What do you do on a 100+ degree Saturday? Get up at 6am to go canoeing before it gets too hot (and busy) of course!
Jenny–the correct spelling is apparently “Jenney”–Gulch is located a short 30 minute drive from Rapid City on the Northwest portion of Pactola Reservoir. Take Hwy 385 North from either Hwy 44 or Sheridan Lake Road and turn left at Silver City Road. After about 3 – 4 miles turn left at the Jenny Gulch Lake/Fishing Access sign (before reaching this sign there’s another sign on the right for Jenny Gulch Rd., don’t turn there. I’m not actually sure where this takes you–another adventure for another time!) If you reach Silver City, you’ve gone too far.
This portion of the lake is free to use and is a good spot for fishing, paddle boarding, canoeing/kayaking, swimming and cliff jumping. Motorized boats are allowed but the majority of the area is “no wake” (unfortunately not all the motor boat captains choose to abide by this). For me personally, I enjoy canoeing. Kayaking is fun and can sometimes get you where a canoe can’t (as kayaks sit higher on the water) but you’re solely responsible for the control of the craft. In canoeing, you have a partner to help you. This is especially nice when your partner favors the back seat and does all the steering! Also, canoeing is a wonderful relationship building activity. My uncle once told me, “want to see if your relationship is meant for marriage? Go canoeing together!” (I also recommend tent camping in a severe thunderstorm/deluge of rain and re-staining a deck.)
What’s so great about Jenny Gulch? The short answer…EVERYTHING! For one thing, you can’t think of the name without hearing Forest Gump’s voice in your head calling it, “Jen-ay”! Beyond that, it’s a beautiful, narrow canyon with tree-covered walls that tower far above you. There’s several channels and coves branching off the main gulch with calm waters that are a joy to explore. Unlike the rest of the lake there’s little to no road noise and lighter human activity so you’re free to enjoy the abundance of wildlife that surrounds you: the beaver gliding effortlessly below the canoe, the geese swimming with their fuzzball goslings that paddle obediently in their parents’ wake; the flash of the fish darting just under the surface; the graceful swoop of the heron’s neck as it takes off into the sky, the “plop” of the turtles as they slide into the water from the log where they’ve been sunning themselves. You hear a cacophony of birdsong–the rat-a-tat-tat staccato beat of the Woodpecker, the trill of the Redwing Blackbird, the screech of the Osprey calling to its mate–as you watch the vultures soaring high overhead.
This area is my favorite part of Pactola Lake. It’s beautiful, serene and offers activities the whole family can enjoy. It’s also close enough to Rapid City that you can easily make a day (or a morning) out of it. I feel so blessed to live in a place that offers such amazing opportunities.