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, October 05, 2013

McCook Lake, North Sioux City SD: September 3, 2013

I have received another guest narrative from "Patricia from Omaha" describing some of her paddling activity in waters in or near South Dakota.  This time, she offers a look at McCook Lake, a body of water that I have known about and even driven past many times during the years I taught at the University of South Dakota.  The lake is in far southeastern South Dakota, on the west side of I29 at North Sioux City.  
I visited McCook Lake on my way home after a great Labor Day paddle on the Big Sioux with about twenty SDCKA members and friends.  I didn't know where the boat access was, but the helpful staff at the Adams Homestead nearby gave me a map.  If you're looking for it, take exit 4 from I-29, turn west and make almost an immediate left onto Streeter Drive (it parallels the southbound on-ramp).  Make a right onto either Wycoff or Alcoma followed by a left southbound on Lake Shore Drive.  The ramp will be on your right.  The parking lot seemed severely posted for vehicles with trailers only, so after I unloaded my kayak, I parked on a nearby side street.
McCook Lake is shaped like an upside down letter J.  The outer shore is crowded with houses and boat docks for the most part, while the inner shore is all reeds and trees.  It's an odd contrast.  I'm betting the lake was crowded on Labor Day but this being the day after, there was only one other motorboat and three paddle boarders.  I put in about 10:45 with sunshine and very little wind.
I started to the left on the short end of the lake because, well just because.  I paddled past the houses, sharing the water with several noisy Canadian geese and was amused by a heron walking about on someone's boat ramp (too fast for me to get a picture).
When I reached the end of the lake, I turned to follow the inside shoreline.  It was mostly reeds, with another heron who kept moving along in front of me. 
As I paddled along I came upon an opening that turned out to be the backside of an island along the shore.  I paddled along the back of the island, where I caught up with the heron, and then returned to the main lake.

Proceeding along the inner shore, I came across another parallel island.  Behind this one were three paddleboarders, one of whom was still learning.  The wind was picking up, making their task harder but keeping the bugs away.  I pressed on, wondering why anyone would choose to stand up with one paddle when you can sit down with two.

Further up the lake there were two lines of yellow balls that looked like runway landing markers.  I'm guessing they were for the water skiers.
I passed a boat ramp belonging to a private club; someone had said they carried their kayak from the road down here, but I didn't see any advantage to doing that.  The public access worked fine, and the lake isn't that big.
At the other end of the lake, I ran across more wildlife: a green heron and a turtle in the same bunch of dead trees.

I turned around at the end of the lake and was escorted part of the way back by a column of Canadian geese.  The wind was picking up even more now, so I was glad to get back to the ramp about 1:15 pm.  It was a nice lake for an easy paddle on a quiet day, with more birds than I would have expected given all the homes and boat docks on the other side. 

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