Good Earth State Park: Natural Beauty and History Preserved For Future Generations

   I recently spent an afternoon exploring South Dakota’s first new State Park in 40 years, Good Earth at Blood Run, with my husband. There was little to identify it as a state park beyond the signs leading us to the park which is located just a few miles southeast of Sioux Falls. Right now it is completely undeveloped aside from some rustic trails, a few picnic tables and vault toilets, but to me this is the charm of it.

   There are plans to transform this area into a park with many amenities, including a Visitor Center with substantial interpretation of the site, a day-use area with trails and interpretation, an amphitheater, an observation lookout, an overnight camp site, bridges across the Big Sioux River to Iowa sections of the park, and a ceremonial site on the Iowa side. But now it is still in a completely natural state.

   The site has a rich history, being one of the oldest sites of long-term human habitation in the United States. It is a National Historic Landmark significant for its history as a settlement for thousands of Native Americans. The landscape along the Big Sioux River made the area popular, and much of the landscape remains today. It derives its name, Blood Run, from a late 17th century Oneota Culture Indian Village complex that spanned both sides of the Big Sioux River.

    The day we visited we had the two miles of trails to ourselves. We saw a few other hikers only as we were leaving. The only sounds were the rustling of the leaves in the breeze and a medley of bird calls from the wooded hills. It was the epitome of “peace and quiet”. The vistas are constantly changing: open grassland, a shady burr oak forest, overlooks with scenic panoramas. One trail follows the shore of the Big Sioux River. My favorite trail wound up and down slopes through the forest which provided a shady canopy overhead, but every trail had aspects I would not have wanted to miss.

     

   While the trails are always open for hiking, there have been guided hikes throughout the summer that provide a wealth of information about the park’s geology, history, and plant identification. The last guided hike this season will be on Sat., Sept. 28 at 9am. Pre-registration is requested. Contact the Outdoor Campus at 605-362-2777 or www.outdoorcampus.org. Another event hosted by the park is the Spirits of the Forest Hike, which is also on Sept. 28, but in the evening. It is a self-guided hike followed by hot apple cider and a campfire. The park’s event season may be coming to a close, but the fall foliage will make the park a must see in October.

    I plan to go back regularly and observe the park as it changes and develops. It will be interesting, years down the road, to look back, remember and compare it to how it looked the first time I explored it. Becoming a state park will insure that the natural beauty of this area will be preserved for generations to come.