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.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Good Earth State Park at Blood Run: July 2013

We haven’t been out to Good Earth State Park at Blood Run this season, and we wanted to see the effect so far of its designation as the newest South Dakota state park.  The official dedication of the park was last week, and the news coverage was very optimistic about a future that would also include the Iowa portion of the site just across the river.  At this point, the South Dakota site includes about 600 acres.  Much of the archeological remains of the Indian tribes that lived in the area are located on the Iowa side.
Good Earth seems about as it was last year when we roamed throughout its trails.  The entry area has a few more picnic tables, the vault toilets have been relocated across the road, and the signs have changed to reflect the new designation and name change. The area through which the trail enters the park was a cornfield last year. The corn was not replanted, apparently, and that land is now grassland.
There were three other parties hiking through the area as we arrived; in terms of our experiences along area nature area hiking trails on a weekday morning, that was a crowd!  A group hike to Great Bear has become a popular activity.  The park is only a few miles southeast of Sioux Falls.  We can reach the park in less than 15 minutes from our eastside Sioux Falls home.
We left home under cloudy skies with a temperature in the high 70s; in the 15 minutes it took us to arrive at the park, the clouds has dissipated, the sky was sunny, and the temperature had climbed into the 80s.
The trail leading into the park moved through open grassland for the first half-mile or so.  It was too hot for our little seven-pound miniature poodle now into his sixteenth year and dealing with deafness, cataracts, and congestive heart failure.  I had to carry him through the grassland trail until we entered the shade of the forest.  Once in the shade, though, he was fine.
As we moved along and into the woods, our first stop was the vista looking over the Big Sioux River.  This is a magnificent view, and I look forward to standing at that spot, looking up and down the river from the top of a high cut-bank.  I thought of how many times I have passed by this site looking up from the cockpit of my kayak on a cruise from the Big Sioux Recreation Area at the edge of Brandon to the Grandview Bridge, across from Lake Alvin.
There are about two miles of hiking trails through Good Earth.  About half of the hike can be in the sun and the other half in deep or dappled shade.  The trails wind up and down hills and the slopes are pretty gentle. 
The view out over the river from the heights of the bluff and a short trail in the northern part of the park that leads down to the river shore are favorite spots of mine. The forests, of course, are the highlight of the park, and it is reflective to look into the depths of thickly wooded forests with some trees estimated at 200 years old.  Much of this landscape is largely unchanged over that time.
An old barn marks the conclusion of the trail if moving in a counterclockwise direction.  There are picnic tables, a water fountain, and vault toilets just off the parking lot.
There have been a series of guided nature hikes held in the park this summer, and these will continue through August.  Joining one of these hikes requires registration through the Outdoor Campus at http://www.outdoorcampus.org, and then selection for the Sioux Falls campus.  My wife and I took a guided hike through the park last year, and we learned a great deal about the geology, natural history of the area, and identification of various plant life.
The narrative and photos of a walk through the park last fall can be found on the area hiking possibilities listed on the right side of the blog.
A full set of photographs of this hike can be accessed at my Flickr account: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jayheath/sets/72157634749447833/

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