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:

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Late Fall on Lake Alvin

Dave Finck Heading South on Lake Alvin

Today was one of those glorious fall days here on the northern plains.  The morning temperature was in the high 30s, the sun was bright, and the winds were calm.  It was an ideal day to check out Lake Alvin as the natural environment begins to shift into the slower pace of winter and before ice forms on the lake.
Dave Finck
I loaded up my kayak and headed out to Lake Alvin, arriving at 10:00 a.m. in the public access area located on the southwestern end of this 100-acre lake.  Dave Finck had arrived at the lake an hour earlier, and he came down from the northern end of the lake just as I set out from shore.   We had miscommunicated our rendezvous time.
Entrance into Nine-Mile Creek
As nearly always, we headed first up into Nine-Mile Creek, which feeds into the lake from the south.  It was difficult to get past the shallow flats that have resulted from a receding shoreline, but we managed to grab hold of a bush and pull our kayaks around the bend and into a deeper channel heading into the flow of the creek.
Dave Finck in Nine Mile Creek
We proceeded upstream on Nine-Mile Creek for half a mile or so, keeping to a narrow channel of water that allowed easy passage – as long as we keep our eyes open for the deepest segment of the 30 foot wide creek.  As with rivers, low water tends to narrow the width of the waterway, but there is usually a remaining channel deep enough for canoes or kayaks.
Beaver Dam on Nine Mile Creek
After about half a mile, we came across a beaver dam that stretched across the creek.  This was the first time that I have seen a beaver dam on Nine-Mile Creek and was surprised. 
Beaver Dam on Nine Mile Creek
We were unable to approach closer than about 50 feet because of the shallow draft caused by an impoundment of water above the dam. I was disappointed in the limitation of our upstream cruise, but it was fascinating to see the beaver dam.
Dave Finck on Lake Alvin
Returning back downstream, we left the creek and re-entered the main body of the lake, keeping close to the shoreline as we moved north first along the east side and then over on the west side to the north end and the segment that curves east into a bay. I like keeping close to the shoreline so that I can peer into the trees and hills of the shore.  This is where I am most likely to spot any wildlife.  The range of colors and landscape along the shoreline are of great interest to me.  I don’t find cruising down the middle of the lake so compelling.
Jay Heath on Lake Alvin
We continued around the shoreline on the north end and entered into the spillwater channel.  The entrance into the channel is rocky, especially during this period of low water after such a long drought. 
Spillway on Lake Alvin
Still, once past the mouth of the channel, we were able to easily move up to the spillway itself and peer over the edge.
Spillway on Lake Alvin
Heading back to the south end, we came across a group of shorebirds standing around on a bare tree right on the shore.  At first, I thought that they were great blue heron, but on second thought, I am not so sure.
Waterfowl on Lake Alvin
This was a great way to spend a fall morning, especially a mid-week morning.  I was reminded of the benefit of retirement, a retirement that allows me the opportunity to go out on deserted lakes during “working hours.” My time on the water this morning was about two hours; of course, Dave Finck had another hour while waiting for me.
Look of Fall on Lake Alvin
I can’t help but wonder how many more times that I will be able to get out in my kayak or in a canoe this season.  Dave Finck told me this morning that today was his 68th time out on the water this year.  For me, I think that I have been out 29 times – about average for my cruising at this time of the year.  Perhaps I will get in one or two more times on area waterways before the kayak rack comes off the car and the equipment is put away for the next four months.

For those interested in the changing face of Lake Alvin, there are multiple narratives posted under the "Lake Alvin" link on the right side of the blog.  A complete list of the photos taken on this cruise can be found on my Flickr account at the following URL:


Mike said...

Hey Jay. Your unidentified water fowl look like Double-crested Cormorants. I first thought these birds might be Anhinga, also known as Snakebirds. However, the Anhinga frequent the South East. The Double-crested Cormorants are native to your area!

Jay Heath said...

Many thanks, Mike. I appreciate your identification of these birds. Recently, I have become more interested in birding along area waterways and have taken a couple of classes offered through a life-long learning program here in Sioux Falls. I have reason to believe that a much up-graded camera is coming my way as a birthday present later this month. I hope to add birding as a part of both my kayaking and hiking blogs.