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:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Lake Alvin: Taking a Friend Kayaking

Lake Alvin: Taking a Friend Kayaking

One of my old pals from the Peace Corps days and beyond is visiting here in Sioux Falls and staying with us for ten days. On previous occasions, I have taken him out for a kayak ride in the area: the Big Sioux River, Grass Lake, Split Rock Creek. With a relatively narrow window for kayaking, I took advantage of the clearing sky yesterday and took him out to Lake Alvin, only a fifteen minute ride from my eastside home. The sky had streaks of black clouds along with some clear skies; the winds were moderate with only short wind waves coming out of the west. The lake was deserted in the afternoon with no sighting of either another boat or person.


As normal when I take someone else kayaking with me, I loaded up my 13 foot Dagger onto the Yakima rack and tossed my Folbot into the back seat of my Honda Civic. We put in at the public access point on the west end of the lake and made the circuit cruise around the entire lake. The skies were an interesting feature of the setting. While there was no rain during the cruise, there were large black clouds hovering around on the horizon, while at the same time the sun would peek through ribbons of blue at intervals. There was a moderate breeze coming down the lake from the west, but there was also a lee side off the northern shore. This drift of the wind provided some alternating portions of calm and light wave action.


The lake is quite full. We went up the outlet into the spillway and were able to move along without touching bottom in either kayak. There was an absence of algae growth on the lake, but there was an unpleasant odor in parts of the eastern end along with floating strips of what appear to be dead algae. Some dead fish were floating along this part of the lake. I assume that the wind had blown these strips of dead algae and fish into the southeastern bay that forms the eastern end of the lake.


My visiting friend is Bill Akutagawa, and he has limited experience in kayaking. In past years he has used my old 10.5 foot Dagger, but the 13 foot touring kayak is a step up in design. He particularly liked the ease provided through use of the rudder. He found that the moment of greatest vulnerability in kayaking is getting into the cockpit and moving out for the first strokes.


I was reminded of the observation made by my 25 year old son, Derek, regarding Lake Alvin. He told me that I was selling this lake short. It is really a fine paddling lake, has an interesting shoreline, is long enough to provide a good cruise, and is close. Perhaps I sometimes feel a little guilty in just driving fifteen minutes to put into the water. It is not a great sacrifice of time, and I may have felt that I ought to drive out to more interesting waters. Lake Alvin really is a great paddling asset for people in the Sioux Falls area, particularly those on the east side of the city. I need to get out there more frequently.


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