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:

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Split Rock Creek

Split Rock Creek is one of the most scenic cruises in the Sioux Falls area. It can be accessed at the Garretson city park. A dam in the park backs up the water so that a kayak can cruise upstream among overhanging cliffs of quartzite. It takes about 30 minutes to kayak upstream and about 20 minutes to paddle/float back downstream, and the water is deep enough to ensure easy paddling throughout the summer. Large colonies of swallows inhabit cliffs along the waterway.

A paddler may also see a family of beavers or a lone muskrat swimming alongside. A deer might be seen bounding through the woods as a kayak passes. Since the creek runs along agricultural land on one side, it is not uncommon to find a cow standing in shallow water. A large pontoon boat, the SS Jessie James, provides tours for those who don't want to paddle. On the return trip down the creek, a kayak can go through an arched bridge into the gulch where Jesse James is said to have escaped a posse while fleeing a bank robbery in Minnesota. The city of Garretson maintains a visitor center in the park where the returning kayaker might slake his thirst with a cold beverage. In my first trip up Split Rock in May of this year, there was a backlog of driftwood caught up in the arches into the gulch, and it was a little tricky to pass through one of the arches. Taking the kayak into the gulch offers a chance to visit a magical and undisturbed world of rock faces, interesting vegitation, and sleeping turtles.

In my view, if a person is taking a guest out for a first kayak ride, this is a wonderful place to introduce kayaking. I go to this site several times each year, sometimes alone and sometimes with a friend or one of my sons. I sometimes also go with my wife and dog. While I am out in the kayak, they stroll about the park and camp grounds.

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