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, September 07, 2008

Sailing the Kayak

Last week I went out to Lake Alvin for a little umbrella sailing. The wind was just right, and I was able to sail in a moderate breeze from the public access point on the northwestern side up nearly to the fishing dock on the southeastern shore. The umbrella can be shifted to capture the wind along an arc of perhaps 60 degrees, 30 degrees on either side of the wind direction. I was alone on the lake and just cruised along, laughing in the light winds. I had to paddle back down to the western end of the lake, but I was able to umbrella sail again across from the south to the north side.

As I have begun to run out of new waters in the Sioux Falls area, I have turned to the notion of sailing as a way to add a little spice to my paddling activities. The notion of adding a sail to one of my kayaks has held appeal to me for many years, but the cost of a sailing rig has deterred me. Using the umbrella has been sort of a novelty, and I have enjoyed the feeling of being pulled along faster than I can paddle while hanging on one- handed to a big golf umbrella.

In the last couple of weeks, I have begun an e-mail correspondence with another former University of South Dakota professor who has moved to Virginia. He contacted me in response one of my postings and invited me to check out his own blog describing kayaking experiences along the coast in the Virginia area. He really offers wonderful photography and narrative description of exploring the lakes, rivers, and coast of Virginia in his fleet of sea kayaks. I was immediately taken by remarks about sailing the kayak using a “Spirit Sail.” This is a very basic sailing rig that can easily be fitted to nearly any kayak. It is a “downwind” sail that can be adjusted on its mount 30 degrees either side of fore and aft.

After reading his narrative and looking at the photos, I located the company that sells these sails and called the owner. We had a nice chat about her experiences using the Spirit Sail, and she answered the several questions that I had.

The long and short of this is that I have ordered myself the “mid-size” Spirit Sail that comes with everything needed to install it: mounting plate, bolts, sail, mast, battens, and carrying bag. The cost was $225, which seems a modest investment for the fun I anticipate and the new experience of dealing with winds and sails. The sail has already been shipped, and I look forward to using it yet this fall before the winter chill sets in too deeply.

I highly recommend checking out the Virginia Paddler at You will find the Steve Hildreth is an excellent writer who offers very interesting observations and comments about his kayaking ventures. You can also read in some detail about how he has adapted the Spirit Sail to fit his kayaking needs. If you want to check out the sail rig itself, you can go to There is a range of accessories to the sail so that it can be adapted to most kayaks or canoes, and there are two size sails. I got the smaller of the two, the “geezer” sail for timid old-timers. I can hardly wait for the sail to arrive and a good day to head out to Lake Alvin to sail off in search of adventure in my sailing kayak!


Anonymous said...

I can hardly wait to see your new sail and hear all about how it works. It will add a whole new dimension to your time on the water.

Unknown said...

that looks like fun.