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, January 27, 2013

A Paddler's Guide to the Streams and Lakes of the Black Hills (2013)

A comprehensive review of paddling opportunities in the Black Hills and on streams and rivers that flow out of that area though the center of the state is offered in this new publication by the Black Hills Paddlers, edited by J. Kelly Lane.  Profiled in this guidebook are 35 lakes in the Black Hills, most of them small lakes and ponds of less than 50 surface acres, some of them only an acre or two in area.  There are also, though, several larger lakes, including the Angostura and Belle Fourche reservoirs. Thirty three streams are identified and described that range from small and fast creeks to the larger waters of the Belle Fourche and Cheyenne rivers.

After a reference chart of the area lakes that provides a quick overview of summary characteristics of the lakes, a descriptive section follows with a narrative and photograph of each lake.  These descriptions are personalized to reflect the history of development, observations of the writer, and access information for potential visitors.  
Justin Herreman, of the Black Hills Paddlers Describing the Book

The guidebook shifts to flowing streams that range from creeks in the area to cruising down the Belle Fourche and Cheyenne Rivers. The Belle Fourche/Cheyenne River system is described in cruising segments that begin at the western ends of these rivers and move on to the confluence of the two rivers, continuing downstream in a northeasterly course past Cherry Creek and on to the Highway 63 bridge where the Cheyenne River intersects with the Missouri.

In addition to describing the lakes, creeks, and rivers, the book provides a wealth of information on safe paddling, best practice in dealing with landowners, essential equipment needed in kayaks and canoes, and tips on boat and park regulations.  All this material is presented in a very personalized style that heightens the sense of camaraderie among paddlers.

I found this to be a delightful book; it made me think about loading up my kayak or packing away my Folbot and heading west to the Hills to explore some of the lakes described.  Many years ago I lived in Ipswich, SD, where a local group of paddlers went on a long river cruise each spring.  During my three years living in that community, we went down the Belle Fourche River one spring and did the Cheyenne River in two segments over two springs. Reading the passages describing these two rivers sent me back to happy memories of those cruises in heavy aluminum canoes during the early 1970s.

I enthusiastically recommend this book.  It is available on Amazon for $34.99 at the following URL:

SDCKA Annual Conference - January 2013

Outgoing SDCKA President Jarett Bies Opening the Conference

The Annual South Dakota Canoe/Kayak Conference was held on Saturday, January 26, at the Outdoor Campus in Sioux Falls.  Beginning at noon, eight sessions were presented to approximately 80 participants.  Included in these program segments were the following:  The Future of Blood Run; Game, Fish, and Parks Laws and Rights; a kayaking trip to the Apostle Islands, kayaking in big waters on the Missouri River; water rescue techniques used by the Sioux Falls Fire and Rescue teams; a review of a new publication by the Black Hills Paddlers along an example of a first aid kit for kayaks and canoes; a contrast between use of canoes and kayaks; and a preview of the 2013 South Dakota Kayak Challenge.
Dick Brown Outlining the new Good Earth State Park at Blood Run
In addition, a slate of candidates for the 2013 SDCKA Board of Directors was presented and voted upon by the membership attending the conference. 

GF&P Boating Law Administrator Brandon Gust 
An important side benefit to the conference was the opportunity for informal conversation and connection among this group of paddlers from across the state. These connections easily grow into friendships and shared experiences on future cruises with fellow paddling enthusiasts. 

Nancy Grassel, West River Paddler
Pat Wellner, Matt Story & Roger DeBates
Water Rescue Techniques, Sioux Falls Fire and Rescue Team
Kelly Lane & Justin Herreman, Black Hills Paddlers
Attending this conference is a signal that the depth of winter is passing and the possibility of paddling on area waterways is only a few weeks away.  A week ago, I stopped by Lake Alvin to check out the ice conditions.  Looking back, I recall a guest narrative on this blog from Steven Dahlmeier describing his first cruise on Lake Alvin even before the official arrival of spring. That cruise took place on March 19, 2007 ; if the “break-up” conditions this year mirrored those of that year, we would be about eight weeks away from a first cruise possibility on very cold waters.  

Lake Alvin in January 2013

Lake Alvin, March 19, 2007

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

An Expedition Tracing the Great Migration of Humans Out of Africa

I regularly check into the Adventure Blog  to keep alert to expedition/adventure travel currently underway, something that has been a keen interest of mine all my life.  A new expedition just setting out traces the movement of humans out of Africa as they spread throughout the world.  Journalist Paul Salopek is has just begun a trek that will take him from Ethiopia to Tierra del Fuego, at the tip of South America.  As our ancestors did during the Pleistocene era, Salopek will travel by foot throughout this migration route followed by our ancestors over the next seven years.  He will be reporting his observations along this trek through his blog, Out of Eden – A journey through time, which can be accessed at the following URL:

I will be following his blog narratives over this trek, and I thought that perhaps readers of this blog would also be interested. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The 2013 SDCKA Annual Conference

The Annual South Dakota Canoe//Kayak Conference will be held at the Outdoor Campus in Sioux Falls Saturday, January 26, from noon until 4:00 p.m.  The conference as described on the club blog posting is as follows:

“The club's yearly meeting to talk all things kayaks and canoes is set for noon-4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26, at the Outdoor Campus in Sioux Falls. It's free and we encourage you to bring a friend.”

“Feel free to bring as many friends as you like, stay for a while or for the whole day! We'll also have reps from National Parks Service, the South Dakota Kayak Challenge, the Missouri River Institute and a local shooting club, too.”

“The agenda for the meeting is as follows:
Noon:    President's welcome
12:05     Dick B. on Blood Run 
12:20     Brandon Gust from GFP on water laws and rights
12:45     Nancy G. on going to the Apostle Islands
1:10       Pat W. and others on Big Water in S.D.
1:30       Board Meeting with election of officers
1:45       Break
2:10       Capt. Ruml from Sioux Falls Fire & Rescue on safety
2:35       Justin and Kelly from Black Hills Paddlers on its new guide to West River paddling
3:00       Mary, Dave and Gene on contrasting canoeing and kayaking 
3:30      Anna and Ryan Beasley on taking the South Dakota Kayak Challenge
3:50      Closing remarks/water's ahead”

I will be at the conference, and I am looking forward to chatting with old paddling friends as well as new folks who are exploring possibilities offered by the SKCKA.  This is the only conference-type gathering of the paddling community during the year.  Other events generally center on cruises.  This is the time to meet people who might well be your paddling companions during the paddling season ahead.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Removal of Klondike Dam on the Big Sioux River

Dave Finck gave me a call yesterday and suggested a drive over to the Klondike Dam site along the Big Sioux River to observe the dam removal process that is currently underway. 
Klondike Dam figures into a good many Big Sioux River cruises each year.  This is often either the beginning or ending point of a cruise.  From the Grandview put-in along the Big Sioux River near Lake Alvin, cruises continue downstream to Klondike on the Iowa side of the river.  Then another cruise segment is from the South Dakota side of Klondike down to a take-out along Highway 18 near Canton.
We arrived on the South Dakota side of the old bridge over the river about 9:00 a.m. today and fell into conversation with the project manager for the dam removal and river development process.  The dam across the river is being removed and a passageway through a set of stepped rapids is being constructed.  This passageway will provide a slot through the rapids that will take canoes/kayaks down a series of drops, a route that is expected to be operational except perhaps during times of very low water. 
The current plan projects removal of the dam within two or three weeks and continued construction through the next couple of months.  At the same time, there are plans to construct another boat ramp on the South Dakota side of the river.  The project manager also told me that there will be a portage around the rapids for those of us who might not want the thrill of zipping through the slot.
This project will create a new paddling option along the river.  A portage around the dam has been difficult in the past, so trips tended to end above the dam on the Iowa side of the river at Klondike or begin on the South Dakota side below the dam.  It now seems as though new or longer cruises might be planned that include a trip through these rapids or a portage around them. 
It is likely that the first Big Sioux River cruises of the 2013 season will explore this new development at Klondike.  
There is an ominous warning sign now on the South Dakota side of the river regarding the Asian carp that have entered our waterways up the major river systems.  Last year I ran into this invasive species on the James River, and the cruise became tense as we tried to avoid being hit by them leaping out of the river in response to the passage of our kayaks.  Readers can review this experience at the following URL:

The full set of photographs taken for this narrative can be seen at the following URL: