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.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wegner Arboretum/Perry Nature Area

The spring this year is certainly not advancing at the pace of last year, and we have just gone through a string of cold days with snow showers.  At last, though, we have a few days ahead with more normal temperatures.  Today, we decided to go out to the Wenger Arboretum/Perry Nature Area for a hike through the recently snow-free landscape.
This set of hiking trails is at the edge of Sioux Falls, just across from Arrowhead Park on the east side of the city.  Over the past few months, the Jasper Education Center has been completed and awaits only some final landscaping and a formal opening. 
As usual, we parked in front of the Jasper Center and set off down the old railbed toward the Big Sioux River as it flows past the park. 
Cutting down onto the open field just to the north of the FOP building, we walked along the service trail between the field and the trees that line the riverbank.  This is a trail popular with people taking their dogs out for a walk in the country.
We then moved up onto the gravel road that circles through the park and leads past a picnic shelter and over a small creek that flows into the Big Sioux River.  This creek has interesting features, including a small quartzite cliff near the road.
There is some ice and snow still in the deep shadows of a trail that leads past old East Sioux Falls foundations, so we moved up onto the old roadbed again and walked along this pathway back to the entrance road into the park.  Along the way, we spotted several robins on the ground.
Our hike this afternoon took about 45 minutes, and Finnegan, our 15-year miniature poodle was able to keep up just fine.  He seems to regain some of his youth when out sniffing around on one of our hikes.
So, the arboretum is okay for hiking now.  We are going to check out more of our favorite hiking areas within the area in the days ahead.  It is good to be out strolling through nature areas again.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring Hiking Opportunities

Gitchie Manitou State Preserve on Iowa Side of the Big Sioux River

Area hiking locations are now opening up for pleasant strolls through the emerging spring transformation.  While the temperatures this week have been cold, with high temperatures only in the 20s, the snow has largely melted throughout the area. 
The Big Sioux River Flowing Through Gitchie Manitou
Last week we went on a three-mile hike through Gitchie Manitou State Preserve, just across the border along the Iowa side of the Big Sioux River.  The river was flowing freely; the temperature was just below freezing, so the ground had not become muddy. 
The Big Sioux River Flowing Through Gitchie Manitou
It was a magnificent stroll along the river and up to the quarry pond and old masonry structure nearby.  We saw lots of geese on the river and flying overhead. 
The Quarry Pond at Gitchie Manitou

Arrowhead Park on East Side of Sioux Falls

This afternoon, we went to Arrowhead Park, on the east side of Sioux Falls.  I visited the park early last week and found the south portion of the hard surface trail covered in ice. Now, however, the total 1.6-mile north and south loop combination is free of ice or snow, and there is no mud on the trail. 
The Quarry Pond at Arrowhead Park
Although it was chilly, this was a wonderful 40-minute stroll.  We stopped to watch the geese on the quarry ponds and flying overhead.  We saw only geese and ducks today.  There is generally a varied population of birdlife visible along this trail and in the deep ravines, but we didn’t see anything other than the waterfowl today.
Geese on the Edge of the Quarry Pond at Arrowhead Park
A lot of people visit Arrowhead Park to watch the waterfowl in the quarry ponds.  Once past the ponds, though, most of my walks have been solitary and contemplative, although this is also a great site for a companionable stroll.
Looking Over Big Sioux Valley from Arrowhead Park
So, the season of area hiking in our beautiful nature areas is upon us.  I find these walks much more satisfying that walking the neighborhood sidewalks or going to the gym. 
The Jasper Education Center Building Viewed from Arrowhead Park