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, June 17, 2012

Big Sioux River: Lake Alvin to Klondike Mill

After completing a water sampling project on Lake Alvin, fourteen paddlers moved across the highway along the Grandview Road to the “put-in” at the public access area on the South Dakota side of the Big Sioux River. 

After arranging a shuttle of vehicles down to the Klondike Mill along the Iowa side of the river, the group launched through a muddy ramp into the river for the eight-mile cruise downstream.

The river was running moderately fast and full, the depth was adequate, and the wind was mostly at our back.  There were no threatening strainers or rapids. The dark skies had disappeared and there was nice sun on us all the way.  It was a perfect afternoon for a river cruise.

Experience among the paddlers ranged from novice to highly experienced.  I was, as usual, the oldest paddler, but there were also two young people with their dad in rented kayaks. 

We traveled as a group more than is usually the case.  While we were stretched out for a few hundred yards, most of the time nearly all the kayaks were visible.  A couple of the more experienced paddlers brought up the rear so that slower paddlers would not become isolated and out of sight.

There were lots of perching birds about, but I did not see many waterfowl or shore birds.  I did not see any mammal life along the banks.  This is to be expected, however, when a flotilla of 14 boats with paddlers in social conversation among themselves pass through their waters.

This is a beautiful stretch of river.  There are high cut banks along parts of the route and four-foot high banks along much of the rest.  The banks are consistently wooded, and this tree cover and high banks moderates the wind force. Several beaches were available for people to stop for a stretch, and we took a twenty-minute break along one of them on the Iowa side.

Over the course of the year, those segments of the Big Sioux River between Sioux Falls and Newton Hills are traveled several times on SDCKA cruises. It is usually a tranquil and social time for paddlers, a time to become better acquainted with others who share the sport.

Paddlers in the area are lucky to have Dave and Mary Finck and Larry Braaten as cruise and shuttle organizers.  They lead many cruises on area streams and rivers from March through November, and we all benefit greatly from their generous efforts. 

For those interested in viewing the complete file of photographs of this cruise, please feel free to access my Flickr account at the following URL:


christine said...

How can the public find out about these events and join them? I would have loved to have gone on this!

Jay Heath said...

Hi Christine,

The cruises are announced on the SDCKA Facebook page, and you can access that at the following URL:

You might want to consider joining the SDCKA. There membership applications available at each of our cruises, or you contact the organization.

Hope to see you on a future cruise!

Mike said...

Hey Jay! Looks like a fun time was had by all! Would love to make it up to your "neck of the woods" some day and experience paddling on the Big Sioux River!

KEEN Recess Team said...

This looks like such a great trip! The KEEN Recess Team is inspired by people like who you choose an active, healthy lifestyle. Recess is a rallying cry to take a break from the daily grind, get outside and create your own playground.

Looking forward to hearing about your next adventure!

KEEN Recess Team