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:

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Lake Alvin

Lake Alvin is certainly one of the most accessible and well-used bodies of water in the Sioux Falls area. The lake is southeast of Sioux Falls along Highway 11, just east of Harrisburg. There are two access points to the lake; one is within the State Recreation Area located at the northeastern edge of the lake and the other is a public lake access point on the northwestern part of the lake. Within the Recreation Area, there is a well-developed launch area including a concrete ramp, a pier extending into the lake, and restroom facilities. A park sticker or a daily fee is required to enter the Recreation Area. The public access area does not require an entry permit, and the facility is also quite good with a boat ramp, a pier, and restroom facilities. Parking space in the Recreation Area is paved; in the public access area, parking is on a dirt road and on the grass.

The lake is long and narrow, feeding out of Nine Mile Creek at the southwestern end of the lake. The Recreation Area extends around the northern portion of the lake, and this includes a public swimming beach, a spillway, the launch area for boats, and a fishing dock. This is also the deepest portion of the lake and a popular part of the lake for fishing. There are high banks along this portion of the lake, so there seems to always be a lee side with calm water, even if there is a good breeze blowing. The southern portion of the lake includes a fishing area near the public access point, but the lake becomes shallower at this end.

Nine Mile Creek enters into Lake Alvin at the extreme southwestern point; when water is high, it is fairly easy to kayak quite a distance up the creek. This is one of my favorite parts of the lake. Going up Nine Mile Creek, the kayaker moves into a swampy waterway with cattails and other aquatic plants as well as waterfowl, particularly ducks. There is a current down the center of the creek, and the water is adequate to move up for half-a-mile or more. Generally, when I go up Nine Mile Creek, I go until it becomes too narrow to turn the kayak around. This is a trip that I take a couple of times a year.

I like to go on a moonlight cruise on Lake Alvin. I have usually taken off at twilight from the public access point and headed northeast up into the main body of the lake. For me, it is especially relaxing to arrive up at the northern portion of the lake as the sun is setting. Coming back, I like to see the sun set and the moon rise. This is a magical time along the lake when the birds are settling down for the night. Then, I approach the public access area as dark descends upon the lake. The biggest challenge may be hauling the kayak out and securing it to the car top carrier in the dark.

Lake Alvin is not a secluded spot for observing wildlife. The lake is quite popular with area fishermen, it is a well used state recreation area, and there is increasing residential development just outside the boundary of the recreational area as well as along the southern end of the lake near the public access area. But, the lake is an attractive site, there is generally shelter from the wind on one or more sides of the lake, and it is very accessible to people who live in the Sioux Falls area. When I want a quick paddling trip out on some nearby water or want to try out a new boat or piece of equipment, this is the place I generally head to first. The South Dakota Canoe Association has hosted an annual event at the public access area for people to try out various kayaks or canoes. I usually take my first and last kayak trip of the year on Lake Alvin, and I revisit it several times a year.

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