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 31, 2013

Split Rock Creek Above Garretson Dam

Yesterday, Dave Finck called and asked if I wanted to go out kayaking today, and I was quick to respond affirmatively.  We decided to go to Scott Lake, near Hartford.  As I got my gear ready this morning, I was a bit apprehensive about the wind conditions.  The day was described as “breezy” with winds 15-25 mph.  Still, we set out from Sioux Falls for Scott Lake at 8:00 a.m. and arrived there to find whitecaps over the lake.  Heading out into the waves and strong wind on that open lake did not seem like a good idea any longer, so we turned around and headed east to visit Split Rock Creek and cruise upstream from the dam at the Garretson City Park.

The wind was at least 25 mph blowing upstream from the dam.  Spray from the water flowing over the dam was blowing back upstream. 
But, along this sheltered waterway, the high palisades rising above the creek, the landscape of the creek bed, and the high banks decreased the concern for high winds.  Indeed, as we launched into the creek and headed upstream, the wind was at our backs and we were able to continue with very little effort upstream the 1.25 miles before reaching the rapids.
Winds may have well been above 25 mph as we made the cruise this morning, the temperature upon departure upstream was about 60 degrees, and the sky was an alternating series of dark and light clouds with occasional shafts of sun coming through.

The wind was strong enough to make photography difficult.  As I would fumble out the camera, wind would shift the kayak causing a lack of directional control.
We continued up into the palisades and enjoyed the new green of spring growth, the range of birds viewed, and the drift of clouds that produced alternating periods of deep overcast with relatively clear blue spots.
We ran into quite a number of wild turkeys this morning along the left bank going upstream.  They seemed to be roaming in the grasslands and did not seem especially startled to see us passing in kayaks.   There were many other birds as well, including a return of the cliff swallows that are already into their mud nests that adhere to the cliff walls of the palisades along the course of the creek.

The palisades are always spectacular along Split Rock Creek as they loom high overhead with their fantastic variety of plant growth sprouting from cracks in the surface and atop the summits.

Coming back, we ducked under the arched bridge that leads into the campgrounds of the park.  This entrance to Devil’s Gulch is secluded and nearly always calm.  The wind does not easily penetrate into the gulch. 

We moved under the railroad bridge until running out of a passageway.  This little oasis of tranquility is one of my favorite spaces along this waterway.  Bird life is abundant along the cliffs, and fish were swimming just under the surface as we crossed shallow spots.

After exiting under the arched bridge, we returned to the launching area and loaded up.  The cruise this morning took us about an hour and a half and was really a fine morning.

I gave written several narratives about Split Rock Creek through the palisades, and an interested reader can review these by accessing the menu of area waterways on the right side of the blog homepage.  For those interested in viewing the complete set of photos taken on the cruise this morning, my Flickr account is available for review at the following URL:

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