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, August 6, 2012

Blood Run Nature Area

The Blood Run Nature Area is expected to become the first new state park in South Dakota in several decades and has just been opened for hiking with about 2.5 miles of trails provided. Blood Run straddles the Big Sioux River, and there is a portion of the site being developed by the State of South Dakota and another portion on the other side of the river being developed by the State of Iowa.  The site has great historical significance as a major trading center for Native Americans and was populated for about 8,500 years.  I went on a tour of the Iowa side of the site a few years ago as a participant in the South Dakota Archeological Society Annual Conference.   Today was my first time on the South Dakota side of the site.

Blood Run is only about five miles east and south of Sioux Falls.  One way to reach the site is to go south on SD Highway 11 out of Sioux Falls toward Lake Alvin. Turning east on 269th Street, will take you to 480th Avenue, the paved highway that goes past Lake Alvin.  As you continue south on 480th Avenue, you should look for a sign on the east side of the road indicating Lincoln Lakes, Springdale Cemetery, and Blood Run.  Blood Run is only a mile east of 480th and is clearly marked. 

We drove into the Nature Area parking lot that is set up with picnic tables and a vault toilet.  There are signs indicating the route to take for a hike; we went first down to the South Lookout Point, then on to a great view over the Big Sioux River, and then back north along a trail that winds through woodlands and open areas.

As the hiker examines the posted maps within the park, it would be best to first clearly establish a notion of direction – particularly north and east. With that orientation in mind, the posted maps are easily understood.  Current location for the reader (“you are here’) is noted on each of the several posted maps throughout the park.

The trail is essentially a set of south and north loops.  We proceeded first along the southern loop.  The path initially seems like a farm equipment road, especially as it runs along a cultivated field of soybeans.  I had some doubt as to direction at first, but we continued along and it all became quite clear.  Again, reading the map with a clear directional orientation makes it all easier.

The trails vary and include the farm-type dirt track, mowed tracks that move across the landscape, and foot trails through heavily wooded sections.  The trail passes through some hilly sections that offer a good workout for the hiker. We found that having hiking staffs along helped a good deal; they at least help provide more sure footing and spread the strain into three parts!

There are four wooden benches scattered along the 2.5 miles of trails, spots to gaze out over the landscape and appreciate the variety of terrain and flora.

A very dramatic view over the Big Sioux River is offered within the midpoint of the loop.  A pathway leads from one of the benches down into what is called the Big Sioux River Lookout.  This spot is on the western side of the river, of course, and is high on a 100 foot cliff that forms a cut-bank of the river.  A wooden railing provides some distance from the cliff edge, but it would pay to be quite attentive along this pathway.  A fall could be a very unpleasant experience. 

The sight from this observation point is spectacular.  I have passed below this area in a kayak several times and gazed up at the high cliffs.  Going on the Blood Run hiking trail offers a quite different perspective.

My wife, Marsha, finds a great parallel between Blood Run and Newton Hills.  In both cases, there is heavy forest cover, there are draws between the hills to provide water run-off, and the landscape is hilly with lots of up and down hiking.

We came across one deer and there was lots of bird life.  Large oak trees are abundant throughout the forest.

Along the trail, there is a grave site with a marker commemorating the birth of the first white child in 
Lincoln County in 1871.

This was one of the best hikes that we have experienced in the area.  Blood Run is only now being further developed, and I expect that it will continue to grow in popularity.  Only five miles from the eastern edge of Sioux Falls, this is an easy place to take a stroll through an interesting landscape and experience the solitude of a woodland walk.  On a Monday morning, we were the only hikers in the park.  We walked slowly and stopped often to admire elements of the park.  We took our time going up the hills.  Our hike this morning took us about two hours – two great hours of strolling through the woods with our small dog, Finnegan.  

Those interested in the complete set of photographs taken on this hike through Blood Run can access them on my Flickr account at the following URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jayheath/sets/72157630936008856/

1 comment:

  1. Thanks! Our family really enjoys hiking but we're getting a little burnt out with the same old places. I had no clue this trail existed. Can't wait to hike it.