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:

Friday, November 01, 2013

Split Rock Creek: Garretson City Park Through the Palisades

As we slip into November here on the Northern Plains, paddlers are either putting away their gear for the season or taking every opportunity for what may well be a final cruise of the year. As a retiree, I have some advantage over my working pals and can go out on a weekday during “working hours.”  As a matter of fact, I revel in that status!
Today seemed like the best day of the week for paddling, so Dave Finck and I met at the city park in Garretson for a cruise up through the palisades.  This has come to be something I have done toward the final days or weeks of the paddling season for the past several years.
It was sunny, about 42 degrees, and quite windy as we arrived at the put-in.  The wind was blowing down through the canyon that forms the creek bed at about 25 miles per hour. 
The high quartzite cliff walls that rise up along both banks tended to provide a lee along the cliff face and to reduce the force of the wind.  Still, we were paddling into a stiff head wind as we made our way upstream from the put-in just above the dam.
Paddling along this magnificent waterway, the seasonal shift into winter was evident.  Much of the leaf cover is gone and the grasses have turned brown.  There is little evidence of waterfowl now, although we did see a flock of robins that seemed to have delayed in their flight south.
The sun was bright over the cliffs, providing interesting shadows across the water.  I steered my kayak from cliff face to cliff face along alternating sides in order to experience the varying effects of sun and shade.
We made our way upstream to the riffles that lead into the impoundment formed by the dam within the park.  Some years ago, there was a single home located at this point, but now there is another large home visible from the creek. 
This is the point, about 1.25 miles upstream, where paddlers turn and head back downstream.  Along the way back, we came across a flock of 15 turkeys moving through the grass on the right bank.  They were spread out in a line that moved across the landscape into a grove of trees.
Along the return route, little paddling effort was required.  The wind just blew us back, and only an occasional paddle stroke was needed to track the course downstream.
As has become a feature of a Garretson cruise, we moved under the arched bridge and into Devil’s Gulch.  The wind here was also brisk, and it blew us up the waterway, past other sets of quartzite cliffs to the feeder stream flowing in from the woodlands.
We paused within the Gulch to view the changing landscape and then paddled back under the railroad bridge, through the arches, and into the main stream just above the “take-out.”
Our cruise this morning was for about an hour and fifteen minutes, and the distance was about three miles.  As we loaded up the kayaks, the wind was reported as 23 mph, and the temperature was in the mid 40s.  We had on jackets, boots, hats, and gloves this morning.  As usual, once we were off the water and trying to load up the kayaks, the cold seemed to intensify.  My fingers didn’t work all that well as I worked on the knots for the ropes that secure my kayak atop the car. 
This was a great weekday morning cruise, and I found myself enjoying the way the kayak cruised through the water.  We all know that there is little time remaining in this paddling season.  Still, I am expecting to get in at least a couple more cruises this year.
A full set of the photographs for the cruise this morning can be found on my Flicker page at the following URL:

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