The following is another guest narrative from “Patricia from
Omaha.” She has become a regular
guest contributor to this blog, describing her paddling adventures on area
lakes and waterways that I may not have visited. The narrative this time presents a cruise on Lake Poinsett, one
of the largest lakes in South Dakota with a surface area of 7,886 acres. The
lake is northwest of Brookings, just a few miles west of Estelline, SD. (JAH)
On my way to a campout with my sister from Fargo, I spent a
night at the Lake Poinsett Recreation Area.
I checked out the rec area's boat ramp on the south shore
but decided against using it.
Poinsett is a big round lake, and my philosophy is that if I can see the
whole lake from the ramp, there's no need to put the kayak in the water.
However Google Earth showed both an
attached lake and a river to the north, so I went in search of an access on
I started driving clockwise around the lake; at about the 9
o'clock position I found a beach with a boat ramp, but it wasn't close enough,
so I pressed on. The campground
host had described a ramp on the north shore and that was my goal. I was following roads close to the
lake, and found a promising ramp at the end of NW Lake Drive off of Highway
28/192nd Street. A little further east on 28 and just after the 458th
Street intersection, I saw a boat ramp sign and a road that led back to a sandy
beach. I found nothing further, so
this is where I returned. I backed
the van close to the water and unloaded the kayak, glad not to have to paddle
across the entire lake to get here.
A large flock of seagulls watched me put in and paddle to
the left past them, looking for the river.
It was late afternoon with a light wind and a pleasant
I arrived at the north inlet quickly; it was very shallow
but the water was flowing strongly from the lake side and help push me across
the soft sand (more about that later).
Around the turn lay a body of water with a bay to the left,
full of trees and ducks.
that direction for a bit; the ducks all flew off but I did snap this turtle
catching the afternoon sun.
Back in the main body, I paddled further north, coming to
the bridge on Highway 28, from which I had spotted this waterway.
Near the bridge were more gulls and a
The bridge was
high and easy to travel under, so I pushed on.
Like a rerun on TV, on the other side of the bridge was a
body of water with gulls and… another bridge, on 459th Avenue. This one was a different animal
however; it had massively heavy metal plates hanging on the other side and a
mechanism for lowering them. I
learned later that it is a dam to keep too much water from flowing back up from
the river. Looking at its pictures
on Google Earth, it was pushed hard back in 2011.
I confess I felt very uneasy paddling under the pieces of
the dam and relieved when I was past it. On the other side was a long and
narrower stretch of water, more quiet and agrarian. There were rushes and a heron on the shore, and farm
buildings with cows further up.
Paddling on, I came to my third bridge, this one on 192nd
It was a fairly ordinary
and solid looking roadway and I passed under it easily.
Now my waterway was definitely a river,
with odd square blocks placed across it at one point.
I wasn't sure if the blocks were meant to stop boats or were
just leftover from some former structure.
They were far enough apart to allow easy passage, so I kept going.
The river turned into the twisty and intriguing path that I
enjoy exploring, just to see what's around the next corner…and the next and the
next. Believe it or not, around one of the corners lay my fourth bridge.
It looked smaller and more rickety than
the previous three, but was still easy to paddle under.
Finally the usual combination of tiring
muscles and decreasing sunlight caused me to turn around.
On the way back I saw these farm buildings and tall pines
that make a graceful picture. A
strangely bent tree caught my attention, reminding me of a Japanese torii
arch. It's funny how one spots new
sights on the return trip, or how the aspect of something familiar changes.
So I paddled back, past the rickety bridge and the plain
concrete one and the bridge with the scary dam plates and the pretty concrete
I reached the narrow spot
where the water rushing in had eased me over the sand.
The current was not working in my favor
now and I was having a difficult time.
I paddled hard but the spot where the channel was the thinnest and the
sand highest stymied me.
Platte Creek, I have no pictures from this part as I was busy trying to make
The sand was too
soft for any leverage.
contemplating getting out (and wet) when I tried one more tactic.
I paddled up to the troublesome spot,
leaned almost flat forward in the kayak, reached my arms and paddle as far to
the fore as they could go, and dug into the water on the other side of my
It was enough to
get me up and then over, and with relief I paddled along the lake shore back to
adventure continued however. After
I wiped off the kayak and loaded it in, I found that my van was having a
similar problem as the boat; it just couldn't get going in the soft sand. I had backed too far down the beach.
With no cell phone reception there and being on my own, I needed a
solution. Rocking the van back and
forth didn't work and neither did trying a lower gear. Finally I remembered that I had some
small logs for campfires in the back.
I laid them in front of my tires like a wooden road, and with that (and
a prayer) I got out of there.
park ranger later explained to me that the place I used as an access used to
have a boat ramp, but it was washed out in the flood of 2011 and there were no
plans to replace it.
river north of Lake Poinsett was a great paddle, excluding the sand traps. I would have liked to explore even
further, and I would use that same access, although I would keep my van up on
the hard surface and carry the kayak to the water. As it was, I re-learned a valuable lesson about being aware
of your surroundings.