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: http://hikingsiouxfalls.blogspot.com
Sunday, June 26, 2011
From Legacy Park along Skunk Creek to E. 26th on the Big Sioux River
In a repeat of a trip organized last weekend with a fleet of 17 kayaks that made the cruise down Skunk Creek from Legacy Park on West 12th Street to the Big Sioux River and on to the East 26th Street take-out, Dave and Mary Finck led a cruise down the same route today, Sunday, June 26.
Nine kayakers gathered this afternoon at Legacy Park to haul our boats a hundred yards or so to the put-in. We shuttled our cars to the take-out on East 26th Street and rode in Dave’s van back to Legacy Park where we set off about 2:15 p.m. The skies were overcast, the temperature about 78 degrees, and there was no noticeable wind.
Both Skunk Creek and the Big Sioux River were full, deep, and running fast. Skunk Creek was generally about 50 to 60 feet wide, and the rapids along the way were largely submerged. We passed through riffles, but nothing that could cause any anxiety among the paddlers. The Big Sioux River was wider, and the rapids just upstream of the bicycle trail bridge were submerged, as they were last week when I passed through them.
Along Skunk Creek, the banks are high, and the shoreline on the upstream potion is heavily wooded with tall cottonwood trees. Passing along that stretch of the creek, it is easy to forget the urban surroundings. There is little sign of the city.
The confluence of Skunk Creek and the Big Sioux River is just behind Louise Avenue, and the paddler can gaze up at the buildings close to the river. For a mile or so, the river flows through this urban landscape before moving back into the depths of the wooded shoreline further downstream.
We passed two groups of paddlers in kayaks from Zach’s Kayak Rental on the stretch from 57th Street heading downstream. These five kayaks all looked the same and had red paddle blades. Then, we passed a guy heading upstream from 26th Street passing Camp Leif Erickson, the YMCA camp along the river. Finally, as we were loading up our kayaks at the take-out, a couple of vehicles pulled up with kayaks. I have never seen such kayak traffic on the river, and it must be another example of how popular kayaks have become over the past few years.
We moved at a leisurely pace down the streams and did not stop along the way. Actually, there was no apparent spot for us to stop for a stretch: the water was just too high and fast. The distance from Legacy Park to the East 26th Street take-out is 9.3 miles, and we made the trip today in two hours and nine minutes. For a leisurely cruise, this was pretty fast. Those making the trip just last weekend took over three hours for the same distance, so I guess that the recent rains must have speeded up the flow.
Today was a wonderful day for a cruise. On trips like this, the chief attraction is paddling along in casual conversation with fellow paddlers. Cruising on moving water should be done in the company of others; there are too many opportunities for mishap to occur when traveling alone. It is also a great time to laugh it up with others who share an interest in paddling. A major benefit to membership in the SDCKA is to participate in this sort of cruise.