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:

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The South Dakota Kayak Challenge - 2013

The third running of the South Dakota Kayak Challenge got underway this morning at 7:00 a.m.  The 72-mile race on the Missouri River began at Riverside Park in Yankton and concluded at Sioux City, Iowa.
The paddlers gather for the race at Riverside Park
Heading for the Beach
As I left Sioux Falls at 4:30 a.m. and headed south down I-29 to the Vermillion exit, the wind was out of the southeast and there was sheet lightening off in the distant south.  The sky was overcast, and the temperature was in the low 50s.  It did not look very promising for a 72-mile river cruise heading southeast from Yankton to Sioux City.
Boats Moving into Position
Pat Wellner getting ready to depart
By the time I arrived in Yankton about 6:00 a.m., the conditions had improved markedly.  While the sky was still overcast, the waters at Riverside Park were calm.  By 7:00 a.m., the skies had become partly cloudy and the sun was peeking out.  The temperature had climbed up to 61 degrees on the downtown bank thermometer by the time the fleet left.
Jarett Bies counting down the final minutes
Race Officials Conferring
SD Kayak Challenge officials included Jarett Bies, Steven Dahlmeier, and Cory Diedrich.  These leaders were supported by a large group of volunteers, many who have served in previous races.

The fleet was made up of 129 boats for the race this year.  The craft ranged from sleek surf-skis to short recreational boats and included both tandem and solo canoes and kayaks.

A Racing Tandem Canoe
Electronics and Hydrating Equipment
The VFW Provided an Honor Guard to Start the Race with a Rifle Volley
Some of the racers were within a competitive class, and they were serious athletes in excellent shape and usually equipped with sophisticated electronic equipment in their vessels to monitor location along the course and rate of speed. This class of paddler often also had a hydrating system to keep liquids flowing as they streaked along.
The Fleet About to Take Off from Riverside Park

Those paddlers who were in the competitive class were provided an opportunity to gather upstream of the departure beach so that they could have an “on-water” departure.  The bulk of the fleet left from the beach. 
Soon, the 129 boats were underway and heading downstream in a rapidly spreading group that quickly became differentiated. The sleekest boats and strongest paddlers moved into the lead as they made for the first checkpoint 18.4 miles downstream.

Most of the paddlers were in the race simply to participate and stretch themselves.  For most, just finishing the race was the objective.  Some of the boats were short recreational kayaks of just 10 to 12 feet.  While most were solo paddlers, there were also quite a few tandems, both twin cockpit kayaks and canoes. 

The first checkpoint for the race was Myron Grove, 18.4 miles downstream on the South Dakota side of the river. By 9:15 or so, the first boats were passing through CP #1. After the sendoff from Riverside Park, I headed to CP #1 and watched the first 25 boats pass through. Most of the paddlers just came by the dock, affirmed that their number had been noted, and cruised past for the next 12.1 mile segment to CP #2. Few of these lead paddlers came ashore at this point. There are a total of four checkpoints on the race before ending up at “Bev’s on the River” in Sioux City. 

Motorboats had been enlisted to serve as safety vessels along the route.  In addition, the Yankton/Vermillion Amateur Radio Club (Hams) members were providing communication services with their portable radios.

For additional information on the history of the SDKC, the following URL is recommended: 

For those interested in viewing the complete set of photographs for this narrative, please go to my Flickr account at the following URL:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This was a nicely run race with attention paid to all of the details. There were volunteers from the beginning to the end who took good care of those of us who were racing. South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa were lovely.