This post is provided by Jenna Carda, intern for South Dakota Department of Tourism
Experience what the South Dakota outdoors have to offer in a single building. Outdoor Campus West in Rapid City is filled with great displays, awesome informational screen videos and many options of outdoor activities to get a taste of what you can do in the “Mount Rushmore State”.
According to the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, “The Outdoor Campus’ mission is to provide education about outdoor skills, wildlife, and conservation and management practices of South Dakota…to all ages in order to preserve our outdoor heritage.”
The campus is open seven days a week with a lot to offer its visitors at no cost, and over 150 volunteers make that possible. In addition to their 4,600 gallon freshwater aquarium, the campus has a hands-on exhibit inside and countless outdoor programs throughout the summer.
Each of the programs are split into categories, each learning about different plants, animals and nature activities. From “Sprouts” (preschool age children) to “Teen Adventurers” (ages 13-17 years old) and family programs to group opportunities, the exploration of outdoor education doesn’t end.
The outdoor campus also offers special events.
June 15: The campus will hold an active outdoors event with a full variety of new and classic backyard games – Let’s G.O.! (Get Outside).
June 29: Get dirty learning about gardening, archaeology, underground creatures and so much more at the International Mud Day event.
July 20: The Outdoor University is an opportunity to get a well-rounded experience of the outdoors and what it has to offer. There will be archery stations, BB gun shooting, canoeing and kayaking and so much more at this family event.
August 10: This is a day just for preschoolers. They get the chance to go fishing, try archery and more.
August 24: The Women’s Try-It Day is an activity packed day for the ladies to try a hand at canoeing, kayaking, shooting, archery and a lot more.
Many of the programs are held outside on their 32 acre property. Visitors don’t need to be involved in a program to enjoy the outdoors, though. One option at Outdoor Campus West would be to follow their 1.6 mile, ADA compliant trail. If you are looking for something a little more adventurous, guests are welcome to veer off the path into each of the four habitats offered at the campus.
Along the trail, you will see a tree house which is an observation deck for children to get a “bird’s eye view” of the property. This educational stop shows them what it looks like in the tree canopies as well as how small an insect is compared to a bird flying above.
Fishing is also an option outside of the campus building. The man-made pond is stocked regularly with fish such as: rainbow trout, brown trout, perch, blue gill, sunfish and more. Fish are about 10-11 inches, but can get even larger as they live in the pond.
There are so many things to do at Outdoor Campus West that will really give you an idea of what the South Dakota outdoors have to offer. Go check it out! You won’t regret it.