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, June 09, 2013

SDCKA Paddling Fair: June 2013

The South Dakota Canoe/Kayak Association again hosted its annual paddling fair at Family Lake, a body of water on the western edge of Sioux Falls near the intersection of the Tea/Ellis Road and West 12th Street.

Unlike last year when about 250 people came by to try their hand at paddling a canoe or kayak during a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon, this year the skies were grey and totally overcast, a stiff wind was blowing out of the northwest, and the temperature was in the low 60s. It had been raining nearly continuously for 24 hours, but we had a few rain-free hours this afternoon for the event.
About 75 people came by Family Lake to try out a canoe or kayak this afternoon.  Many people were taking their first cruise in a kayak or canoe, while others had some limited experience.  The focus of this event was to introduce interested people to our paddling sport. 
SDCKA members brought kayaks and canoes for people to try out; Sun and Fun, a local outdoor outfitter store along 41st Avenue, also brought several boats to add to the fleet.  Members served as coaches to get people into the boats and out onto the water.
Other members, including me, were out on the lake in their craft with red flags attached to the hull signifying their role as safety monitors who could also render assistance if needed.
There were tandem kayaks for people who wanted to work together on their voyage of discovery. 
Many people tried out various solo kayaks.  Some of the paddlers were young people taking their first cruise.
Canoes were popular with families out to share a new experience.
Mishaps were few today, although some boats had to be towed back to the launching point because of difficulty dealing with the winds across or down the lake.  On these few occasions, SDCKA monitors in their boats passed over a line and towed the boats back to the dock.

These events are always well received.  People seem appreciative of the opportunity to try out a boat for no cost to see if paddling is really something they would like to pursue as a hobby or sport.  Seasoned paddlers also have a chance to try out a different boat, usually one that is a bit different than what they have been using.
This is also where networking among paddlers is developed. Collegiality of the paddle is enhanced at these SDCKA events.  In fact, I solidified arrangements to go paddling tomorrow with two of the members there.
The full set of photographs that I took today for this event can be accessed in my Flickr account at the following URL:



Unknown said...

I really hate that I missed this event. I'm so interested and needed this as a foot starter. Is there anyway to connect with some one who may be interested in doing a personal lesson or orientation with individual families or couples? Thanks for your help.

Jay Heath said...


I’m sorry that you were not able to make it to the paddling fair. What you missed was the opportunity to go out on the water with a little assistance to experience moving about in a kayak or canoe. It was not, however, an introduction to kayaking class. If you want to take an organized paddling class, I might suggest contacting the Outdoor Campus in Sioux Falls. They have a fleet of kayaks and canoes and a large pond where beginning classes are held. You could give them a call to see if such a class is coming up in the near future. You could also drop by Sun n’ Fun in Sioux Falls and talk to the people there. They provided some kayaks for our paddling fair at Family Lake, and they are in the outdoor equipment business. Since they would hope that you might buy a kayak from them, I would think that they might be able to point you toward some direct instruction. I understand that they will even provide a kayak as a demonstration boat and use the rent as part of the payment of a kayak. I am not too well acquainted with the details of their arrangements, but I know that they would be an excellent source. Finally, you might begin monitoring the South Dakota Canoe/Kayak Association Facebook page and show up at some of the events. That would bring you into personal contact with some of the members, and you might be able to talk with someone about tagging along on a lake cruise event. Beginning kayakers generally try out a smooth stretch of the Big Sioux River when the flow has subsided a bit, Lake Alvin, Family Lake, or even Covell Lake in Terrace Park.

Best wishes on all this, and perhaps we will meet on the water or at an SDCKA event in the near future.