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:

Friday, May 10, 2013

Lake Hanson - May 2013

Entering into North Shore Drive from 421st Street 
After several years of kayaking and canoeing area waterways, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find new bodies of water within the Sioux Falls area.  My general rule of thumb has been to never spend more time in the car traveling to and from a “put-in” than I do actually on the water.  But, in the search for new paddling opportunities, it has become necessary sometimes to travel further afar to a new lake, river, or creek.
Looking west down Lake Hanson from Highway
This morning, Dave Finck picked me up with his van, trailer, and one of his Kevlar Wenonah canoes for a ride west along I-90 toward Mitchell.  We turned off at Alexandria for a visit to Lake Hanson.  This little gem of a lake is just two miles south of Alexandria.  There is a newly resurfaced highway (421st Street) leading out of Alexandria two miles to North Shore Drive and a large sign announcing Lake Hanson on the right.
Launching site next to swimming beach
The lake is oriented east and west, and there is a developed area on the north side with lake homes, a beach, and a launching ramp. Pierre Creek flows into the lake from the east and exits at a spillway on the western end.  Lake Hanson is listed by the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks at 55 surface acres, which is about half the size of Lake Alvin.  The average depth is 8 feet, and the maximum depth is 17 feet. The lake extends about a mile from east to west and ranges from about 250 yards to 100 yards in width.  The lake was built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1934 and named by a local lake committee in honor of Hanson County (
Looking west along south shore of Lake Hanson
We put in alongside the swimming beach in the Lake Hanson Recreation area on the north side of the lake.  There is another launching site further west along North Shore Drive. 
Nearing east end of Lake Hanson
From the put-in, we began a cruise along the shoreline, first to the dam and spillway and then along the south side for a mile or so to the culvert feeding Pierre Creek into the lake.  The south side is undeveloped and an easy cruise through deep water until reaching the eastern end.
Dave Finck in an "over the shoulder" photo from the bow
The day was really wonderful with little or no wind, sunny skies, and a temperature in the 60s.  We were alone on the water with just the turtles and birds. 
Heading west along the developed north shore of Lake Hanson
I think that this is a beautiful little lake, and living along the north shore would be a wonderful life.  The undeveloped sections of the lake provide good opportunity for bird watching and just enjoying life on the water.  We spend about an hour on the cruise this morning.
Along the south shore of Lake Hanson
As I looked at Pierre Creek entering into the lake from the east and then the spillway exit to the west, I was again amazed that such a minor creek can be impounded to create such a lake. These lakes that have been developed from flowing streams seem to retain their shape and depth even during times of drought.  Other lakes in the area that are natural but really more slough-like tend to dry up during periods of extended drought.
The spillway at the western end of Lake Hanson
The distance to Lake Hanson from Sioux Falls makes return visits for me unlikely. People who live in the Mitchell and Alexandria area, though, have a treasure for easy paddling and a pleasant cruise.
Pierre Creek feeding into Lake Hanson on east end
The set of photos of the cruise on Lake Hanson can be found at my Flicker site at the following URL:

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