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, February 18, 2013

Klondike Dam Removal Up-date: Mid-February 2013

View from the South Dakota side upstream from the bridge
Dave Finck picked me up this morning for another progress review of the Klondike dam removal on the Big Sioux River.  Over the past two weeks, work has continued on reshaping the course of the river south of the island that divides it just before the bridge connecting the South Dakota and Iowa banks.
View upstream from the Klondike Bridge
There were two pieces of heavy equipment being used this morning and regular stops by side-dump trucks filled with large chunks of quartzite rock. Much more rock has been delivered to the site since our last visit.
Steps in the river bed from the Iowa side
A set of eight steps has been created so far in the river bottom through the passage leading up to the bridge and over where the dam once stood. The steps are formed from large quartzite boulders and filled with smaller rock. 
Looking across from the Iowa side at steps for river flow
Neither Dave nor I were able to envision how boats would pass through this staircase of rocky steps.  There is a vast bed of quartzite rock that now extends across the entire riverbed, including the old ramp on the Iowa side leading down to the river.   It is certainly the opposite of a sandy bottom leading up to a “put-in” providing easy access or egress from the river.
The old "take-out" on the Iowa side now covered in rock
There is, as yet, no sign of an easy portage around the rapids being created in the place of the old Klondike dam. But, perhaps one will emerge as the project continues. A couple of visits ago, the project manager told me that the portage will be on the SD side but was not part of this engineering phase.   In any event, there are public access areas on both sides of the river connected by the old bridge.  The bridge is barricaded to prevent vehicle traffic and is open only for pedestrian use.
Dave Finck on the Iowa side of the Klondike Bridge
We have been out to observe progress on the project three times, and each time seems to be during an especially cold and windy day.  While the temperature today was in the 20s, there was a stiff wind blowing that quickly chilled me as well as my camera, just as it has each time we visited the site.
Work progressing on the South Dakota side of the river above the bridge
Klondike was a thriving small Iowa town a generation ago, but it is now only a few scattered homes on both sides of a gravel road leading up to the bridge.
Looking downstream from the Klondike Bridge
While the river is still frozen over south of the Klondike Bridge, we passed an open stretch on the way back through Brandon.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Removal of Klondike Dam: A Progress Report

Removal of the Klondike Dam on the Big Sioux River is continuing apace, and there is marked progress since my observation last month. 
This morning, Dave Finck met me for coffee and drove us out to the Klondike site to observe any change since our last trip.   It was a cold morning under overcast skies, and we arrived at the construction site on the South Dakota side of the Big Sioux River about 9:00 a.m.
A crew of three equipment operators was at work removing the remaining portion of the low-head dam and filling in rock across the course of the river.  Already, a slot through the accumulating rock is apparent, and river is flowing through this shallow area and on downstream under the continuous ice cover to the south.
Looking at the rock fill that is being used to replace the dam and provide a deeper pool upstream, I wondered what it would be like to zip through in a kayak.  I was reminded of the rock fill that is in the Big Sioux River flowing beneath the bicycle trail bridge in Sioux Falls.  That passage is also filled with quartzite rock and creates a set of rapids.  When that section of the river is high and flowing fast, passage through the rapids seems to result in few incidents.  When it is low, however, there are enough hazards to cause me to feel a sense of anxiety when approaching that slot.  I suspect that the rapids created with the rock fill at Klondike will be somewhat similar. 

Hopefully, there will be an easy portage past these rapids, either on the Iowa or the South Dakota side.  Even now, though, most cruises either end on the Iowa side above the old dam or begin on the South Dakota side downstream from the old dam.  The project manager assured me during a visit on site last month that there would be a portage developed, and I got the impression that it would be on the South Dakota side. 
Dave Finck on the Klondike Bridge over the Big Sioux River