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, December 16, 2009

SDCA Winter Conference: Saturday, January 30, 2010

The South Dakota Canoe Association is hosting its annual winter conference on Saturday, January 30, 2010, at the Sioux Falls Outdoor Campus, 4500 South Oxbow Ave., Sioux Falls – just southeast of the Empire Mall. This is a great opportunity to be in touch with the paddling community within South Dakota. There will be illustrated presentations about cruises, discussion about gear, and a moment to honor Dick Davidson, a paddling legend in South Dakota and the region. The conference will be in two parts: first there will be the traditional gathering and presentations at the Outdoor Campus from 12:00 – 4:00 pm; the group will then move to Bracco’s for a silent auction of canoeing and camping gear from Dick Davidson with proceeds to the Boy Scouts, dinner together, and then an illustrated presentation of a remarkable adventure to Arctic waters with Dick Davidson. I urge all my readers to consider attending this conference and initiating or continuing relationships with area paddlers. This is the event that really kicks off the next season of paddling, and many contacts are made at the conference that pays off with participation in group arranged cruises beginning early in the spring. Dues for joining the SDCA are really low: $10.00 for the year! Attendance at the conference is free.

So, I look forward to seeing many of you at the conference in January.

The Outdoor Campus
4500 S. Oxbow Ave
Sioux Falls, S.D.

Afternoon Agenda:

12:00 Welcome from Gene Preston, President SDCA
12:10 SDCA Year in Review – Cruising, Public Service, Safety -
Brief remarks by SDCA directors about events of the year
12:20 Kayaking Down the Cheyenne River - Jarett Bies and pals
1:00 Kayaking along the Missouri River - Pat Wellner (Pirates of the Missouri)
1:35 Canoeing the Boundary Waters - David and Mary Finck
2:00 Break
2:15 Total Fitness and Having Fun - Ed and Kay Hoffman
2:50 The Missouri River Kayak Challenge for 2010 – Jarett Bies and Steve Dahlmeier
3:00 Reflections on the Life and Adventures of Dick Davidson - Dave Greenlee
3:35 Business Meeting
• Election of Officers – Gene Preston
• Plans Ahead for the SDCA in the Coming Year – President Elect of the SDCA

Evening Agenda – Bracco Restaurant 5001 S. Western Avenue, Sioux Falls

4:30 Silent auction of camping and canoeing gear of Dick Davidson with proceeds to be donated to the Boy Scouts – Lee Snyder
5:15 Dinner ordered from the menu
6:15 Travels with Dick, the adventurous life and contributions of Dick Davidson – Lee Snyder

This conference is open for anyone interested in canoeing or kayaking. The presentations will be focused upon paddling opportunities and experiences, and the presenters will be members of the SDCA with significant experience in area waters. This is an opportunity to network and establish links with paddlers from the area. There is no admission charge for the conference.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Last Attempt: The ice is in on Lake Alvin

Yesterday the temperature rose into the low 50s, and I became obsessed with the notion of kayaking here in the Sioux Falls area in December. Last week on the Big Sioux River was a record late cruise for me; the idea of taking a real last cruise of the season was nearly overpowering. I loaded up my kayak yesterday so that nothing would dissuade me from going out, and Lake Alvin seemed just right to me. We have had a series of days here on the northern plains with nighttime temperatures in the high 20s and low 30s and a daytime high of into the 40s. The forecast was for nearly 50 degrees today. Kayaking in December! I could not resist the possibility.
So, with the kayak loaded up, I headed out to Lake Alvin about 9:30 a.m. with a temperature about 35 degrees and sunny skies. At the public access area of Lake Alvin, I found that the dock had been pulled out and the lake was deserted. I saw ice sparkling out from shore, but I thought that I could just paddle along the shoreline where the water was relatively free of ice.
As I set out, it seemed right away that I was cutting through the ice cover. Perhaps the ice was a quarter inch thick, but I found it increasingly difficult to make much headway. The paddle would break through the ice, and the kayak would slide along. Soon I began to wonder if I could get caught up in ice too thick to get through and find myself stranded off shore. I back paddled to the open lead that I had originally followed and continued along the shoreline. I had about 10 feet of open water between the pack and the shore. After about 100 yards, however, even that shoreline stretch of open water began to narrow until again my kayak was functioning as an icebreaker.
Moving in this restricted space was not much of a cruise, and I regretted not heading over to the Big Sioux River for another run between 26th Street and the bridge over the bicycle trail. But, since I was at the lake, I made another attempt to find open leads for a little longer cruise. Soon it was apparent that I wasn’t going to be able to do much more than duplicate the cruise along the shoreline for that short distance.
I just moved back to the public access area and managed to get out of the kayak without getting my feet wet. With the kayak loaded up, I looked back at the lake and thought about the four months or more before it would be possible to get out on the water again here in the Sioux Falls area. Four months seems like a long stretch to me. I guess that the winter is truly here; the temps are falling, and the forecast high does not seem likely. Cold days are predicted, a wind is blowing, clouds have formed up, and the ice is in. I think that it is now really time to take the kayak rack off the car, unload all my gear from the trunk, and shift focus for the season.