as a waterfowl production area mark it, and there is a road into the parking area that leads down to the shoreline.
At the western end of Fensterman, the slough is narrow and winding. Toward the east, the slough curves around heading generally northeast to a wider end through many peninsulas and bays.  The east/west axis seems to be about two miles in length, and the widest section across seems about half a mile.  There are low hills surrounding the slough, although tree cover is scattered. 
There is a rough road leading from a parking area down to the shoreline.  The bank is several feet high, and it is a challenge to get down to the water’s edge.  I managed it easily enough by grabbing handfuls of tall grass to balance my descent and to pull myself back up.  It would be easy enough to launch a canoe or kayak at this point.
Dave Finck and I had set out this afternoon at 1:00 p.m. in his van pulling a canoe trailer heading west out of Sioux Falls, past the Wall Lake turn-off, hoping to find Fensterman and take a cruise around it. All we had was a copy of the South Dakota Atlas and Gazetteer to point the way. The temperature had been up to around 50 degrees in the past few afternoons, and we hoped to find the slough still ice-free.  As we drove west on Highway 42, however, we saw ice covered ponds near the road and began to fear that we were too late for this exploration. 
Finding Fensterman was something of a challenge.  Of course, there are no signs indicating the slough, and we had no idea where or if there was an access point.  So, we drove about the area trying various roads, generally circling the slough site.  Finally, we reviewed the map and decided to go back down to Highway 42 and look again for a north route that might lead us to Fensterman.  Earlier, we had passed a “dean end” sign and thought that the dead end might indeed be the shore of Fensterman Slough.
Proceeding north on 460th Avenue, we passed the dead end sign and continued on until we saw blue water ahead.  There are a few homes in the area and a road leading up to a grassy parking area and a sign indicating boat access.
Walking down a pathway through the browne grass, we reached the shoreline and looked out over a lake covered with ice.  Perhaps the surrounding hills prevented the west wind from breaking up the ice over the lake, even in the 57-degree temperature of this afternoon.  Launching a canoe was just not possible today, and it seems as though the long winter has taken hold of Fensterman Slough for the next several months.
We wandered down a long narrow path along the southern shoreline through the grass and looked over the slough from several vantage points.  The slough looks like a fine place to paddle, and the nature of the waterfowl protection area suggests great bird watching ahead.  There were some unidentifiable white birds sitting out on the ice a couple hundred yards off shore.
We saw an island located a hundred feet or so off the southern shore, and I thought of how next year I will step onto the island and walk around it.
Fensterman will be on my list of waterways to paddle early in the spring.  I am looking forward to paddling the entire shoreline of the slough as soon as spring arrives and the ice is gone for the season.  Sometimes I wonder about the distinction between a lake and a slough.  Scott Lake, just north of Hartford, for instance, was called Scott Slough until some point when the slough was dropped in favor of lake.
I have been visiting the rivers, creeks, lakes, sloughs, and ponds of this area for a number of years.  It is very pleasing to find a new waterway in the area, especially one relatively easy to visit.  Flashing paddles, next year, on Fensterman Slough!
To access all the photos taken at Fensterman Slough today, please see my Flickr page at the following URL:

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