Exploring the Parks and Nature Areas Around Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls has 76 named parks throughout the city that range from small sites suitable for neighborhood gatherings and playgrounds to large well developed nature centers such as Great Bear Recreational Park, Arrowhead Park, the Wegner Arboretum and East Sioux Falls Historical Site, and the linked park system along the Big Sioux River. The state provides outdoor recreation areas and state parks including the Big Sioux Recreation Area, Beaver Creek Nature Area, Lake Alvin Recreation Area, Newton Hills State Park, and the Outdoor Campus in Sioux Falls that is a joint city/state operation.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bucher Prairie Park

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper recently ran a story about Bucher Prairie Park, a 20 acre parcel of land donated to Minnehaha County as a nature preserve.  This park is a long narrow piece of prairie land that is clearly visible at the intersection of County 121 and 122, about ten miles north of Rice Street on 478th Avenue.  We drove on Rice Street towards Brandon and took the first paved road to the left, the road that leads on to an Interstate ramp and crosses over I 90 next to the RV campground.

Bucher Prairie Park is in the second year of operation by Minnehaha County.  The major attraction to this park is native grasses and wildflowers.  There is good parking, a picnic shelter, and restrooms located at the head of a series of trails.

A pool formed along a tributary of Slip Up Creek is located next to the picnic shelter, and there are “sitting rocks” scattered about.  These large quartzite rocks are located throughout the park along the network of trails.

A system of trails loops runs throughout the park and provides about 1.5 miles of hiking.  It is possible to continue through the loops and not retrace steps along the way.

The trails are mowed through high native prairie grasses.  A couple of bridges cross over the shallow depression formed by the Slip Up Creek waterway to permit looping of the trails. 

At the western end of the park, there is a willow thicket that provides some contrast to the grassland.  Outside of the thicket and the picnic shelter, there is little shade in this park.  The purpose of the park is to provide an opportunity to stroll through native grasses and think about what the landscape might have been like before settlement.

This is a pleasant place for a nice stroll through the grasses.  A complete hike through the loops may take about 40 minutes, providing enough time to appreciate the plant life.  We thought that this might be a great addition to our hiking rotation of area trails.  It would be especially interesting to visit the park in early spring, mid-summer, and then in the late fall before the snow flies.  Again, the major attraction is the changing nature of the world of grasses.

There were lots of red-winged blackbirds out flitting around; but since there are hardly any trees on the property, most of the bird life we saw were perching birds sitting on old cattails, fence lines, or in the grasses.

I like this park and the system of trails and believe that the county has done a nice job of preserving the land as Mr. Lyle Bucher wanted: “a reflection of the prairie that would have been historically present on the site.”

A Bucher Prairie Information Brochure and Map can be obtained at the following URL:

A complete set of photographs taken on this hike can be seen at my Flickr page: