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, July 20, 2006

Swan Lake

Today I took my kayak out to Swan Lake, located between Hurley and Viborg just off of SD Highway 19 and about 45 miles from my eastside Sioux Falls home. Swan Lake is about the same size as Wall Lake, but the development is much less intense. The state has provided an access point along the southern shore of the lake, but this is a "bare bones" launching ramp. There is no restroom located at this point and parking is quite limited. Still, I arrived at mid-morning, mid-week, and there were no other cars or boats in the area. The ramp is located among a set of lake properties that have been build along this shore.

The lake itself is oriented generally east and west. Development is located in scattered parts of the eastern part of the lake on both the south and north shores. The lake homes seem more modest than those at Wall Lake, and I would guess that there is a "lake community" of summer residents living there. The far eastern shore has a stand of trees and there is tall grass growing up along the shore line. I saw a muskrat swimming through the lake grasses. Two wooded islands are located in the wide part of the lake, the eastern half.

While I was paddling, there was a power boat out on the lake towing a big tube with riders. This was the only boat I saw on the lake, but many were on ramps beside lake cabins. Power boats are restricted to the eastern “main” portion of the lake. The western side is posted for “No Motorboats.” This western side opens up from a narrow strait and extends back into an area surrounded by tall grass. This grass creates a nice lee from the winds, and it is the sort of place where some wildlife might be seen. On this trip, I saw only a single great blue heron in this portion of the lake. Paddling the perimeter of the lake takes about an hour.

Generally, I thought that the lake offers a pleasant cruise around the perimeter. It is always enjoyable to cruise around islands, and there is still a good portion of the lake shore that is not occupied with cabins. On an earlier trip to this lake, I observed more waterfowl, but this time there was only that single great blue heron. So, Swan Lake would not seem among the most interesting for observing wildlife. The lake was surprisingly clear with virtually no algae growth. Going to Swan Lake is an opportunity to see another nearby summer lake community, a good location for a good one-hour tranquil paddle. A big downside for many would be the lack of a restroom at the launching area. Driving an hour from Sioux Falls, a good paddle, and the ride back to Sioux Falls can put something of a strain on the capacity of nearly anyone.

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