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, July 02, 2012

Door County, Wisconsin: Paddling on Lake Michigan

This past week I had the opportunity to kayak on Lake Michigan with one of my sons.  We were up in Door County, Wisconsin, for a few days to visit with our son, Jason, who has played for several summers in a really fine classical music group at the Midsummer Festival, which features concerts at most of the villages within Door County.  For the past seven years, we have gone up to the Door County to stroll the beaches, bike the great trails, hike along the coast, shop the great variety of boutique stores, and enjoy a great variety of restaurants, none of which are chain related. The environment of Door County is decidedly nautical and reminds me of coastal New England.  

One of our activities this year was a kayak cruise out to Horseshoe Island, an island off the Green Bay side of the Door County peninsula.  The put-in was a beach within Peninsula State Park between the villages of Fish Creek and Ephraim.

Horseshoe Island is located a mile off shore in Lake Michigan.  While the island is now part of the state park, it was one of the original settler locations in the northern part of the peninsula in the mid 1800s. 

The passage between the island and the peninsula has a good deal of traffic, both power and sailing craft.  As I gazed out over the water, I had visions of big wakes from motorboats creating a series of waves that might lead to a capsize in very deep water far offshore.  But, lots of people kayak most days out to Horseshoe Island, and I was fairly confident that we could make the crossing without incident.

A kayak rental concession operates in the park, and we rented two Ocean Kayak sit-on-top boats.  This was my first time using a sit-on-top.  They are easy to get on and tracked pretty well.  They are slow, of course, and you sit with your legs at an angle within a series of slots built into the hull to support your feet, a position that created some cramping after a while.

I was relieved as we arrived at the island.  The shoreline where we landed was quite rocky, and I was without my aqua-socks.  Hobbling around on the rocks while heaving the kayak up on the shoe was a bit painful.  I had my shoes in a storage bin on the hull, so I was ready for a hike into the interior of the island.

There is a hiking trail that runs for one kilometer around the perimeter of the island, along the coast, into the woods, and up and down some slight hills.  There are spots on the coast that have a cliff over the shoreline, and there were occasional fallen trees across the path.  A few service type small buildings and the foundations of earlier buildings from a past when people lived on the island are to be found along the path. The hiking path is not groomed, but it is easy to follow it around the island.

The trip back across the passage was also uneventful.  I found myself apprehensive at the sight of motorboats approaching, fearing the waves associated with a deep wake.  But, each time the skippers cut their power, I paddled on, and the peninsula grew closer.  I found my energy lagging toward the end.  I suppose that the strain of apprehension regarding wakes from motorboats drained me, and the paddle itself and the hike around the island contributed.  Finally, the uncomfortable posture of paddling the “sit-on-top” took its toll as well.  Still, this was a great day of paddling for me: an opportunity to go paddling with my son (34 years younger) on the big waters of Lake Michigan, landing on a new island, and then hiking around it .  It was as good as it gets!

1 comment:

Mike said...

Sounds like a great paddle with your son! I understand your apprehension concerning boat wakes. My wife and I were on the "receiving end" of large wakes and "close encounters of the dangerous kind" during our recent paddle on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway! We also rented a tandem sit-on-top kayak and found it to be a little "top heavy" and unstable - being strictly sit-in kayakers ourselves. Glad you and your son had an uneventful paddle!