Last night the forecast for the Sioux Falls area looked
reasonably good for kayaking; the only cautionary note was winds from 15-20
mph. So, I loaded up the kayak in
the evening, got up at 5:00 a.m., and set out for an abbreviated morning read,
bagel, and coffee at my morning spot before heading west to visit either Beaver
Lake or Lake Vermillion. I would
make up my mind en route while observing the wind effect as traveling west on
The trees seemed to be blowing in a south wind as I
approached Humboldt and the exit to Beaver Lake. Remembering the ease with which waves develop on that open
body of water, I decided to pass it by and go on instead to Lake Vermillion
State Recreation Area, located between I-90 and Highway 42 along SD Highway 19.
Arriving at the recreation area about 7:20 a.m., I found a
couple of fishing boats being launched from the large well-developed parking
area. I got my kayak unloaded and underway in the wake of the first boat; as
they headed left toward the main body of the lake, I paddled west under the
bridge over Highway 19 toward the wetlands and feeder creeks flowing into this
west end of the lake.
As I moved out of the shelter of the launching area, I could
feel the wind increasing and the waves building out of the south. Traveling west required me to paddle
across the southwest wind with a following sea.
I skirted the northern shoreline as I headed toward the
wetlands and Battle Creek. At the end of this western arm of Lake Vermillion,
there are two main creeks that flow from the surrounding wetlands; it is easy
to paddle into these creeks and continue upstream through the twisting and
increasingly narrow waterways.
Shortly after entering the Battle Creek flow, I came across
a very large beaver lodge. As I
approached the lodge for a closer look, I saw a large beaver working just
outside the structure. After I
managed to get close enough for a quick photo, the beaver disappeared
There were a lot of ducks in these feeder creeks; as I
approached, these flighty creatures rose up and flew away, sometimes in groups
of five or six, to avoid my kayak.
I found it impossible to capture them on camera because of their rapid
response to my presence.
As is my custom, I followed the creeks as far as possible
into the wetlands. On the first
entry along this waterway, I came to a point where it seemed as though I was in
a pasture in the presence of many cows. Rather that spook the cattle, I just turned around and
proceeded to the second creek entrance.
This path led me past a large home build on a bluff over
Battle Creek and into a rather long waterway that twisted itself along the
contours of a hilly landscape.
This waterway was increasingly narrow but deep. Even as the waterway grew so narrow
that I wondered if I could turn around, the water remained 4-6 feet deep.
I continued deep into the wetlands and was not too concerned
as the waterway narrowed to just two or three feet. The kayak moved easily along this course up to a point where
I could just not proceed further.
By that point, I knew that I would have to back downstream; there was no
room to turn around. But, I found
that I could not negotiate the curving course of the waterway backwards. I had to heave myself out of the kayak,
drag it up on top of the bank, and turn it around for the return trip.
It is not easy to get out of a kayak with relatively high
banks and a deep waterway. This sort of maneuver can easily lead to a spill;
while not likely to be dangerous, it a way to ruin my camera and fall into the
deep slit of a waterway. In any event, I made it okay and began the return
The wind had continued to increase out of the south. This meant that I would have to fight
the waves as I returned across their march north. For the first mile, there was a shelterbelt of tall
evergreens and a reasonably high bank on the lee side. I could cruise back east while looking
at the whitecaps on the lake off to my left. This uneventful passage continued until I passed under the
bridge again and hit the main body of the lake. The wave action had become heavy and I had no alternative
than to paddle across building waves on my way to the launching area on the
I had some anxiety as I hit these whitecap waves that were
coming broadside to me. My
response was to keep close to the bank and maneuver the kayak so that I could
keep out of the trough of the waves.
The bow was buried in oncoming waves and spray blew back into my face
and soaked my clothing. A
sprayskirt would have been nice, but I don’t have one. Taking photos of the wave conditions did not seem like a great idea to me at the time.
Still, I made it back okay after being out on the water for
about two hours. The west end of
Lake Vermillion is much more interesting than just proceeding up the main body
of the lake. I like exploring the
flow of the Vermillion River as it transitions into the lake, but that requires
a long paddle north – too far for me anymore. Although there must certainly be fishing boats that venture
up the western end of the lake, I have never come across one.
For other narratives describing past cruises on Lake Vermillion, please check the inventory of area waterways on the left side of the blog. To access the full set of photographs of this cruise, please access my Flickr set inventory at the following URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jayheath/sets/72157629667340362/