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:

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Late Season Cruise on the Big Sioux River Through Sioux Falls

After my less than satisfying experience on Saturday, I left the kayak on top of my Honda Civic in hopes of sneaking in another cruise within a couple of days. I had a couple of free hours late this afternoon, so I went down to the East 26th Street launching area for a trip upstream on the Big Sioux River to the rapids under the bicycle trail bridge near the Cliff Avenue lift station.
For this time of the year, the afternoon was perfect: sunny skies, a temperature of 60 degrees, and a 15 mph wind blowing downstream. The river was running a strong current with depths that ranged from two feet or so along the low bank to five or six feet in the channel. The average depth seemed to be three to four feet along most of the width of the river. I was surprised to see the strength of the current and the water depth considering the lack of rain over the past weeks in the Sioux Falls area.
It took me 40 minutes to paddle upstream to the rapids under the bike trail bridge. When riding this section of the bike trail, the odometer on my bike read 1.1 miles, so I suppose that the river length is about the same. The trip back was largely a float in the current and took about 25 minutes.
There was a flock of ducks that hovered just ahead of me on the river. As I paddled, they would fly ahead, settle down, and then take off again as I got closer. I came across a group of four or five deer that were watching me from the depths of the shoreline woods.
My cruise continued up to the rapids, and I thought of the times that I have run this section of the river. When going downstream, I sometimes feel mounting tension as I approach this set of rapids under the bridge. One of my kayaking friends got hung up on a rock in these rapids recently – a nightmare that I easily imagine when passing through.
YMCA Camp Leif Ericson is located on the left bank going downstream and extends for most of the distance of this cruise. I thought of the thousands of elementary school aged children who populate this camp from June through the first half of August. I passed the “crashed airplane” in the woods, the “pirate ship,” and the waterfront area of the camp. Everything is deserted now as winter begins to take hold. It will be seven months before the next cadre of “campers” arrives for weeklong sessions next spring and summer.
This is a great spot for a contemplative flatwater cruise of about an hour. The “put-in” is about 10 minutes from my driveway to the launching point, and I really ought to do this short cruise more often.
I still have hopes of another cruise somewhere this fall. The season is passing, though, and tomorrow is November 1. The end of the paddling season is at hand.

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