Keeping Cool in a Great Lake
Jul 23, 2012
This summer reminds me of the hot and dry summers growing up in rural Ziebach County. The days that you thought you were walking into an oven when leaving the house for chores in the afternoon. The days when we only had one window air conditioner in the whole house. Our living room was the only sanctuary from the heat. Even the normally cool basement was too warm and muggy to be comfortable. My bedroom was on the main floor — on the opposite side of the house from the air conditioner. My whole back wall was westward-facing, so the room could be unbearable on hot July days. On the worst nights, when there wasn’t even an evening breeze to tickle the curtains of my open window, I remember filling up my water pistol and shooting it straight in the air above me. The droplets of water would rain down some relief and soon I’d drift off into dreams of exploring the Amazon rainforest or the Sahara desert.
I will admit that hot summer days are good for one thing. The heat makes any time spent on South Dakota’s recreational waters that much more refreshing. I lived about an hour and 15 minutes from Lake Oahe and have fond memories of jet skiing, water skiing and fishing on the Missouri River. Further down the river, on Lake Francis Case near the Highway 44 bridge, are two recreation areas that are havens for water lovers. Snake Creek Recreation Area lies on the eastern shore. Just a few miles north on the western side of the river is Buryanek Recreation Area. Both parks have great shorelines for frolicking in the water, numerous campgrounds, dock access for watercraft, and they both offer beautiful scenery of the Missouri River breaks. They are pretty much the perfect place for a hot summer cool-down vacation.
When I was there earlier this month, I asked a friend of mine if I could join his family out on the water and shoot some photos from the boat. Jeremiah DeJong and his family happily obliged. We took a quick tour of the area and even dusted off the water skis to see what kind of photos we could get. Jeremiah is on the water quite a bit here as he is an avid fisherman. Like any good fisherman, he had a whopper of a story to tell me. Last fall as he was out on the water early in the morning, he noticed a rather large land animal crossing the river. A nice sized buck was swimming the mile wide expanse of water from one shore to the other. I wouldn’t have believed him if he didn’t have the photos to prove it on his cell phone. I got winded dog paddling with a life jacket on while trying to shoot some photos with my waterproof GoPro camera. I can’t imagine swimming the whole way across. Since it was in the fall, I’m guessing the old buck got wind of a female or two he wanted to visit across the water. Apparently Lake Francis Case could not stop him on his quest of love.
Buryanek was mostly under water last year due to the record flooding on the Missouri River system. I stayed in a camping cabin there Saturday evening and was amazed that the whole place was up and running smoothly. The only evidence of the flood were the high water marks on the trees and outhouses. I stayed out on the shore late into the night to get a shot of the Milky Way above the water. In the distance you could see the lights of cars crossing the Platte-Winner Bridge and the faint lights of Snake Creek’s campgrounds. The evening breeze and gentle waves of the evening brought relief from another hot July day in South Dakota. It reminded me of one of my first tenting experiences on the shores of Lake Oahe with my brothers and members of our church youth group. Those are good memories. It is good to know that places like Snake Creek and Buryanek still offer kids young and old the chance to create new memories of vacations on the shores of South Dakota’s Great Lakes.
Christian Begeman grew up in Isabel and now lives in Sioux Falls. When he's not working at Midcontinent Communications he is often on the road photographing our prettiest spots around the state. Follow Begeman on his blog. To view Christian's columns on other South Dakota state parks and recreation areas, visit his state parks page.