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:

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Big Sioux River: North Access of Big Sioux Recreation Area to Madison Street Bridge

Today was a beautiful day for a cruise on the Big Sioux River.  The weather was nearly perfect with sunny skies, temperatures in the 60s, and low wind conditions.  In addition, there was the satisfaction of going canoeing on a weekday morning rather than going to the work place.  Retirement is good!
I met Dave Finck at the Madison Street take-out this morning about 8:30.  He had left his canoe at the north end of the Big Sioux Recreation Area (BSRA), just down from the Rice Street Bridge on the northern edge of Brandon.  He parked his van alongside the river on a dirt track leading down from Madison Street.  Although I understand that this is a state-owned access point to the river, there is no signage to indicate a river access point. Coming from Sioux Falls along Madison Street, there is an entrance to the road on the right, just before the Madison Street Bridge over the Big Sioux River.
We got into my car and drove back to where he had left his canoe and carried it down a very rocky pathway to the sandbar put-in. 
As we shoved off, the day just seemed wonderful.  The river had adequate water depth all the way downstream.  It was just a matter of finding and staying in or close to the channel.  There was generally two to three feet of depth, although sometimes it was five or six feet deep, and sometimes only inches across a gravel bar.
The scenery along the river was spectacular.  The trees are just now changing color, and an array of fall colors is apparent in the grasses, bushes, and trees all along the shoreline.  Still, though, the majority of trees retain their green leaves for the moment.  All too soon, though, the fall will deepen into winter.  Already, there is a nasty forecast for the weekend.
At this point in the year, the strainers seem pretty fixed at their point in the river.  The current was not fast enough to cause any real navigation hazards with strainers or rocks.
As the season wears on and the river flow diminishes, the river just seems to narrow.  There is still plenty of depth to float a canoe easily downstream.  We had only one occasion in which we had to get out of the canoe, and that was largely because of taking the wrong side of a sand/gravel bar in the middle of the river.  We just had to jump out of the canoe and float it over a shallow spot for a few feet before clamoring back aboard to continue.
We came across one guy fishing between the two access points within the BSRA.  While he was not having any success this morning, as Dave Finck told him:  “A bad day of fishing always beats a good at work!”
We seemed to quickly pass the three miles between the north and south access area of the BSRA.  Our canoe was moving nearly directly into the sun for most of the trip as the river flowed southeast before turning more westerly.
The river passes under the footbridge leading from the disc golf course of the BSRA to the archery range and the trail that leads up onto the ridge overlooking the Big Sioux valley.  My wife and I along with our little dog Finnegan have crossed over this bridge so many times on our walks on the Prairie Vista trail through the BSRA.
Our last canoe trip on this stretch of the river was in the spring when we had to skip the south end of the BSRA take-out because of mud.  It looked good this year, but we wanted to continue downstream another mile and a half.
There are some efforts at bank stabilization along this section of the river through the use of old cars embedded in the banks.
We easily made our way downstream and under the Madison Street Bridge to a large sandbar where we left the river.  The take-out was on sand, so our feet didn’t even get muddy when getting out.
Our cruise this morning was a short 4.5 miles and took us about an hour and a half of actual time on the water.
Dave Finck on the Big Sioux River
This was a very relaxing way to spend a couple of hours on a weekday morning.  I was conscious of the wonderful life I enjoy as a retired person in good health.  The vistas seen along the river today were gifts to treasure. 
Jay Heath on the Big Sioux River
For a complete set of the photographs taken on this cruise, please access my Flickr page at the following URL:

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