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 17, 2007

Lake Goldsmith

Lake Goldsmith - (West of Brookings)
On the edge of one hour …

A South Dakota Kayaking Blog guest entry
By Jarett C. Bies

Lake Goldsmith is a sweet destination and yes, it does fit into the one hour from Sioux Falls parameters of this blog. It’s just north of Volga and Sioux Falls paddlers can have an entire nice-sized lake to themselves with great scenery, history and bird life, and only drive gravel for about a mile.


My wife and co-paddler Laura Bies and I recently started working in Brookings County, and with our boats on our Taurus, we decided Monday, Aug. 13 to find water right after work. We headed west from Brookings on Highway 14, and the total time between Brookings and Volga is literally 5 minutes, so we were on the water’s edge in less than 10 minutes after leaving SDSU.


To reach Lake Goldsmith from Sioux Falls, take I-29 all the way north past the first Brookings exit to the Highway 14/Volga bypass. From the exit, turn L (or west) and drive on, it’s literally 7 minutes to Volga from the Interstate.

As you approach the west edge of Volga, you’ll see a sign indicating Oakwood State Park and pointing to the right, turn right (or north) there and go about one mile to 210, then turn left. The road is gravel there, but head west about one mile and you’ll come right up to a sweet, sandy-beach put-in with room for a car off the gravel, across from the cornfield.


The lake’s girth surprised us both. We were planning to hit Oakwood State Park and paddle the eastern lake there, about another 15 minutes north of Goldsmith. But we drove down though the high corn just to see if Goldsmith was worth unloading. And here sat a lake that it’d take at least an hour to cross.

As mentioned, the put-in is a long beach with multiple entry points. We hit the water about 6:30 p.m. and a couple on a motorcycle stopped and went for a dip in the shallows to the west of us. We put in with two boats heading along the east shore around the circumference to the north.


It was still to start but the wind did pick up to make it more challenging paddle action as we reached the northeast corner. We then headed due west to an open channel in the backside of the lake. There was a tinfoil-in-your-face feeling as we headed into the setting sun at 7-8 p.m. The glare was KICKING on the surface and up into our faces.

The opening to the backwaters of this lake is tiny and to the far north; when we finished and headed back I missed the channel and had to do a bit of poling to get draft water under the boat. But the egrets, heron and pelicans were everywhere and we got quite a feathered show in the reedy back section of Goldsmith.


Back there to the west end, tossed off behind a cornfield bordering a marshy part of the lake, sit three or four old horse-drawn combine rigs, rusted and weed-ridden. We couldn’t help but wonder who dumped these antique relics into the skanky water of this lake. My brother-in-law saw the pictures and said they were old combines.


We rounded back and enjoyed the fact the main lake was wind-free as we sought the car. We noted a power boat with a tuber at the south end of the lake, near where we put in, but while this lake looks small on the Gazetteer page, we still far away enough to not hear the boat’s motor as we headed toward it. They left before we go to the put-in.

When we did approach the south shore of the lake, three little girls swimming on the rough beach shouted “WE COME IN PEACE!” as we approached. We estimated where they were swimming to be near our car but we were wrong. The Taurus actually was parked about 200 meters south of the peaceful evening swimming trio. When we found it, we had a nice take-out and end to our 2-hour sunset cruise.

The sandy nature of the take-out led us to do the old Superior style “from the water” car load; we exited normally, unpacked all the gear, then waded the boats back into two feet of water, where we sponged ‘em down thoroughly, then walked each right up to the rack to avoid hauling lots of sand home on the roof of the car. We were back in Brookings 10 minutes later.


Goldsmith is a full hour’s drive from Sioux Falls, but it’s friendly and unfettered on the northwest end, so I would recommend it for someone looking for a nice place to play around. It’s got plenty of birds, it’s nice and remote, and it’s closer to Sioux Falls than Oakwood. Plus, since it’s not a state park, you can just go get crazy sans day-pass rate or sticker. Of course, one can paddle Oakwood’s eastern lake without paying day-pass rate.

But that’s another story and another lake. Check out Lake Goldsmith for a Midwestern-Farm Country backdrop lake in the middle of nowhere, yet only 10-15 minutes from the Interstate.

Jarett & Laura Bies
Paddled 8/14/2007
Entry dated 8/17/2007

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Laura and Jerett, you took me to a beautiful lake and the photos were fantastic! I would never have thought of going to Lake Goldsmith but can't help but wonder now!

Great post, wonderful pics, nice write up!