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, August 14, 2009

The Big Sioux - Sioux Falls, 26th St. to the Falls

Today, I retraced a route on the Big Sioux River through downtown Sioux Falls that I had not taken in 25 years. Long ago, I traveled this 2.5-mile trip on the river with my then eight-year-old son, Jason, who was sitting behind me in a solo canoe. We got caught up in the rapids near the 26th Street Bridge and cracked the fiberglass canoe in three places. While we continued on down the river to the old Zip Feed tower, this trip did not contribute to his confidence in the canoeing skills of dad. I remember thinking at the time that I would not want to go canoeing with someone who demonstrated such recklessness. But time passed, and old dad had additional chances to repair his reputation.
There is a canoe launch point just past the bridge on 26th Street, on the downstream side of Camp Leif Erickson. Most people canoe upstream for a little over a mile to the rapids under the bicycle trail bride and then come back. There is a set of rapids than forms a demarcation point between these sections of the river through Sioux Falls. Today, I kept to the right side of the rapids and shot through into the flow heading downstream to the Falls.
The river along this 2.5-mile section forms a corridor through wooded areas that lead into the park system along the Sioux Falls Greenway. The trees are large and cast deep shade across the water. This year, there is plenty of flow and depth to the stream. The woods extend out for 50 to 100 feet along each side. The Sioux Falls bike trail winds along the river system on the right as the flow moves on to the Falls.
There are several highway, railroad, and foot bridges along this stretch: 26th St. I 229, 18th Street, 17th St., 10th Street, 8th Street, 6th Street, as well as one of the large parking garages build over the river in the downtown area. Passing under bridges presents a potential challenge in that the stream tends to be wide at such points and there are often several supporting stanchions. On one occasion today, I selected a channel that proved to be too shallow, and I got hung up on rocks under the bridge. Rather that risk the ignominy of getting out of the kayak, I managed to haul myself back by gripping at the rocks and pulling the boat around for a more successful passage.
A set of rapids presents a novelty to the cruise near Fawick Park, with the statue of David in sight. Last night, my wife and I attended the Thursday evening jazz concert at Fawick Park, and I saw a fleet of six kayaks pass through this set of rapids. They all shot through in the center of the stream without difficulty, and I did the same today.
The buildings of downtown Sioux Falls appear through the trees and over the bridges as the river approaches the area around 10th Street. People can be seen walking or riding along the bike trail, fishing along the bank, or driving past – often oblivious to the drama of a passing kayak.
This short cruise ended off the parking lot of Killian College, just before the final rush to the Falls. My wife dropped me off at the launch area at 26th Street and drove on to that agreed upon pick up spot. The 45 minutes needed to navigate the 2.5 miles allowed her time to take a stroll down to Falls Park with our little dog and then to rest a spell in a folding chair until I showed up.
This cruise provides an opportunity to enjoy the scenery of the bike trail and then to see the emergence of downtown Sioux Falls from a new perspective. It is certainly not high drama, but it is a nice ride through the city along the Big Sioux.


Gia's Spot said...

Wow these pictures are fabulous.. thanks for sharing! I just bought my first Kayak and am starting my first "adventure"on sunday!

Dannny said...

We usually start out by 49th street, right before the soccer fields. We haven't done the Sioux yet this year, but we've through this area quite a few times and get out at the same location that you do at the college. Not sure how many river miles that is, but it takes us nearly two hours of easy paddling.

We also have the same paddles that you do.