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:

Friday, October 11, 2013

Windblown on Loss Lake

After cruising with the pelicans yesterday on Grass Lake, Dave Finck and I headed a few miles west to visit Loss Lake.  This is another of the area lakes that I have tried to visit once a year, but it had now been two years since my last cruise there.
Upon arrival at the nicely developed launching area, I walked out onto the fishing dock to look over the state of the water on this windy day.  While the surface was riffled with wind, it didn’t look too bad, and we felt no real concern about conditions.
So, we pushed off and moved west down the south shoreline.  Looking out into the main body of the lake, we noticed white caps and wind powered rollers moving down the lake.  Still, those conditions seemed offshore and unlikely to cause us difficulty.  We just continued paddling west with the wind and following waves behind us. 
Before long, we found ourselves racing west with the wind and two-foot waves chasing us.  The wind was driving us down toward the western shore, and in the distance we could see an electric fence along the western shoreline. The wind was too strong and the waves too big to turn away from the shore, and soon we found ourselves onto the shore and jumping out of the canoe to hold it while avoiding the electric fence.
We were unsuccessful in launching the canoe to return into the wind through the waves.  The only reasonable option at that point was to carry the canoe along the shoreline for a couple hundred feet and make another attempt in slightly less windblown conditions.
Dave Finck - windblown on Loss Lake
With great effort, we were able to make slow headway east, back toward the launching area.  This was one of those situations where I would count 100 strokes, check for progress, groan, and paddle another 100 strokes.  It was a challenging trip back, and we were beat with the effort.  It took us about 20 minutes to make it to the west end and over an hour to get back
A few years ago, my paddling pal Jarett Bies told me about he and his wife, Laura, getting windblown on Loss Lake and finding it very difficult to return to the put-in.  I was incredulous and just could not envision that this small lake could become a challenge.  It has always been a slow, tranquil, and contemplative cruise for me, often with a flat calm on the surface.  I am no longer incredulous!  All lakes can turn savage, and paddlers just have to be aware of how current conditions do not always mirror our recollection of past cruises..
Jay Heath at Loss Lake
For a description of past cruises on Loss Lake, the reader can access the appropriate link on the right side of the blog in the area waterways section.

Photographs of this cruise can be found on my Flickr page at the following URL:


Paddle2See said...

Ah, yes! The surprising power of the wind. My wife and I had a very long day years ago getting back to the beach from the Muscle Ridge islands (off the coast of Maine - Owls Head area). We paddled and paddled and the lobster buoys would barely crawl towards us. Meanwhile, great speeding sailboats were tearing back and forth nearly running us down and having a grand old time. It was a long, hard paddle and gave us a healthy respect for wind. I'm glad you got back safely from your adventure as well.

By the way, I looked up Loss Lake on Google Earth and saw what looks like a few kayaks and a herd of sheep on the bank of the lake. Look at the West side of the lake, on the South lobe (south side of the south lobe) and see what you think.

Jay Heath said...

Thanks for the recollection of your own windblown experience. As I located the lake on my version of Google Earth, the resolution would not provide me detail enough to make the observations you describe. The mapping of Google Earth misidentifies the name of the lake. It calls it "Lost Lake," and that body of water is actually ten miles or so north of Loss Lake. Someone along the line made that misidentification, and it has stuck within the mapping software. The SD Department of Game, Fish, and Parks (the owner of the access area) correctly calls it "Loss Lake."

Many thanks and good paddling,