Huron (pop. 12,867) is probably best-known as the home of either the South Dakota State Fair or the giant pheasant that lives on the east side of town. Keep going east on Highway 14, however, and you’ll find Dakota Fireworks. I love fireworks (while many of my former neighbors do not), but it’s not the potential explosive inventory that caught my interest a few weeks ago.
Instead, it was the out-of-commission Ferris wheel that stood aged but proud just near the store’s entrance. Having grown up less than an hour from Huron, I recognized the wheel, its collection of pods each decorated like World War I fighter planes standing firm against the elements as they did decades ago. Ferris wheels aren’t uncommon for visitors to the state’s fairs (the Sioux Empire Fair, Central States Fair, Brown County Fair and, of course, Huron’s own South Dakota State Fair.) However, there’s something rather magical about walking straight up to a decommissioned piece of equipment free of gates, its days of rotating giddy children and fun-loving adults long behind it.
The wind blew but the pods stayed still. I pictured junior fighter pilots flying as high as the wheel would take them, hopped into my vehicle and took off for my own next adventure.
Town celebrations are always a good time. An entire community comes together to bask in a collective sense of pride as their residents wrestle each other in a homemade vat of mashed potatoes.
O.K. Maybe that’s just what happens in Clark.
Each year, the northeastern town of Clark (pop. 1,068) celebrates Potato Days. The weekend-long celebration of the, in the town’s website’s own words, “favorite over-used, under-appreciated starch” features some of the more common celebration staples (parades, equipment shows, arts and crafts). More importantly, it has some tuber-centric events like recipe contests, mashed potato sculpting and, of course, mashed potato wrestling.
The goal of my Clark visit was to witness live potato wrestling and I did not leave disappointed. I strolled onto the baseball field at Dickinson Park (as with most small towns, I didn’t even bother with directions – “Drive until you find the cars” is my motto in situations like this) to find a live kickboxing demonstration happening 10 feet from where mashed potato insanity was soon to take place. The square ring was constructed of hay bales covered in a tarp and filled with instant mashed potatoes.
Before the bell could ring on the spud-soaked spectacle, a kickboxing demonstration kept the crowd entertained. In my first five minutes in Clark, I spied the aforementioned wrestling ring and watched someone kick a board in half…while blindfolded. Sometimes, you just know you’re going to have fun.
When the demonstration concluded, the wrestling began. A local announcer introduced the referee (a local well-known wrestler of the non-potato kind).
What happened next was giddy summer joy covered in mashed potatoes. Children and adults (never in the same match, of course) wrestled friends or family members while what seemed like most of the town cheered. Some matches were tame, but others featured aerial maneuvers and takedowns that would make fans of any style of wrestling clap their hands while wearing very large grins. Whether or not you want to wear potatoes is up to you.
When I plan my hiking trips, I sometimes survey friends and family about the best places to check out. Other times, I just find a place and go.
The latter was how I found myself in the area of Lookout Mountain. Located just north of Spearfish across Interstate 90, the mountain is one of three peaks that help make up the “crown” that gives Spearfish the title of “Queen City.” Here’s a bit of history, courtesy of The Rapid City Journal:
Legend has it that early settlers Louis and Ivan Thoen were hauling building stone from the base of Lookout Mountain in 1887 when they stumbled on a crudely carved tablet with which their family name would forever be associated.
The Thoen Stone was found near what was then described as “the main Indian trail to Deadwood,” and provided perhaps the most compelling evidence of early exploration of the Black Hills.
“Came to these hills in 1833, seven of us, all died but me Erza Kind,” reads the rock face on display at the Adams Museum in Deadwood. “Killed by Indians beyond the high hill got our gold June 1834.” (Source)
Thanks to an entry from Black Hills Travel Blog, I learned what I needed to about the area before heading out to explore.
Of the two available trailheads (according to the blog), I went with the one that starts near the Church of the Nazarene. I parked on Nevada Street and went looking for the short tunnel that would take me to the trailhead.
As you can see, there’s no clearly-marked path to the tunnel. Don’t let that discourage you. Head to the tunnel, enjoy some of the interesting graffiti as you walk through and come to a trailhead that both Robert Frost and roleplaying gamers would appreciate.
I went with the right path since it was the logical way to the mountain. After walking through some grassland, I started to make a slow but steady ascent. It’s a pretty beautiful collection of scenery – rock, trees, wide open sky – and it doesn’t take that long to start enjoying some amazing views.
Instead of shooting for the peak, I just wandered.
There’s a decent chance you’ll encounter some wildlife while you’re making this hike. As a hiker, I’m always aware of the slight chance I’ll encounter a mountain lion or a rattlesnake but, as usual, all I ended up seeing were a couple of beings definitely more scared of me than I was of them. For this particular hike, that meant a beautiful blue jay and an extremely skittish wild turkey.
After some ascent, I found a sort of flattish road area. Instead of continuing to the top, I decided to head west and see what I could find. For a while, I could see the second trail. I just couldn’t get to it. No matter. That’s part of the fun, right? Thanks to my wandering, I ended up finding a series of beautiful flat rocks.
I took the second path back and strolled through beautiful wildflowers and other foliage before reaching the trailhead.
WHY SHOULD I GO?: It’s a pretty neat area in a town already surrounded by beauty. (Stay tuned for a future blog on my hike to Devil’s Bathtub in Spearfish Canyon). If you’re looking for a semi-strenuous hike with a variety of scenery, the Lookout Mountain area is the place for you.
HOW DO I GET THERE?: You’re looking for the 500 block of Nevada St. (click here for a view. If you’re having trouble, just look for Nevada Street beside the Church of the Nazarene (1200 N 10th St). Park on the street and you’re good to go.
ANYTHING I SHOULD WATCH OUT FOR?: After I got back from my hike, locals told me that rattlesnakes can be active in that area. I didn’t see one (and, trust me, I keep a pretty close eye out for them) so chances are you’ll be safe as long as you take some basic precautions. (For a complete list of tips on avoiding rattlesnakes, click here.) I kept my eyes open, made sure not to step or reach in areas where I could not see and kicked a bit of rock down inclines before tromping down them.
BONUS: There is some entertaining – and occasionally PG – graffiti in the tunnel. I’m entertained by things like that (as long as they’re not done on something natural), so it was a fun sight to come across at the beginning and the end of a nice hike.
WHAT IS THAT?: It appears to be a bicycle helmet on a fence post. I encountered it on my hike, but wasn’t sure what it meant. Is this part of a secret hiker code? Do you need a helmet to enter? Having no clue or helmet, I moved on. If you know, let me know in the “Comments” section.
That’s what a friend said when I took over this position, so I headed north last weekend to see exactly what this tower was all about.
WHY SHOULD I GO?: What it’s about is beauty and history. The tower’s namesake was Joseph N. Nicollet. Nicollet (prounounced “nico-lay”) was a talented French professor and astronomer who left his home country after being passed over for academic honors and going broke. (For a full history, please click here.) He came to this area with “the bold but informed plan of mapping the great valley of the Mississippi River” even though he was 52 by the time he ended up at the spot where the tower stands today. From 1836 to 1839, Nicollet explored areas of what is now North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. (For a map of his expeditions, click here.) Sadly, Nicollet died before his report to the Senate could be published or a tower would be erected in his honor.
However, a Sisseton banker named Harold L. Torness became enamored with the story of Nicollet and spearheaded a $335,000 fund-raising campaign to build the tower that has stood since its completion in 1992. Seven people provided all of the funding for the tower. Not a dime came from federal, state or county funds.
When I arrived shortly after 8 a.m., I was immediately sold on the entire project. The Douglas fir pillars held aloft a magnificent wooden structure built with bolts and steel. No nails. (For more on the construction materials, click here.)
Only 96 steps and a couple of very surprised pigeons later (look, pigeons, I wasn’t expecting you either), I was at the top. The view was stunning. From the top floor of the tower, you can gaze out over portions of South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota. The view captures three states, six counties, 11 communities and the Continental Divide. The beauty of the view, though, makes it hard to think about borders.
There’s a certain peace that comes from being alone with a beautiful South Dakota view. This one is no exception. The various shades of green of the trees and grass provided a landscape that almost shifted before your very eyes. The sounds of a babbling brook near the tower made the scene all the more serene.
So, my friend was right. I did need to go to Nicollet Tower. I hope you can do the same.
HOW DO I GET THERE?: You can find the tower by taking Exit 232 off of Interstate 29 and then driving west through Sisseton on Highway 10.
WHAT DOES IT COST?: There is no admission charge for the tower or the Interpretive Center.
WHEN CAN I GO?: The Interpretive Center is open mid-May through mid-October from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The tower is open for ascent from sunrise to sunset.
ANYTHING ELSE I NEED TO KNOW?: As I said before, I surprised the feathers off of some pigeons as I rounded the last flight of stairs. Another friend that had visited the tower said his arrival to the top floor accidentally ruffled the feathers of a rather unimpressed and annoyed owl. Be aware that you might be surprising some birds if you’re the first up the stairs for the day. It’s a great view. Can you blame the birds for wanting a piece of it?
BONUS EXPLORATION: That brook I mentioned? It’s easily accessible by vehicle or foot. Instead of turning left into the tower’s parking lot, continue on the entry road. You’ll be taken down to a bridge where a shallow creek gently runs over naturally-scattered rocks. The road is nearly one lane, so you’ll want to be cautious about where you park/walk. Still, the trip is an easy and worthwhile addition to your visit to the tower.
For a more in-depth addition to your trip, head over to Sica Hollow State Park. It’s a beautiful park with a fascinating history that deserves its own blog entry. (Spoiler: Native Americans saw the gurgling reddish bogs as the blood and flesh of their ancestors.)
For more information on the Joseph N. Nicollet Tower and Interpretive Center, head over to the official web page here.
Hi there. I’m Austin Kaus and I’m the new Outdoor Media & Industry Relations guy for the South Dakota Department of Tourism.
That’s a long-winded way of saying I’m here for some adventure.
First, some background: I grew up running around the hills of Wessington Springs fighting imaginary enemies or just looking for nothing. With our family home nestled in the Wessington Hills, it was not uncommon to see wild turkeys or deer strolling across our family’s lawn. It was also not uncommon to see my little brother chasing said turkeys or deer. To the best of my knowledge, he has yet to catch any.
I’ve also fished for bullheads and walked through fields looking for pheasants. I understand how important exploration – whether you’re hunting, hiking, fishing or otherwise – is in South Dakota. I also happen to think it’s very fun. That’s why I’m so excited to see where this position will take me. This lifelong South Dakota resident has so many places to discover, explore and share with you. Here’s hoping you’ll enjoy the trip and become inspired to take your own.
So, I end with these questions: Where do you think I should go? Where are your favorite outdoor spots in South Dakota?
The South Dakota Birding Festival is moving forward with plans for the 4th annual festival set to take place May 2-4, 2014 in Pickstown, South Dakota at the Fort Randall Dam. Information sent from South Dakota Missouri River Tourism is below on the event:
For a natural spectacle, it’s hard to beat a birding festival! Of all the wildlife in the US, birds attract the biggest following. According to the recent National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, about 18 million people a year take trips to see wild birds.
Now is your chance! Grab your binoculars, camera and birding guide and make plans to attend the 4th Annual South Dakota Birding Festival. Herons, eagles, owls and hawks, to mention a few, are ready to sport their finest spring plumage for your watching enjoyment. And, you might even get to check a new bird off your list!
The event is set to take flight May 2-4, 2014 at Pickstown, SD. Birding enthusiasts will gather to hopefully catch site of hundreds of migrating bird species returning to South Dakota or heading to other parts of the country. The communities of Wagner, Pickstown and Lake Andes stand ready to welcome you for a super weekend!
There are many unique birding opportunities in this region. The Fort Randall location along the Missouri River, includes the Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge, the Karl Mundt National Wildlife Refuge, and the Missouri River itself; which are all major flyways for migrating birds.
The South Dakota Birding Festival offers a full schedule of activities beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 2 at the Rainbow Room in Pickstown, SD. Registration, a social and refreshments are on tap with a presentation at 7:30 p.m. by Dr. Dave Swanson from the University of South Dakota on “Identification of the Warblers of South Dakota.”
The exciting events will continue on Saturday, May 3 beginning at 6:20 a.m. at the Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge with birding field trips beginning at 6:30 a.m. – including a bird banding workshop. The birding field bus trips will begin once again at 12:30 p.m. The festival continues at 4:30 p.m. at the Wagner National Guard Armory where Lynn Barber will do a book signing for her publication Extreme Birder, One Woman’s Big Year. Also at 4:30 will be a program entitled “Landscaping for Birds” with Nancy Drilling from the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory. At 5 p.m. Lea Ymker with Fairway Seeds will discuss Basic Bird Feeding followed by the banquet at 5:30 p.m. The Armour Kindergarten Birders, along with their teacher Kelly Preheim, will do a program on Identifying Birds by Sight & Sound. Keynote speaker for the evening will be Lynn Barber on “Birding Big Years Come in Different Sizes.”
At 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, May 4 there will be a Bird Banding Workshop by Dr. Dave Swanson at the Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge. Following that presentation birders will meet at the Karl Mundt National Wildlife Refuge (meet at Fort Randall Chapel) for a field trip led by the US Fish & Wildlife Service personnel. The Karl Mundt Refuge is only open to the public during the birding festival. To end the birding weekend, a species check-off will be held at 12 p.m. at the Fort Randall Chapel.
For an event schedule and registration form, click here.
If you’ve been watching the news, or living it yourself, you know that winter in the Midwest isn’t over yet! However, there’s a place in South Dakota that you can make the best of the season. A stay in Deadwood puts you close to lots of winter action in the Black Hills.
Whether it’s skiing or snowboarding at Terry Peak or Mystic Miner, or cruisin’ on a snowmobile on the hundreds of miles of trails, outdoor adventure abounds in this mountain town. It is expected to have a good snowpack for winter sports until at least early April. To learn more about the snow conditions and get updates you can check on their Twitter sites (even if you don’t have Twitter you can still click the link and view the updates). Both the eastern and western trails have Twitter handles that are updated with conditions, see them here.
There’s plenty to do indoors too – there are more than 80 gaming halls in Historic Deadwood, and museums to explore. If you’re up for a drive, the scenic highways in the winter will take your breath away.
Also in Deadwood, you can find unique events in the winter months. Deadwood is always a great host to St. Patrick’s Day events: pub crawls, Leprechaun Olympics, parades, music, and food will all delight visitors! For a complete schedule of events during St. Patrick’s Day weekend, click here.
AMSOIL Championship Snocross will race into the Black Hills again this winter. Deadwood’s Days of ’76 Rodeo Grounds will be home to two days of high-speed, high-flying, high-octane snocross racing Jan. 31-Feb. 1. Tickets Deadwood Snocross Shootout, hosted by the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce, are on sale now.
AMSOIL Championship Snocross, presented by Traxxas, features snowmobile racing in a stadium setting, complete with massive jumps, berms and bumps – a man-made snow track identical to what you’d see dirt bikes race across. The Deadwood Snocross Shootout will feature 150 of the world’s top snowmobile racers from the United States, Canada and Europe, many of which compete at the annual X Games competition.
Custom sleds that produce auto-like horsepower will rip across the grounds of the Days of ’76 venue. It’s an apt venue, because these machines corner like barrel racers, jump high into the air and sometimes buck their unlucky riders off into the snow.
“AMSOIL Championship Snocross is pumped with the opportunity to line up and race at the historic Days of ’76 Rodeo Grounds. We’ve heard nothing but great stories about the famous rodeo held in Deadwood over the summer and look forward to giving the good people of South Dakota an equally electrifying show in February,” said Carl Schubitzke, ACS President/Race Director.
The AMSOIL Championship Snocross round at Days of ’76 Rodeo Grounds features the three main snowmobile manufacturers – Arctic Cat, Polaris and Ski-Doo – and their factory teams of racers. The lineup includes defending Pro Open class champion Tim Tremblay (Ski-Doo), the winningest snocross racer of all-time. Arctic Cat’s Tucker Hibbert and Polaris’ top racer Ross Martin will compete as well. Racing will also include amateurs and top women racers, featuring numerous local snocross racers from the Deadwood area and Dakotas region.
“These are the highest caliber racers in the world, and we are excited to host them in Deadwood. Snowmobiling is quite the popular winter activity in Deadwood and the Black Hills, so these guys and gals will fit right in,” said George Milos, executive director of the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce. “The Deadwood Snocross Shootout is a perfect match for a Deadwood winter, and it’s our hope this family friendly event will land on the top of many must-see lists.”
Who: 150 of the world’s top snowmobile racers. What: Deadwood Snocross Shootout, AMSOIL Championship Snocross circuit. When: Jan. 31-Feb. 1. Times: Practice starts each day at 8 a.m., amateur racing begins at 9:30 a.m., pros at noon. Where: Days of ’76 Rodeo Grounds.
Opened in 1995, Cedar Shore Resort brought something new to South Dakota that outdoor enthusiast, family travelers and locals alike could utilize for years to come. Over the last 18 years Cedar Shore Resort has grown into a premiere destination in the state. Located along the banks of the Missouri River it offers world-class walleye and small mouth bass fishing to anglers, water recreation for families, and is only a short drive to prime pheasant hunting land.
Cedar Shore offers hunting packages and guided fishing excursions during their respective seasons. The resort is also perfect setting for a wedding or family reunion. With its 3,000 square foot convention center the staff at Cedar Shore Resort is able to accommodate to all of your group’s needs.
After spending a day in the sun or in the field, comfortable accommodations await you back at the resort. The 99 room hotel, indoor pool and Jacuzzi and indoor/outdoor restaurant bar together create a comfortable atmosphere to enjoy some of the best scenic views in South Dakota.
South Dakota Tourism, Winchester Ammunition and Browning Firearms teamed up together this past week with R&R Pheasant Hunting for a great event. Together, we brought in 5 writers from various outdoor and firearm publications to try some new products and experience a world-class pheasant hunt in South Dakota.
R&R Pheasant Hunting is a family owned and operated lodge that is located near Seneca, SD. Sal Roseland (owner) had a vision in college to utilize the thousands of acres his family has farmed for years and continue to implement the conservation efforts they have been putting in place over multiple decades. Spread across 18 thousand acres, the Roseland ranch can take your breath away by the number of pheasants they have on their property or simply watching the sunset on the prairie from the porch of the hunting lodge.
I’m not a huge “ammunition” guy or very picky when it comes to what shell I shoot as if/when I miss it’s more than likely operator error. This past week might have changed that theory of mine, after shooting the new Winchester Blindside Pheasant Load. With its new hex steel pellets, as opposed to round pellets used in most loads, they stack more efficiently in the hull and allow for more gun powder. The Blindside also offers a diamond cut wad system for increased performance. Even a bad shot like me can look good in the field with this shell. It simply puts a “hurt” on the bird whether it’s a head shot or not! We were shooting the 12 gauge, 2 3/4, 1400 FPS load on this specific hunt. Pair this shell up with the light weight, Browning Citori 725 and you will be sure to take down a few South Dakota roosters!
Over the course of 3-days we found plenty of birds to test out both the new Blindside shell and the Browning Citori 725. As we walked the fields each day it was great to see hundreds of hen pheasants being kicked up along with the roosters, we all know it’s the females that rule the roost! Strong habitat practices, like at R&R, are key to continuing great pheasant numbers and landowners must provide adequate cover, food and water to grow their pheasant numbers.