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:

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Lake Poinsett: A Guest Narrative from “Patricia from Omaha”

The following is another guest narrative from “Patricia from Omaha.”  She has become a regular guest contributor to this blog, describing her paddling adventures on area lakes and waterways that I may not have visited.  The narrative this time presents a cruise on Lake Poinsett, one of the largest lakes in South Dakota with a surface area of 7,886 acres. The lake is northwest of Brookings, just a few miles west of Estelline, SD. (JAH)

On my way to a campout with my sister from Fargo, I spent a night at the Lake Poinsett Recreation Area.  I checked out the rec area's boat ramp on the south shore but decided against using it.  Poinsett is a big round lake, and my philosophy is that if I can see the whole lake from the ramp, there's no need to put the kayak in the water.  However Google Earth showed both an attached lake and a river to the north, so I went in search of an access on that side.

I started driving clockwise around the lake; at about the 9 o'clock position I found a beach with a boat ramp, but it wasn't close enough, so I pressed on.  The campground host had described a ramp on the north shore and that was my goal.  I was following roads close to the lake, and found a promising ramp at the end of NW Lake Drive off of Highway 28/192nd Street. A little further east on 28 and just after the 458th Street intersection, I saw a boat ramp sign and a road that led back to a sandy beach.  I found nothing further, so this is where I returned.  I backed the van close to the water and unloaded the kayak, glad not to have to paddle across the entire lake to get here.
A large flock of seagulls watched me put in and paddle to the left past them, looking for the river.  It was late afternoon with a light wind and a pleasant temperature.
I arrived at the north inlet quickly; it was very shallow but the water was flowing strongly from the lake side and help push me across the soft sand (more about that later).

Around the turn lay a body of water with a bay to the left, full of trees and ducks.  I paddled that direction for a bit; the ducks all flew off but I did snap this turtle catching the afternoon sun.
Back in the main body, I paddled further north, coming to the bridge on Highway 28, from which I had spotted this waterway.  Near the bridge were more gulls and a solitary pelican.  The bridge was high and easy to travel under, so I pushed on.
Like a rerun on TV, on the other side of the bridge was a body of water with gulls and… another bridge, on 459th Avenue.  This one was a different animal however; it had massively heavy metal plates hanging on the other side and a mechanism for lowering them.  I learned later that it is a dam to keep too much water from flowing back up from the river.  Looking at its pictures on Google Earth, it was pushed hard back in 2011.
I confess I felt very uneasy paddling under the pieces of the dam and relieved when I was past it. On the other side was a long and narrower stretch of water, more quiet and agrarian.  There were rushes and a heron on the shore, and farm buildings with cows further up.

Paddling on, I came to my third bridge, this one on 192nd Street.  It was a fairly ordinary and solid looking roadway and I passed under it easily.  Now my waterway was definitely a river, with odd square blocks placed across it at one point.  I wasn't sure if the blocks were meant to stop boats or were just leftover from some former structure.  They were far enough apart to allow easy passage, so I kept going.

The river turned into the twisty and intriguing path that I enjoy exploring, just to see what's around the next corner…and the next and the next. Believe it or not, around one of the corners lay my fourth bridge.  It looked smaller and more rickety than the previous three, but was still easy to paddle under.  Finally the usual combination of tiring muscles and decreasing sunlight caused me to turn around.

On the way back I saw these farm buildings and tall pines that make a graceful picture.  A strangely bent tree caught my attention, reminding me of a Japanese torii arch.  It's funny how one spots new sights on the return trip, or how the aspect of something familiar changes.

So I paddled back, past the rickety bridge and the plain concrete one and the bridge with the scary dam plates and the pretty concrete one.  I reached the narrow spot where the water rushing in had eased me over the sand.  The current was not working in my favor now and I was having a difficult time.  I paddled hard but the spot where the channel was the thinnest and the sand highest stymied me.  Just like Platte Creek, I have no pictures from this part as I was busy trying to make some progress.  The sand was too soft for any leverage.  I was contemplating getting out (and wet) when I tried one more tactic.  I paddled up to the troublesome spot, leaned almost flat forward in the kayak, reached my arms and paddle as far to the fore as they could go, and dug into the water on the other side of my obstacle.   It was enough to get me up and then over, and with relief I paddled along the lake shore back to the beach.
            My adventure continued however.  After I wiped off the kayak and loaded it in, I found that my van was having a similar problem as the boat; it just couldn't get going in the soft sand.  I had backed too far down the beach. With no cell phone reception there and being on my own, I needed a solution.  Rocking the van back and forth didn't work and neither did trying a lower gear.  Finally I remembered that I had some small logs for campfires in the back.  I laid them in front of my tires like a wooden road, and with that (and a prayer) I got out of there.  
            The park ranger later explained to me that the place I used as an access used to have a boat ramp, but it was washed out in the flood of 2011 and there were no plans to replace it.
            The river north of Lake Poinsett was a great paddle, excluding the sand traps.  I would have liked to explore even further, and I would use that same access, although I would keep my van up on the hard surface and carry the kayak to the water.  As it was, I re-learned a valuable lesson about being aware of your surroundings.

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