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, June 02, 2012

SDCKA Paddling Fair: June 2012

Each year the South Dakota Canoe/Kayak Association hosts a paddling fair, an event designed to offer people who are interested in trying out a kayak the opportunity to be fitted into one and coached through the experience.

The paddling fair this year was held this afternoon at Family Lake in western Sioux Falls.  Family Lake is a park largely built to provide for fishing within the city.  It is two connected man-made lakes built over an old gravel pit near the intersection of the Tea/Ellis Road and Highway 42.  The lake is just right for novice paddlers; there is a dock and an easy launching area for kayaks – it is a nearly perfect spot for the SKCKA paddling fair.  Importantly, it is located right on the western edge of the city.

The event got underway at 1:00 p.m. and continued until about 4:30 p.m.  This year, the paddling fair was sponsored by the SDCKA, Sun 'N Fun in Sioux Falls, and the Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Department.  In addition, Team River Runners contributed several boats and personal coaching for paddlers.

About 234 people took part in the paddling fair, and there were about 40 boats provided by SDCKA members, Sun and Fun, and Team River Runners.

A variety of boats were available for paddling, including a selection of kayaks, both solo and tandem and in lengths from short river kayaks to long sea kayaks; several stand-up paddle boards; canoes, both solo and tandem; and even two Hobie kayaks with the pedal powered propulsion device – one was inflatable, the other a fishing rigged boat.

The event was characterized by families out to enjoy the day and try their hand at paddling; there were lots of families where the adults and kids each had a kayak to try and some where families filled up a canoe.

 It was not at all unusual to see parents with a small child seated in the forward section of a kayak cockpit.

There were at least two SDCKA members out on the water at all times serving as safety observers.  Other members were in action in the water, on the beach, and at the dock working to secure a kayak and helping new paddlers launch and move out on the water.  

The on-water SDCKA members also assisted with paddling techniques for those who were just learning.

For so many people on the water, there were few incidents requiring assistance.  I helped one young kayaker who had tipped and filled the hull with water.  On another occasion, I towed a young person back to the dock when she became unable to continue in the light wind.  There were very few such incidents. 

Those trying out the stand-up paddle boards sometimes took a tumble into the lake, but those were situations where the paddler just lost his or her sense of balance on the board.  It was a safe experience for these novice paddlers.

This was a great day for those who wanted a shared family experience.  It was also a great time for anyone who has had a yen to go out in a kayak for the first time.  Some of us took the occasion to try out another type of boat.  I was very interested in trying the Hobie kayak with the pedal drive, and I took the inflatable one out for a short spin around the lake.  I have been looking at these boats on the Hobie website and had a strong interest in them as a possible next craft.  My experience today did not increase a desire to get such a boat.  Maybe I didn’t spend enough time on the boat, but I left feeling that the traditional kayak might better suit my needs.  

I also tried out an Old Town Pack 12 foot solo canoe, and I did like the feel of that craft.  Years ago I had a solo canoe and have always regretted letting it go.  The older I get, the more attractive the notion of a solo canoe to replace my kayak.

People attending the paddling fair seemed very happy for the experience.  More than one person passed along a message of gratitude for this event.  The motivation for the organizers of paddling fair is to encourage a love of paddling sports and to expose more people to this really wonderful way to enjoy another aspect of outdoor life.

In years past, we would sometimes have 10 to 20 people take part in our paddling fair.  Last year there were about 75 people, and this year about 200.  It is apparent that kayaking has become a very popular sport in the Sioux Falls area.

The paddling fair fits alongside the many cruises, the pool training sessions, the winter conference, and the South Dakota Kayak Challenge as ever increasingly popular activities sponsored by the SDCKA. 

For those interested in viewing all the photos that I took for this narrative, please check out my Flickr account at the following URL:

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