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, October 27, 2013

Big Sioux River: Grandview to Klondike - Late October 2013

Today, Sunday, October 27, was a beautiful day for a cruise on the Big Sioux River.  David and Mary Finck and Larry Braaten led a fleet of 16 kayaks from the put-in just above the Grandview Bridge to the Klondike Rapids, a distance of about 8 miles.
We gathered at the public access area along the Big Sioux River at the Grandview Bridge at 1:00 p.m. and arranged a shuttle of drivers downstream to the public access area just above the Klondike rapids.
By 2:00 p.m., we were underway for our cruise downstream under sunny skies with little wind and a temperature of about 60 degrees.  A day like this is such a blessing at this time of the year.  I believe that most of us were eager to seize the day before the inevitable descent into winter.
This stretch of river between the Grandview and the Klondike bridges is free of strainers or rapids; it is really a tranquil paddle along a varied landscape.  The water was deep enough for easy navigation, with only occasional shallows encountered when losing the channel.  Depth ranged from too deep to touch bottom with my long double-blade paddle to only a few inches across an occasional sandbar.
There were some high cut banks that rose more than a hundred feet and some old trees in the waterway from floods of the past. 
We stopped along the way, as all of Dave Finck’s cruises do, for a stretch and a stroll up and down the hard packed sand shoreline. Sixteen colorful kayaks pulled up on the beach of a river present an attractive sight to me.
These cruises are one way to make and keep friendships among the paddling community. 
Cruising along in discussion groupings of two or three kayaks, standing around chatting at our rest stops, and assisting each other in launching and recovering kayaks from the river build shared experiences.
As we moved downstream, we passed the remains of an old railroad bridge that once crossed the river between Grandview and Klondike.  Only the concrete support on one bank and some rotting pilings on the other bank remain of those days when the railroad played a more important role in area commerce.
We paddled through a landscape in transition from a colorful summer to the drab monochromatic winter brown.  I was surprised to see so many trees that had yet to lose their leaves.  I suspect that will all change over the next week or two.
The water was cold, but all of us were able to paddle without heavy clothing. The sun was wonderful.  By the time we had pulled out at Klondike, however, a chill was developing and a jacket would have been comfortable.
In the lower section of this cruise, extending about half a mile above the Klondike rapids, the river gets wider and deeper as it backs up from the rapids.  There were even some wavelets on the surface during this section from a light wind that came up.
There are take-out possibilities on both the Iowa and South Dakota sides just before the rapids, and we checked both sides out during our shuttle arrangements.  Neither side offered an easy exit from the river, but we felt that the South Dakota side provided the better of bad choices.  The river was about two or two and a half feet deep along the bank as we got off the river, so it was a deep-water exit. Dave Finck was wearing waterproof boots, and he arrived at the take-out first to take charge of assisting paddlers in landing their boats. 

As each boat approached the bank, two people helped stabilize the kayak while one or two others offered assistance in getting out.  With this assistance, all of us were able to get out without tipping over and falling into the river.
River cruises are a social occasion, and they are really not very feasible for the solo paddler.  The shuttle is important, and it is also unwise to paddle alone on moving water. 
We spent about three hours on the cruise this afternoon.  It was an enjoying and satisfying time getting outside in the sunshine in our kayaks and stretching our paddling muscles. The fall landscape was beautiful, and there is a sense of squeezing in another cruise before the kayak racks come off the vehicles and the boats go deep into the garage for several months.
A complete set of the photographs that I took on this cruise is available on my Flicker page at the following URL:

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