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, 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.

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