Temperatures are rising as we head into summer here in the Northern Hemisphere. What’s a good way to enjoy the Great Outdoors on a hot day? Get up early to go canoeing before it gets too warm (and busy) of course!
Canoeing at Jenny Gulch on Pactola Reservoir
One of the Trekkers’ favorite places to take our canoe in the Black Hills is Jenny Gulch (the correct spelling is apparently “Jenney”).
This, along with Deerfield Lake, is one of the best options for paddle sports in the Black Hills, in my opinion.
This portion of the lake is a finger that branches off of the main body of water. It traverses a narrow gulch (hence the name 😉) so it is MUCH quieter than the main lake. It is a great spot for fishing, paddle-boarding, canoeing or kayaking, swimming, and cliff jumping. Motorized boats are allowed but the majority of the area is “no wake” (unfortunately not all the motorboat 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 home-maintenance projects.)
Where is Jenny Gulch?
Jenney Gulch is located a short, 30-minute drive from Rapid City on the northwest portion of Pactola Reservoir. Take Highway 385 north from either Highway 44 or Sheridan Lake Road and turn left at Silver City Road. After about 3 – 4 miles turn left at the Jenney Gulch Lake/Fishing Access sign (before reaching this sign there’s another sign on the right for Jenney Gulch Rd., DON’T turn there. This takes you north into the hills, which we explored on another adventure. This is a bit confusing though they have improved the signage in recent years.) If you reach Silver City, you’ve gone too far.
What you’ll see at Jenny Gulch
What’s so great about Jenney Gulch? The short answer is…EVERYTHING! For one thing, you can’t think of the name without hearing Forest Gump’s voice in your head calling it, “Jen-ay”! (or maybe that’s just me? 🤔) Beyond that, it’s a beautiful, narrow canyon with pine-covered walls that tower far above you.
There are several channels and coves that branch 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. You may even get to see (and hear) a beaver *THWACK!* it’s tail on the water to warn other beavers of your presence before it dives underwater, back to safety.
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.
Have you ever been to Jenney Gulch? What did you think? Tell me about it in the comments!
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