Big Sioux River- Flat Water Paddling

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Flat water paddling on the Big Sioux River in Eastern South Dakota.

Written by

Chris Allington


11.2 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

332.1 miles


3 of 5 diamonds

62 miles of flat water paddling are available here. With the slow current it can take multiple days to make the whole trip.

Time To Complete

4 hours


Spring and Summer

Cold stretches in winter and low flow will often lead to alot of ice in this river and it sometimes freezes completely in December, January, and February. Higher flows after spring rains make this a faster, easier jaunt in the late spring. Low flow can be common in fall in low rain years.

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits


If using boats over 12 feet in length, they must be registered with South Dakota or another state. Registration decals must be displayed on each side. Life jackets are required for any person on South Dakota waters. Park entrance fees/ stickers are required if using State Parks to access the river.



The Big Sioux River makes a winding trail through the heart of Sioux Falls and gives the city its namesake feature (Falls Park). It then continues south where it forms the boundary of Iowa and South Dakota, flowing on to the Missouri River. In some years it is possible to paddle all the way to its confluence with the Missouri. The river offers a number of put in/ take out points along the most commonly accessed portion of the river from Lien Park in Sioux Falls down to just south of Newton Hills State Park near Fairview. It is also possible to paddle the portion in the city of Sioux Falls using river access points in the cities parks. Avoiding the falls/ rapids at Falls Park is encouraged for all but the most experienced kayakers. 

What Makes It Great

A leisurely paddle, with a number of put in/ out points close to town, makes access and travel very easy. A person can take only a few hours to go in between points on the river in an afternoon or camp at state parks accessible along the way to make a multi-day trip.

The gentle flow and lack of dangerous white water on this stretch of river makes for a good spot to get comfortable in a kayak or head out for an afternoon float with the family. There is a wide range of scenery along the river from low prairie flood plains to bluffs and rolling hills along the Coteau des Prairie region of South Dakota. There is also a lot of history along this stretch of river. Old mills and historic Native American sites dot the river bank and it's interesting to think about this history here as you cruise south under the warm summer sun. 

Who is Going to Love It

Beginning kayakers and leisure floaters will appreciate the easy access points spaced along the river. The water is gentle and reliable in spring and summer. More experienced boaters will probably want to try a longer multi-day trip involving the full 62 miles of river. The river is usually wide enough to accommodate families and groups.  

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Use maps available from South Dakota GFP to find the put in/ out points that work best for you. One good resource is here:

Remember that any watercraft over 12 ft in length is required to be registered in South Dakota or another state and the stickers must be visible. Life jackets are also required. If accessing the river from a State Park a valid entry permit is required.  

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Big Sioux River

Big Sioux Recreation Area, 410 Park Avenue
Brandon, South Dakota, 57005
43.578894, -96.602367

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