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:

Monday, May 19, 2008

Lake Lakota: A Weekday Spring Cruise

Today, I decided to take my kayak out to Lake Lakota, part of Newton Hills State Park and 28 miles from my eastside Sioux Falls home. It was a great morning: mostly sunny with a few clouds in the sky, temperature about 55 or so, and a moderate wind out of the south. The water today was clear to about four feet: nice clarity for a South Dakota lake. Lake Lakota is a "no wake" lake, and that adds to the serenity of this body of water.
There were no boats on the lake, although there were a couple of guys fishing at the public access spot on the southwest side of the lake and a guy in waders in the shallow weeds near the dock in the park area. Essentially, though, I was alone on the lake and was able to move around the perimeter poking into the inlets, coves, and among the weedy shallows without running into anyone.
On this occasion, I wanted to go up into the several inlets that are scattered along both shores of the main body and also up into the creek that feeds Lake Lakota at the extreme northwestern end, up the west extension of the lake. This lake is about the same area as Lake Alvin, but the shape is markedly different. The shoreline is especially interesting, in part because the entire lake is within the Newton Hills State Park; there are no houses to be seen and no indication of agriculture. It is truly a nature area with plenty of green vegetation around the shoreline and in the hills surrounding the lake.
Up in the inlets, I came across beaver a number of times. One was along the shore as I approached in my kayak and startled me as he shot off the bank, into the water alongside me, and moved like a torpedo under my kayak.
The aquatic vegetation that so captured my attention last spring when I visited the lake was not present today. Also, last year there were lots of lilies on the surface within the western extension of the lake; but this year, all that was missing. I wonder if the late spring this year has caused some slowdown in plant growth. Last year I also saw lots of frogs on the lilies, but this year I saw no frogs at all.
There were lots of turtles, however, mostly in that western arm of the lake. I did not see the huge turtles that I remember from last year, but I saw dozens of small and medium size turtles sunning themselves on downed trees in the shallow and marshy water. Sometimes the turtles were all lined up in a group of six or more along one especially sunny semi-submerged small tree trunk. The largest ones I saw were dinner-plate size, while the smallest were about the size of orange half. I feel something like a safari hunter in my kayak as I approach with camera ready to capture the turtles on disc before they jump back into the water. I have assumed that turtles have poor eyesight, but they must have sharper vision than I thought. They are able to carefully gauge the approach of a kayak, even a silent kayak, and jump off into the safety of depth. So, it now seems obvious that the turtles with their neck stretched out somehow are able to know when it would be wise to depart the log. I felt a little guilty in causing them to jump back into the water when it must be very laborious to climb out and up a log or horizontal tree stump.
There was a moderate level of bird life, mostly redwing blackbirds and flocks of a swallow-type of bird swooping over the surface of the lake on the search for insect prey. Ducks flew up and away upon the approach of my kayak on several occasions, but there were no geese or pelicans.
Lake Lakota is a very tranquil spot for a contemplative paddle. It is also a great place if people have to wait for you. The dock area is alongside a swimming beach and changing building, picnic shelter, toilet, and a great view over the lake. There are a couple of other narratives about this lake from visits in past years, and you can access these from the menu of area waterways on the right side of the blog.


Patrick Wellner said...

looks like a great lake to paddle

Anonymous said...

Jay, again, great work on the photos. I am always amazed at the clarity of your wildlife images, those turtles made both Laura and I say WOWZA!

Glad you had a good paddle. We are returning to Benton this week, with a little luck.

I was reading about Sinai, too, so some Saturday plan on it. We'll make it happen.

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