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:

Friday, June 19, 2009

Diamond Lake - June 2009

I loaded up my kayak a couple days ago with the intent of an early morning cruise on Diamond Lake, but when I got up yesterday there was a thunderstorm in progress. Rather than unload the boat, I decided to make another attempt today.
I got up early and headed to Bagel Boy, a coffee and bagel spot just a few blocks from my house. After my habitual hour-long read, I headed out to 10th Street, passed through downtown Sioux Falls, and continued west on Highway 42 and then north on Highway 19 through Humboldt until I reached 244th Street where I turned west again to Diamond Lake. This body of water is as far from my house as you can go in Minnehaha County. I live in the southeastern part of the county, and the lake is in the northwestern corner. Actually, the turn off to the lake is along Highway 19 between the Minnehaha County and the Lake County signs. During the drive west and then north, I did not overtake another vehicle. There was, however, a steady stream of east bound cars heading in to Sioux Falls, apparently drivers on their way to work. I drove along listing to a Joan Baez CD of Bob Dylan tunes while all the working stiffs were on their way to the salt mines. A nice treat for retired guys!
As I arrived at the lake, I was almost shocked to find that there were two boat trailers parked in the ramp area. I almost never find anyone on any of the bodies of water that I paddle within this area. Generally, I feel if any other person or boat is in view on the water that it is crowded. Two boats meant that the lake was “packed!” The area of the lake, however, is three times that of Lake Alvin, so it is possible to avoid close contact with any fishermen.
It was a beautiful morning for a cruise. The winds were light, the sky partly sunny, and the temperature around 70. Upon arrival, I paddled south along the eastern shore toward the dam about 1½ miles down lake. The first thing I noticed was hundreds of carp trashing around in the shallows along the entire shoreline. Apparently, they are spawning, and they wallow around in the shallow water and weeds along the shore. They find themselves in water too shallow to swim and thrash about, often finding themselves nearly beached. The sound of these spawning carp overshadowed the song birds that usually present such a pleasant audible backdrop to a lake paddle.
There were three flocks of pelicans on the lake this morning. Two of the groups were located near a marshy island in the southwestern part of the lake. In both cases, there seemed to be a sentinel pelican hanging back to draw my attention while the others swam away. The sentinel seemed to keep pace with me in my kayak – always just ahead, not flying off, and constantly swimming. I also came across a few other waterfowl and a beaver.
Going to Diamond Lake is at the outer limits of my routine: never spend more time on the drive than on the water. It took me about 45 minutes to get to Diamond Lake, and I spent an hour and 40 minutes on the water. When I returned to the dock, there was an older gent driving up in his old station wagon filled with fishing gear. In my efforts to initiate pleasant conversation, I mentioned the spawning carp. He told me that he had just returned from the dam at the south end of the lake and found two “game wardens” there. He said that he had told them that instead of bothering fishermen, they ought to be out seining the carp, digging a big hole, and burying them. I told the guy that I had seen flocks of pelicans on the water, and he said that they had brought the carp into the lake with eggs attached to their feet from other waters. Then, I mentioned seeing a cormorant on the lake, and he said that they were eating up the fish and that they were being protected by bureaucrats in Washington who don’t know anything about the needs of these lakes and fisherman. I asked him if he had seen other kayaks on the lake, and he told me that he had not and that he didn’t see how they don’t just capsize. Finally, I offered my observation about what a nice day it turned out to be, and he told me that the fishing would be good if only the weather would straighten out. This uplifting morning chat reminded me of how attractive I find solitude when out on the waterways.
So, this is my second time on Diamond Lake, and I recommend it. There is enough variety in landscape so that wind conditions are affected, there is a variety of waterfowl on the lake, the launching area includes a toilet and good parking, and access is pretty easy. The lake is about 1½ miles long and up to a mile wide, although generally the width is closer to ¼ mile. The lake is irregular in shape with several bays extending from the main body. Also, the lake is large enough to accommodate fishermen and paddlers and to offer a pretty good area of separation.


Steve said...

That's hilarious, Jay. The people hereabouts are mostly fishing or running whitewater, so I too often feel like I'm the only one paddling for the shear joy of it.

Some of the local rivers are too shallow for bass boats, so the fishermen will be in canoes or kayaks, so there is that. I usually glide by with a wave and let them assume I'm doing the same.

Anonymous said...

Jay, thanks for the write up! The conversation with the "older gent" was hilarious! Isn't it amazing how negative some folks can be? I enjoy reading your blogs. They are definitely my favorite. I'll look forward to the next one!!!! jason