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:

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Big Sioux River: A late fall cruise through Sioux Falls

In yet another cruise led by Dave and Mary Finck and Larry Braatan (all SDCKA Board Members), ten paddlers and their kayaks assembled at the launch area near 57th and Western Avenue to head down the Big Sioux River through Sioux Falls. A November cruise is a delight that we can’t count on here on the northern plains, especially on rivers other than the Missouri River.
I dithered with a decision on whether or not to join the cruise today; there were lots of other things on my “to do” list, and this was a trip that I had taken several times over the years. But, I suspected that I would regret letting this opportunity slip by. As it happens, this was a wonderful day with a temperature of about 60 degrees, sunny, and with a wind at our back much of the trip. It was a great day for a paddle, and a good day for fellowship on the river.
We gathered at the put-in and arranged a shuttle. Actually, most of us drove our cars to the “take-out” at Fawick Park and rode back in Dave’s van. By 1:50 p.m. we had all launched and were underway down the river. One of the cruise participants brought a big container of homemade chocolate chip cookies and offered them around to us: I took three and then had another one at the take-out!
As we moved down the river, the group kept together, although people tended to move along chatting with a person alongside. The trees have lost nearly all their leaves, and visibility through the vegetation along the banks was good. Surprisingly, we came across three groups of deer at various points along the cruise. The first one was a large buck with a full set of antlers. We were moving fast on the stream, and by the time I fumbled my camera out, he had slipped away. Still, we all got a good look at him. Then, we came across a group of three more deer, and I was able to capture them with my camera. There were a few ducks along the way, ducks that may not have gotten the memo about departure from these northern climes.
There are two sets of rapids along the seven-mile stretch from 57th Street to Fawick Park, and we slipped through each of them without incident. The first is under the bridge connecting the bike trail, just downstream from Cliff Avenue. There were plenty of bicyclists out on the trail today, and a few watched us pass through this first set of rapids. The second set is near 26th Street; that one is a little less of a challenge, and again we made it through without incident.
We passed under several bridges as we made our way downstream. There were no navigation hazards along the route, apart from the two sets of rapids.
Many people were out on the bike trail, walking, riding, laughing in the sunshine. Lots of geese are still hanging out in the area between the 18th Street bridge and Fawick Park. The geese, at any rate, can just slip over to Arrowhead Park as the ice develops on the Big Sioux River.
We ended our cruise at Fawick Park, in sight of the statue of David. We had left our cars parked on the street at the park, and it was only a short “carry” from the river to the street. Our trip was about seven miles and took us just under two hours.
This was a fine trip, a great cruise in the fading days of fall. We just have to take advantage of opportunities for trips like this, and I am so glad that I overcame my lethargy: I could not in good conscience spend the day reading or doing home chores when a cruise down the river was offered.

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