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:

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Winter SDCA Conference - Sioux Falls: January 26, 2008


The annual winter conference for the South Dakota Canoe Association will be held in Sioux Falls at the Outdoor Campus on Saturday, January 26, 2008, from 12:00 noon until 3:00 p.m. This is a time for fellowship, networking, and learning for those of us interested in paddling our waterways in kayaks or canoes.

The conference this year will feature a PowerPoint slide show of waterways in the general Sioux Falls area – the Missouri River to Oakwood Lakes, navigational and personal safety, boat building, perhaps kayak fishing, Boundary Waters cruising, and bird watching on area lakes and streams. In addition, Dick Davidson will present a slide show describing one of his many adventures on northern rivers. A High Arctic Solo Canoe Trip on the Mara and Burnside Rivers to Bathurst Inlet will be great fun for all of us armchair adventurers who wish we could just chuck it all and head out on a long wilderness adventure. Dick Davidson is the most adventurous paddler I have ever known. For over 25 years, I have followed his canoe treks through Canada and Alaska. Just listening to him and looking at his slides is a great treat; I hold him in the highest regard. As the very long time president of the SDCA, he has helped many people find satisfaction in self-propelled travel on both area waterways and distant rivers, usually rivers flowing through northern wilderness areas.

There will be a discussion of cruises planned for next season, and an opportunity for conference attendees to offer their ideas for SDCA sponsored trips. We will elect officers for the next year, and there are several spots open for those who would like to take on a leadership organization within the organization.

So, I hope that you will mark your calendars for January 26, from noon to 3:00 p.m., and join us at the Sioux Falls Outdoor Campus, located near the Butterfly House and the Empire Mall –between 49th and 57th Streets.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Big Sioux River Through Sioux Falls: A last cruise of the year.

Today was a glorious gift to those of us here on the northern plains. A bright, sunny, weekend day with temperatures approaching 65 degrees on November 11 cannot be allowed to pass without notice. Many of us feel compelled to take advantage of this welcome respite preceding the inevitable winter shutdown. Just weeks from now, the lakes and rivers are likely to be frozen. In fact, we expect a return to cold grey days next week.


So, after a midday hike in the hills overlooking the Big Sioux River at a state recreation area near Sioux Falls, I felt anxious to load up the kayak and take a last cruise of the season on the river. Within minutes of returning from the hike, I had my old beater of a river kayak (10.5 foot Dagger) lashed to the Yakama rack and was heading down 26th Street to the park along the Big Sioux River. This is less than a ten-minute drive for me from my east side Sioux Falls home: 10 minutes from driveway to “put-in.”


There was a great deal of traffic on the Sioux Falls bike trail, and many people were in the parks. As usual, however, there was no one on the river nor any cars parked at the canoe access point on the west side of the river at 26th Street.


I headed upstream in a pretty full river with good depth all along my route. Going upstream, the YMCA camp is located along the west bank and the bicycle trail on the east bank. I was able to check out any new developments within view of the river at Camp Leif Erickson, a beautiful YMCA facility that runs for nearly a mile along the river.


The current was strong, especially for this time of the year. The weather was shirtsleeves, rolled up shirtsleeves at that. I did not see any notable wildlife other than a few ducks and flocks of crows in the leafless trees. The vista certainly has changed since my last cruise along this part of the river. With no leaves on the trees and the weeds going dormant, it was a brown world.


It took me about 35 minutes to paddle upstream from the bridge over 26th Street to the bicycle trail bridge, and I spent another 35 minutes enjoying a float trip back down to the take-out at the canoe access point.


This short stretch of the Big Sioux River is a little jewel here in the city. It requires the investment of only an hour or so on the water, but the views and experience of isolation are wonderful. Sometimes we neglect this waterway because, I guess, it is so close and not much of an adventure. For a tranquil paddle and the opportunity to check out seasonal changes, look at a variety of bird life, and experience the winds and currents, the Big Sioux through Sioux Falls ought to be on the cruise agenda of city paddlers. Also, no shuttle is necessary for this short paddle.


This was probably the last cruise of the season for me. With the return to colder, grey and windy days next week and the approach of Thanksgiving, I will take the kayak rack off the Honda Civic and empty the trunk of PDFs and paddles. It seems like a long time until March when we can all get back on the water around here. In the meantime, I will read Sea Kayaker Magazine and Canoe Magazine and look at the area maps for new waters ahead. The South Dakota Canoe Association will be having a board meeting this next week, and the annual conference will be held in January, so talk will revolve around new opportunities and adventures for the next season.