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, November 28, 2014

Jay Heath (1941 - 2014)

Sioux Falls - Jay Albion Heath, age 72, died peacefully at home on Monday, July 28, 2014, four and a half months after receiving a diagnosis of esophageal cancer.

Memorial Mass of Christian Burial will begin at 2:00 PM on Friday, August 1, 2014 at St. Lambert Catholic Church in Sioux Falls. Family present visitation will begin at 5:00 PM on Thursday at George Boom Funeral Home with a liturgical wake service beginning at 7:00 PM. Memorials will be forwarded toward a donation to Perry Nature Area, a beloved and favored recreational spot for Jay and his family.

Jay was born on November 30, 1941 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Betty Eastman and George Willis Heath, Jr. He grew up in New England and the South until moving to Anchorage, Alaska to begin 7th grade. After attending Anchorage High School, Jay left school at the age of 17 to join the U.S. Navy in 1959, where he obtained his G.E.D., and began his lifetime love of maritime travel.

After completing his enlistment, Jay moved to Los Angeles, where he attended community college while working in the defense industry. He then moved to Aberdeen, South Dakota, where he pursued his college education while working as a television cameraman. It was in Aberdeen that he met his beloved future wife Marcella. The couple was united in marriage on November 28, 1969 in Grenville, SD. Following graduation, Jay entered the U.S. Peace Corps, where he spent two years as a teacher trainer, traveling extensively across South and Central America. The couple made their home in Sioux Falls, SD in 1979.

Following the Peace Corps, Jay served as a teacher, principal, and superintendent in South Dakota and Minnesota. After completing his Doctoral Degree in Education from the University of South Dakota, Jay served as a Professor of Educational Administration in Nebraska and South Dakota. As an educational leader, he led over 20 accreditation teams for school evaluations across Europe, Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Pacific. Jay retired in 2006.

Jay and Marcella were especially proud of their sons Jason and Derek. These fine young men were the central focus of their lives. Jay was a member of St. Lambert Catholic Church. He was a past officer in the South Dakota Canoe/Kayak Organization. He was an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) Board Member. He was a volunteer at the Sertoma Park Outdoor Campus. He was active on the Minnehaha County Museum Board and Historical Association and the South Dakota State Archeological Association.

Grateful for having shared his life are his wife, Marcella of Sioux Falls; two sons, Jason (Courtney) Heath of Chicago, IL, and Derek (Molly Brown) Heath, Sioux Falls; and one sister, Patricia (Johnny) McCaskill, Jackson, TN. Preceding him in death were his parents Betty Eastman Baiocco, George Willis Heath, and a sister, Nancy.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Special Message for My Readers

A Special Message to my Friends and to the Readers of this Blog:

A few weeks ago I received the diagnosis of esophageal cancer, an aggressive form of cancer that has effectively ended my participation in kayaking/canoeing for the 2014 season.  I am taking a “sabbatical” this season and may not add much fresh material, but the blog will remain active as a resource of paddling opportunities for those searching out locations and descriptions of the lakes, creeks, and rivers of South Dakota.  I am hoping to visit some of my familiar paddling spots or to observe some events this season, probably in the company of my pal Dave Finck. In that event, I will try to write about these experiences.  

In the meantime, my very best regards to all who have followed this blog over the past eight years, and I so regret that I should have contracted this disease. I’d much rather be paddling this season than tending to my treatment program.  I hope to recover from the disease and be back on the waters of South Dakota later this year.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Checking Out the Waters: March 2014

Dave Finck on Lake Alvin

March is a time of great restlessness for those of us living on the northern plains.  This has been a very long and cold winter and the arrival of a day with some sun and a temperature in the high 50s is enough to become our obsession.
Lake Alvin
Dave Finck and I decided to take a “road trip” this morning and visit several of the area waterways south and west of Sioux Falls.  I can’t help but look back two years ago and enjoy photos and narratives of a couple of cruises that I took on Lake Alvin and Lake Lakota in mid-March.  There won’t be any such early cruises this year.  Instead, I would guess that we are at least three weeks away from being able to get out on area lakes.

Lake Alvin
Our first stop this morning was Lake Alvin, then we drove across the Big Sioux River at the Grandview Bridge crossing, south of Sioux Falls near Lake Alvin.  From there, we drove to the Klondike Rapids and walked across the bridge from the Iowa side to South Dakota.  We then continued south to Lake Lakota, just on the southeastern edge of Newton Hills State Park.
Big Sioux River looking upstream from Grandview Bridge
Big Sioux River looking downstream from Grandview Bridge
Big Sioux River at Klondike Rapids
Lake Lakota
Lake Lakota
New Service: Kayak Rentals at Lake Lakota
From Lake Lakota, we drove west to check out Swan Lake, located between Viborg and Hurley.

Swan Lake
Geese on Swan Lake
All of these areas are in transition now.  The ice is becoming splintered and porous with pools of recently melted surface water scattered about.  I would not want to walk out on any of those surfaces, although we did see a guy ice fishing on Lake Alvin with a vehicle parked on the ice.
Guy out on the ice at Lake Alvin
Geese were headed north overhead, and we could hear their loud calls to each other.  On Swan Lake, we came across a large flock of geese standing around on the ice.

Geese on Swan Lake
The lakes are about to experience a great change as the warmer surface water shifts with the deep cold water and the annual breakup takes place.  Kayaking and canoeing might resume within just a few short weeks.
Swan Lake
All the photographs from today can be accessed on my Flickr page at the following URL:

Sunday, February 02, 2014

SDCKA Annual Conference: 2014

The Annual South Dakota Canoe/Kayak Conference was held yesterday at the Outdoor Campus in Sioux Falls.  This event is always held at mid-winter and sets the stage for the approach of the paddling season in a couple of months.
Fifth-one paddlers gathered in the auditorium of the Outdoor Campus after an hour of socializing and networking in the lobby.  President Steven Dahlmeier opened the conference with a look at the activities of the association over the past year.  He provided the continuity for the conference as a variety of presentations were offered over the next four hours.
Kayak Outfitted for Adaptive Paddling
The first presentation offered a review of the adaptive paddling activities provided for people with disabilities who wanted to stretch themselves through kayaking.  Cory Diedrick, board member of the SDCKA, was a key figure in this process, and he was accompanied during the presentation by paddlers who were able to take advantage of this opportunity as well as others who helped bring this plan to fruition.
Presentations were offered on the health and future of the Big Sioux River, both within the Sioux Falls area and on the upper river watershed from Summit to Brookings.  In addition, a representative of the Iowa DNR presented a review of the demolition of the Klondike Dam and how that affects the river flow on the Big Sioux River in that stretch between SD and Iowa.
Several South Dakota paddlers and a support team participated in the MR 340 this past summer.  This event took paddlers 340 miles down the Missouri River between Kansas City and St. Charles in 88 hours.  Kati Albers, David Mays, and Pat Wellner offered their photos and recollections of that major accomplishment.
A group of SDCKA members offered some tips for paddlers regarding choice of paddles, safety equipment, and gear for cruising.
Pete Larson, long time SDCKA board member, presented his slides and story of a 14-day rafting trip through the Grand Canyon this past summer.
Jarett Bies and Steven Dahlmeier discussed the South Dakota Kayak Challenge ( race between Yankton and Sioux City and plans for next summer.  In addition, Jartett presented the first look at a new 50-mile race along the Missouri River from Fort Randall to Pickstown.  Details of this race can be found on a dedicated Facebook page at the following URL:
For many of us at the conference, this gathering was the first time we had chatted since mid-November when the waters in the Sioux Falls area iced up for the long winter.  We laughed it up for a few hours and began to anticipate our first cruises of the season.  Now, we just watch the daylight hours lengthen, the sun continue to strengthen, and the snow and ice to gradually melt.  Normally, we are able to get out on the water in April, and that means just another 8 or 9 weeks to go.