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, July 18, 2010

The Big Sioux - Sioux Falls, 57th and Western to Cliff and 14th St.

David and Mary Finck, along with Larry Braaten, alerted SDCKA members that they would be cruising on the Big Sioux River through Sioux Falls this Sunday afternoon, and joining them seemed to me like a good thing to do on a Sunday afternoon. About 1:00 p.m., a group of 18 paddlers assembled with their kayaks at Yankton Trails Park, downstream of the old bridge and just upstream of Western and 57th Street.
A shuttle was arranged to transport cars to the “take-out” at a park along the Sioux River at the intersection of Cliff Avenue and 14th Street. By 1:45 p.m., all the paddlers were in place and ready to shove off into the river. The flotilla of kayaks set out and pretty much stayed together for the two hour cruise.
I found myself paddling along at the tail end of the group and engaged in a number of conversations. This sort of cruise does not lend itself to contemplation and a search for wildlife. Instead, it tends to be more a social event on the water – a shared cruise down the river.
There were people along the bank at various spots, people who stood there while the fleet passed in review.
The river was high and fast, but it had dropped some in depth and the current was not racing as it had been in recent weeks. Conditions could really not have been better for a cruise. The paddlers ranged in experience and skill from grizzled veterans to relative novices. No one had any trouble either keeping up or negotiating the two sets of rapids between the put-in and the take-out: rapids under the bicycle trail bridge and then another set about a mile downstream at 26th Street. We all just shot through these rapids with no difficulty – paddles raised in triumph.
The skies were sunny, the temperature in the 80s, there was no noticeable wind, and the water was high enough to ensure passage without going aground. The water was four or five feet deep in most of the channel, at least where I checked the depth with my paddle. The “sweepers,” or downed trees extending out from the bank were easily avoidable today. This trip took us about two hours of very easy cruising.
A new “take-out” has been developed just off a parking lot on the south side of the river before the bridge at the intersection of Cliff Avenue and 14th Street. I understand that the Sierra Club had some influence in establishing this take-out. It is really a fine addition to the kayak/canoe trail through the city. A two-hour cruise is just right for most of casual paddlers, and I had a great time today.
I was reminded again about what a treasure the city has in the Sioux River Greenway. As we know from recent news accounts, there is some risk associated with travel on the river. With care, however, and when the conditions are good, this is a wonderful cruise through the Greenway of Sioux Falls.

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