Water recreation taking alternative routes due to low water levels

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)– With water levels being very low on the Big Sioux River this year, those looking to get out on the water are heading to new locations.

Jayden King, owner of King Rentals, said they have seen a lot of people traveling a little ways outside of Sioux Falls to get out on the water.

“We have seen a lot of traffic out at Garretson above the dam there at Spilt Rock Park,” King said. “A lot of people have been, I guess, going out there because the depth is great, there’s a really good, steady current, and then you know, there’s a lot of wildlife and of course like bluffs and stuff like that.”

Photo courtesy of King Rentals

For people that want to be on the Big Sioux River, they have been going out by Canton or Rock Rapids, Iowa, King said.

“We have done a couple here in Sioux Falls, but it’s just been a lot of tubing for a lot of the river routes, just because it’s been so low. Tubes ride on a little bit less water, they are about three inches; kayaks are more like six and canoes are more like eight so, you know, tubs have just been a bigger deal this year” King said.

Photo courtesy of King Rentals

Streamflow levels are flowing out at about 93.21% lower than average for the Big Sioux River, according to the river’s flow report by Snoflo.

The height of the Big Sioux River as of Monday is 5.90 feet.

According to Monday’s data, the observed discharge of the Big Sioux River was 114 cfs. The average discharge is 1,680 cfs.

“[Water levels] have gone down to say the least,” King said. “If you look at just about anywhere on the river, you can see where even our low water level line is and it’s substantially lower than that. So, in a way, you are seeing areas of the river that you’ve never seen before. It’s kind of remarkable seeing how low things have gotten, we just kind of cross our fingers that it’s an event that will go away in a year or two.”

Calista Kocmick, rental guide for King Rentals said that kayaking at Split Rock Creek as been pretty successful, but there have been a few spots on the river that people have tried to kayak and they have gotten stuck or bottomed-out.

Photo courtesy of King Rentals

“But just a little of them have might have to get out of their kayak and walk a little bit, but other than that it’s not too much of a problem,” Kocmick said.

For tubing, they have mapped routes in Canton and Rock Rapids. Kocmick has been on a Rock Rapids route and said it was pretty successful, but there was one part of the rapids that a few people said their tubes got stuck at.

“But with the tubes, it’s pretty easy to get out and walk through, so it wasn’t too much trouble,” Kocmick said.

Canton is more ideal for tubing than Sioux Falls, because in Sioux Falls they separate the channels from the river so the water is constantly getting diverted in different areas around the city, King said, making the flow in those areas a lot less. Canton is the full Big Sioux River, which is a lot stronger.

“It’s still quite low but when you’re doing tubing and maybe even kayaking activities once those sandbanks have emerged, there’s quite a bit more depth because there is more flow running throughout there,” King said.

Photo courtesy of King Rentals

As far as Spilt Rock Creek, with it being above a dam, it is a great location, King said.

“You are able to paddle on up, that’s a good two, two and a half hour route, which for the average family is just perfect,” he said. “You can kind of paddle around and see all sorts of different things.”

Ben Woidyla, rental guide for King Rentals said that he personally thinks the Spilt Rock Creek area is a lot prettier and he is glad that people are exploring that area.

“People seem to enjoy it, so it makes it a fun and easy job,” Woidyla said.

At Rock Rapids, Iowa, the water level is starting to get a little lower, King said, but as far as tubing has been concerned, it has been pretty navigable so far. But he would not send kayaks there at all.

Even though tubes can handle more shallow water, when the water is this low, the tubes do scrap on the bottom a little bit, King said.

Kayaking has really been impacted by the low water levels throughout Sioux Falls, he said.

“Just not really being able to have the depth to really enjoy and go out without having to walk a little bit, but aside from that, as long as you go on the right route…it’s been fine as far as tubing has been concerned,” King said. “Other than that, really the only good kayak spot at the moment has been at that Spilt Rock Creek route.”

King Rentals specializes in helping people find the right routes to take, he said. They have been trying to work with other land owners to find better routes for their customers.

Photo courtesy of King Rentals

“I actually assume, as the river goes down more, we will be able to kayak more, which sounds crazy, but like near Canton once those sandbanks have emerged fully, then there will only be the deeper area of the water, so we might be able to get through because you won’t be shown areas that are definitely super low because they will be exposed,” King said.

However, Sioux Falls does not fall under that category because there are a lot of rocks, so if it goes down more, you won’t be able to get through them, King said.

“So if there are areas with rocks on a route, it’s probably just kind of going to cut out that route completely for the year,” King said.

King’s advice for anyone looking to get on the water this year is to find something that floats higher and if you are planning to go through Sioux Falls, look for routes that don’t have a lot of rocks. He recommends going from Lien Park out to Brandon Rec Area or even just staying near Brandon.

Photo courtesy of King Rentals

“Again, I would probably use something like a tube, if you are trying to get out on the water, you’re going to be able to make it through a lot better and if you have to get out at any point, if you’re in a tube it’s a lot easier to just walk a second and then sit back down,” King said.

If you’re looking to kayak, King said to try out some of the local communities and see the routes that they have to offer.

“Really take it as an opportunity to just not look at those normal routes, and check out some of the new things that are around us and kind of embrace those routes around us that don’t get as much attention,” King said.


Even with the low water levels and the challenges that it brings, King Rentals business has grown, King said.

Last year, they had just three employees, and now they have 23, King said.

“Coming into this season, the lowest river that we’ve ever had, we kind of came into it very ambitiously, we now have a shuttle bus and tubes and all sorts of things and we’ve got 23 employees and we were just kind of crossing our fingers,” King said. “But the demand has been there and stayed steady though a lot of river routes have been low.”

They are still seeing a lot of tourism coming through and enjoying the water, King said.

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