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, August 31, 2006

Long Lake

I have heard a lot about the attractiveness of Long Lake for kayaking for awhile, and today my son, Derek, and I had a chance to take my kayaks out on this waterway. I was not disappointed; Long Lake is one of the premier bodies of water for observing wildlife that I have experienced in the Sioux Falls area, especially waterfowl. It is about 45 miles from our eastside Sioux Falls home to the lake.


Like so many of the more underutilized waterways, finding the lake and an access point is an adventure in itself. Long Lake is located just south of Lake Madison, separated by a narrow isthmus from that more well-known body of water. From Sioux Falls, an easy route is north on Cliff Avenue to North 60th Street, then left to State Highway 38. At Hartford, you would turn north on 464th Avenue, through Colton, and on to County Road 52, just at the edge of Chester. After a couple of miles, you turn north on 461st Avenue. until reaching County Road 44 running between Lake Madison and Long Lake. Along CR 44, heading west, you would look for the intersection of Lenola Heights and 237th. The sign for Lenola Heights is on the north side of the road, and you should start looking for it after passing the “Hillside Resort.” Directly across from that sign is a rough dirt road heading down to the north shore of Long Lake. You can see the lake off to the left as you are moving down CR 44.


Only after proceeding down toward the lake on a slopping narrow dirt road is a small “lake access” sign visible. A large turnabout is provided at the end of this entry road with an eroded pathway to the water’s edge, about a 50 foot carry. There is no other public facility at this lake access point. A shelving bottom at the access point provides an easy launch for a canoe or kayak into the lake.


Long Lake, as its name implies, is a long narrow waterway with a number of islands in the middle portion of the lake. An immediate impression upon seeing the water for the first time is the large number of waterfowl present. We saw a lot of egrets throughout our paddle on the lake. They were in groups and solo: standing in the shallows, on the shore, and resting in trees; more egrets than I have ever seen in a single location. Also, there were a number of great blue heron seen about the lake. All around us were great flocks of gulls. While we did see cormorants, we did not observe any ducks, geese, or pelicans during our paddle. On the way back, however, we passed a spot on the south eastern shore called Pelican Point, and there we saw a few pelicans and hundreds of gulls. As we stood on the shore after returning from our paddle, across the lake we saw a deer wading from one of the islands to the mainland. Egrets were there in the path of the deer, but they remained in place as the deer moved across the shallow water.


There was quite a wind blowing across the lake on this trip; it was overcast with dark clouds in the west and thunder booming in the distance. The wind was from the south, so there was a lee along the southern shore. The water conditions, therefore, ranged from a good chop in portions of the lake to a dead calm along the southern shore. I was using my 13 foot Dagger kayak with a rudder, and my son was in a 12 foot Folbot with no rudder. He experienced some tracking difficulty in the teeth of that wind. With a rudder, however, it was easy for me in the Dagger. Water was coming up on the bow and side decks, but there was no real problem for either of us – except for Derek’s need to paddle a lot on one side when experiencing a cross wind.


The south shore of Long Lake is characterized by low rolling hills and a lot of vegetation. We did not observe any noticeable cliffs along the shore line. At some points of the lake an isolated home has been built, but this is still a pretty deserted lake; we saw no other boats on the water. The lake is posted “no wake” which pretty well eliminates fast motor boats or jet skies. I would imagine that people who want to zoom around the lake in a motorboat simply use Lake Madison or the other larger lakes in this region.

My son, Derek, told me that Long Lake was, so far, his favorite waterway in the area. He loved being in the waves out in the wind with waterfowl flying all around him. We were surrounded by sound on this cruise: the wind in the trees, the calls of the birds, the waves on the shore. This is really a wonderful lake for a two hour cruise, just slowly meandering among the islands and observing the multitude of birds.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Lake Dimock

Lake Dimock is about 70 miles west of Sioux Falls, near the town of Dimock, South Dakota. Dimock is dominated by a very large Catholic church that rises up out of this small town as a landmark across the prairie. The first impression of this community is that of a small town off the beaten bath, a huge church, and a large cemetery. Dimock is south of Mitchell. From Sioux Falls, the easiest way to get there is to go west on State Highway 42 until it intersects with Highway 37, then go south for five miles to Dimock and then about two miles back east on 270th Street to the first turnoff north past 413th Ave. This is not an easy lake to find; I drove past it without recognizing the turnoff. A sign identifying a state access point is visible, but only after turning north on the entryway to the lake.


One of my sons was enchanted with the notion of visiting Lake Dimock because of the shape of the lake in the Sportsman’s Connection: South Dakota Fishing Map Guide. It took us about an hour and a-half to get there from our eastside Sioux Falls home.


Although the lake is rather small (75 acres), it is varied and has an extensive shoreline. There is a wide part of the lake at the eastern edge; wide enough to provide something of a chop when the wind is blowing. On this portion of the lake there are high banks with cliffs running down to the shoreline. We ran into a group of cattle on the southeastern shore, and we all gazed at each other. We observed lots of bird life on the lake, including great blue heron, ducks, and cormorants. The shoreline of Lake Dimock is very interesting because of the variation observed: from cliffs to marshes, from wide to narrow waters, and a varied airflow off the landscape. An island full of rushes, flowers, grasses, and bushes is situated in the middle of the lake area, and we landed our kayaks to walk around it. There are also a number of boulders in the water, including one very large boulder that sits like a solid island along the northern shore. The lake was created along the bed of the South Fork of Twelvemile Creek, and some trees were evidently submerged when the lake was developed. The stumps of some of these trees are still visible, and we kayaked our way through these remains of a long ago stand of trees that graced the banks of the creek.


An interesting feature of this lake is the many arms that extend in different directions. We went up one little arm of the lake near the dam, and it seems liked an idealized microhabitat for wildlife. We also kayaked up Twelvemile Creek for a mile or so and could have gone on further. This entryway into the lake is about 40-50 feet wide, deep enough for easy kayaking even in August, and filled with interesting deep vegetation along both banks. The creek extends to the west under a bridge. There is another arm of the lake that extends to the south.

There is a very attractive launching point for entry into the lake. A concrete ramp is provided, there is a modern outhouse-type toilet, and a covered shelter for a picnic has been constructed along the spacious parking area. There is even a bench provided out on a point overlooking the lake. These facilities are placed along the southern shore of the lake.


While this is a small lake, it provides a surprising degree of interest for the kayaker. I think that the varied shoreline and the irregular shape of the waterway are major qualities in my satisfaction with this setting. There seems plenty of wildlife available for viewing and a variety of vegetation. I wholeheartedly recommend that anyone taking a kayak to Lake Dimock take advantage of the opportunity to go upstream on Twelvemile Creek. This portion of the creek is like a small river, and there is a lot to see. As usual on South Dakota lakes, we were alone on the water. We went on a Friday the week school begun. Even in late August, the water level was high and we had no trouble moving about the lake. In some spots moving up Twelvemile Creek, there are shallow spots with a mud bottom, but it is pretty easy to avoid getting bogged down there. We spent about two hours on the lake.

I really liked this cruise. It is too bad that it is so far from Sioux Falls, but for people who live in the Mitchell area, especially south of Mitchell, this is a gem of a lake for tranquil paddling. I hope to return there again.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Folding Kayak - The Folbot

In my family, we have always driven small cars. Many years ago I had a Chevy Vega, and I carried a 17 foot aluminum canoe on top of the car. Living in South Dakota, I experienced lots of windy days as I drove along with this large canoe lashed atop the car. I was always concerned when meeting another vehicle along the way, fearing that the force of the slipstream would rip the canoe off the car. I could sometimes see the bow shift orientation, especially when passing big trucks. The possibility of the canoe blowing off the car was a constant source of tension whenever I went out on a paddling excursion.

Folding kayaks had always interested me because of the ease of transportation and storage. After all, there is a certain attraction in a boat that can be stored in a closet and carried in the trunk of a car. Folbot, one of the major builders of folding kayaks, used to be advertised in National Geographic, and that offered an image of being able to explore all sorts of waterways with ease. Through these advertisements the contrast with my enduring tension of a canoe blown off the car top was sharply etched. Paul Theroux is one of my favorite travel writers, and I found my interest in folding kayaks renewed after reading his adventure in The Happy Isles of Oceania, an account of traveling through the south Pacific in his folding kayak. Somewhere along the line, I also discovered the writing of Ralph Diaz, one of the best know proponents of folding kayaks. His book, The Complete Folding Kayaker, is a review of the history of folding kayaks as well as reviews of major brands, and an introduction to kayaking techniques.

About eight years ago I bought an Aleut model of Folbot. This is a 12 foot, exceptionally stable, entry class into folding kayaks. It has an aluminum framework that connects three ribs that then slides into the Hypalon fabric hull. My Aleut came in two bags that easily fit into the trunk of my Honda Civic Hybrid or on the back seat. The boat weighs about 40 pounds when assembled and is pretty easy to carry for short distances. It takes me about 15 minutes to assemble the boat and less than 10 minutes to take it apart.

The Folbot is very stable and easy to paddle. It tracks well without a rudder, although I do have a rudder which I no longer use. The boat is not fast, but I am primarily interested in slowly cruising along the shoreline looking at the vegetation and hoping to spot wildlife. This boat has served me well over the years. The only problem I have ever had with the boat is developing a leak in the air inflated sponsons inside the top of the fabric hull. Folbot, though, offers a lifetime warranty on these components, and replacements arrived within five days of my request. But, these sponsons lasted for at least seven years and were replaced easily – with the help of my wife.

Now that I have both rigid kayaks and the Folbot, I find that I use them both. When I want to take one of my sons or a friend out kayaking with me, I put one kayak on top of the car and then put the Folbot in the trunk. Early and late into the paddling season, I generally use the Folbot rather than put the rack back on the car. I have used the folding kayak in lakes and rivers, and there has never been a problem. I suppose that it would be easier to poke a hole in the folding kayak than in one of the rigid kayaks, but it has never happened to me. Folbots are more expensive than a rigid kayak, but then a person doesn’t have to be concerned with buying an expensive car top rack or in finding a place to store the boat. You can find more information on the Folbot by checking out the company website at

The following video clip was shot by one of my sons as I assembled the Folbot along Split Rock Creek near Garretson, SD, this past weekend.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Loss Lake

Loss Lake is a little gem of a prairie lake located in a secluded area a few miles south of Humboldt, SD. From Sioux Falls, the best route is along Highway 42 heading west to the intersection of Highway 19. From there, the lake is about two and a-half miles north, to a dirt road heading east just north of 263rd Street. There is a very small white “Lake Access” sign at the entrance to the dirt road; the lake is located about a quarter of a mile down the road. There is a turn around area with parking for a few vehicles and a primitive gravel launching ramp. This is a minimum facilities area provided by the state: parking and the launching ramp. The lake is posted as “no wake,” and I have never seen another boat on the water in my three trips to the lake. The lake is irregularly shaped but oriented roughly north and south. The access point is on the west side at the widest point of the lake.


The east bank of the lake has a set of high embankments, some up to 20 feet in height. Some large rocks protrude from the high banks, and I am reminded of how Paleolithic era remains are sometimes found in such conditions. The lake is surrounded by low hills that affect the wind flow, and the banks have either high embankments or regular high banks covered with tall grass, rushes, and cat tail plants. These banks and vegetation provide a nice lee along the edge of the lake. There was plenty of water in the lake, and the depth was just fine for kayaking.


As usual in lakes of this sort, I like to kayak along the shore line to peek into the grasses and along the banks to observe wildlife and the growth of vegetation. On this trip, I came across two great blue heron that flew off as I approached and seemed to settle down again somewhere ahead of me to repeat the cycle along the entire trip. When I arrived, there was a flock of 20 geese out on the lake, but once they spotted me they flew off. In past trips to this lake, I always saw a flock of white pelicans. This time, I caught sight of one large white bird, but it was too distant to verify as a pelican. There was an abundance of other bird life. I came across several large turtles out in the water. This was a hot day on the lake, and I suspect they were keeping cool in the water; I did not observe any turtles sunning themselves along the shore line. There were lots of tunnels in the embankments and pathways through the tall grasses along the shore, but I did not see any actual animals in these settings. I would suppose that 1:00 p.m. in August is not the greatest time for viewing wildlife.

Loss Lake 013

As I cruised along the north end of the lake, I came around a corner and saw a herd of cattle standing in the lake behind a single strand fence that separated off this backwater spot. I suspect that the fence was electrified, but I did not get close to it. Among the 16 cows standing there knee deep in the water, there were several large full-grown cows and several calves. As I was departing the area, something spooked the cows, and they started running through the water creating an interesting sound. I would not have wanted to be in the way of these cows as they decided to move on.


As I was ready to depart the lake, a car came into the access area, and a couple got out an inflatable boat. The guy told me that Loss Lake was an area center for small hydrofoil racing boats until sometime in the 1970s. There is a structure on the east side of the lake that I thought was probably a duck blind for hunting that he told me was actually the officials’ area for the boat races.

This a quiet little lake that offers a tranquil spot for observing bird life and presents a good potential for observing other wildlife. It is infrequently used, so an hour of so of solitude is pretty likely during a circuit around the lake. The lake is 14 miles west of Sioux Falls and about 21 miles from my eastside home in Sioux Falls. It takes about 45 minutes to paddle the circumference of the lake.