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:

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Beaver Lake - June 2009

This morning in Sioux Falls, the temperatures were mild, low 50s; the wind was light at 5-15 mph; and the sky was partly overcast. A few days ago, I cleaned up the interior of my kayak after tracking in mud, sand, and small rocks during the Skunk Creek cruise over a week ago. So, all the signs were right for another venture out on area waters. I decided to take my annual trip to Beaver Lake, located just on the edge of Humboldt, SD. As you drive west on Interstate 90 approaching the Humboldt exit, there is a slim water tower visible on the right, about a mile before the exit. The water tower is on a strip of land between the Interstate and the road leading down to the lake. In fact, you can see the lake from the Interstate. Finding the access point in Humboldt, however, is another issue. I have talked to people who live in the area who have no idea that the lake exists. Highway 38 passes through Humboldt, and heading back east, you turn at a gas station on the east end of town. A right turn there will take you south past the cemetery. You just keep going toward the water tower and take a left at the last road before the bridge over the Interstate. The lake is less than a mile down that road on the left. Typically for South Dakota, there is a small obscured sign that reads “public access.” The access point has a vault toilet, ample parking, and a dock. Earlier posts about Beaver Lake can be found by checking the appropriate link on blog menu.
Today, as usual, I headed out to the large wooded island directly fronting the access point. I find the landscape of this island very interesting. The island is heavily wooded and there is variation in the shoreline. Along part of the island, the banks are 10 feet high or more; along another part, the shoreline is low and marshy with reeds. I have not seen any sign of human encroachment on the island; instead, it seems like a wildlife sanctuary. I have seen a good variety of birds in the trees or waters around the island. Today, I watched a group of egrets as they located nesting material on the island. They were a little too spooked to allow me to drift in close to them, but I kept them in sight for several minutes. I like moving slowly around the
island, peering into the interior, checking out the variety of birds, and looking for other wildlife. Today, I saw a couple of rabbits scampering through the under growth. I imagine that wildlife gets onto the island in the winter by strolling across on the ice, and critters might well be marooned there for the season.
Because the lake is high, I was able to explore deep into some of the marshy parts, deep into the cattails and rushes. Sometimes, I was able to move 200-300 yards into the wetlands. In this area, I came across several beavers and lots of lodges. Beaver life must be characteristic of this area for the name of the lake to have stuck over the years. There were lots of yellow-headed blackbirds out today, and they too were building nests. Ducks in great numbers would fly up out of the marshy areas as I approached in my kayak. I heard rustling in the reeds and fleetingly saw lots of little ducks scampering out of sight.
As almost always, I was alone on the water. My cruise was just short of two hours today. I lost track of time as I moved in and out of the marshy areas checking out bird and beaver life. This was another of those great times for a retired guy: kayaking out in deserted waterways during working hours, laughing it up on my own agenda.


Jarett C. Bies said...

Nice writing, great photos. Loved the egret pictures.

Patrick Wellner said...

Jay, excellent narrative on Beaver Lake. I am especially intrigued by the island... all islands really. Only 27 years until I am eligible for early retirement... :)