Whether its local Native American legend or pioneer re-enactments, there's plenty to fascinate families in South Dakota's State Parks. Come and watch bison sweep majestically across the plain and more at these State Parks:
Go on safari with your family at Custer State Park, where the prairies are roamed by American Bison, pronghorn antelope, and bighorn sheep. Wild turkeys scuttle out of sight, and elk and burros dart in the grasses at this 70,000 acre sweep of South Dakota's landscape. The park's namesake may have fallen from grace, but the park and its wildlife are as stunning as ever, remaining one of the state's top attractions. Mount Rushmore is just around the corner too.
Children are thrilled by the stories surrounding this leafy State Park. According to the legends perpetuated by local tribes, the red-colored water that flows through its forests is in fact ancestral blood. Others will spin you a story about a Bigfoot that inhabits the woods, but the rich color of the trees in fall time is too exquisite to be unsettling.
Every June, this State Park plunges into the past during the Fort Sisseton Historic Festival. Muskets, saddle bags, and costumed cavalrymen return the park to its state as a frontier base back in 1864. In the wintertime, snowshoeing and skiing make for a more serene way to experience the park.
From solo exploration to secret pathways led by experienced locals, hiking in South Dakota's exceptional State Parks is an experience you won't forget in a hurry:
Follow in the footsteps of the famous exploring pair who pioneered this route along the Missouri River, guided by a Lemhi Shoshone woman. The park is also beloved by South Dakota's residents, making it crowded in the summer, when visitors flood its banks in pursuit of watersport recreation. Arrive in the shoulder seasons for emptier trails.
For an unforgettable hike, visit Bear Butte, a natural Eden that is sacred to Native Americans. The story starts at the Education Center, where you can learn about the significance of the site to the Lakota people. As you climb the Mato Paha mountain, the surreal sight of thousands of ceremonial strips of cloth wrapped around the trees flutter in the breeze.
The land bordering Big Sioux River was once a vital trade link and seasonal meeting point for native peoples. The archaeological interest in the Blood Run National Historic Landmark has led to enthralling discoveries. Learn more about the indigenous cultures on guided walks. Alternatively, strike out on your own along six miles of prairie and woodland trails. You can explore the site's 450-year-old history at the 11,000 square foot Visitor Center afterwards.
Whitewater raft like American outlaw Jesse James, paddle on one of America's largest reservoirs, or go ice fishing in South Dakota's most adventure-promising State Parks:
Local legend has it that this is the very place where notorious outlaw Jesse James avoided imprisonment by leaping with his horse across Devil's Gulch. The rugged cliff face veers upwards from Split Rock Creek, which modern adventurers navigate on tubes or whitewater rafts during the summer.
Fort Pierre's fishing mecca hugs the banks of the vast Oahe Reservoir. Sprawling from South Dakota all the way to Bismark, the lake lures fishing legends from around the world with its monster walleye. Cast your gaze upward to spot majestic bald eagles, nature's finest fishermen, which roost in the trees along the shoreline.
Bruce's State Park is comprised by not one, but eight separate lakes. Horseback ride through its flame colored forests come fall, or venture out for some elemental ice fishing in the winter. During the warmer months, Oakwood Lakes are an adventure playground for fishing, kayaking, and hiking. Sequester yourself in its bays and inlets for serene summer sunbathing.