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May 28, 2020
This paid piece is sponsored by the Minnehaha County and Lincoln County Economic Development Associations.
Whether you’re looking for a new place to picnic, a scenic spot to practice photography or even a beach that offers swimming, you’ll find it at a state park in Minnehaha or Lincoln counties.
State park attendance in April throughout South Dakota soared, with more than 476,000 visitors recorded for a 50 percent year-over-year increase.
“We do receive a lot of calls and emails from people wondering if the parks are open because so many things have been shut down throughout the state, and people are looking to get out and get fresh air and be responsible doing that,” said Jason Baumann, district park supervisor for the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks.
The parks are definitely open. Take a look at what awaits you, and see below for your guide to outdoor fun.
Located just east of Sioux Falls in Brandon, the Big Sioux Recreation Area lies on the banks of the Big Sioux River. The recreation area is popular with campers, canoers, bicyclists, hikers, disc golfers, history buffs and archers.
“The primary draw is the paved bike trail. There are three to four miles of paved bike trail that connects to the city of Brandon. That’s a huge draw for the park,” Baumann said.
“They have a disc golf course, and it’s not open yet due to flooding last year, but they have a number of trails as well. It’s a big hiking destination park.”
There’s also an archery range with six practice targets and 14 targets along a course plus a short horseback riding trail.
Located 5 miles southeast of Brandon off Interstate 90, Beaver Creek Nature Area is “off the beaten path, so it won’t be as busy and could be a hidden gem for some people,” Baumann said.
It’s a convenient area for hiking, birdwatching or a quick history lesson thanks to a homestead cabin located there.
Take a quick drive southeast of Sioux Falls and you’ll find Good Earth State Park, with
“The primary use at Good Earth is the trails. We have six miles of trails, and it’s been extremely busy, just people coming out and stretching their legs and getting fresh air to take advantage of the trail,” Baumann said. “There are nice picnic areas there as well. All the parks have fantastic picnic areas.”
The north-end bathrooms are open, and the hope is to open the visitor center this month.
With swimming options more limited this year, you still can head to the beach at Lake Alvin Recreation Area east of Harrisburg.
“We’ve been seeing a lot of fishing, a lot of people coming out,” Baumann said. “We’ve seen people swimming in the lake, even though it might be a little chilly. But fishing, kayaking and canoeing have been big activities.”
Beaches typically get designated for swimming in May, which then starts weekly water testing and prohibits fishing, hardsided boats and dogs.
Newton Hills State Park south of Canton saw 10,000 more vehicles pass through in April than the previous year.
“We’ve definitely seen people by Lake Lakota doing fishing, kayaking, canoeing,” Baumann said. “We’re getting some horseback riders on the multiuse trails, a lot of picnickers and hikers.”
Newton Hills offers great scenery, whether you’re just out for a drive through its wooded loop, doing some birdwatching or looking to do some photography.
Rentals are open, offerings bikes, canoes, kayaks, paddleboard and lily pads for visitors, with cleaning between uses.
One of South Dakota’s most unique parks, Palisades south of Garretson draws visitors with its signature rock formations.
“That’s the huge draw, and people enjoy fishing, picnicking and hiking there,” Baumann said. “It’s just a very scenic, beautiful park in a really nice setting.”
It’s a great location for photographers, rock climbers and sightseers alike.
“We just ask visitors at all our parks to comply with CDC guidelines and respect other people and their distance,” Baumann said. “Avoid common areas, and if you’re camping, we recommend using your camper facilities instead of our facilities to be the safest. Our campgrounds have been full, and we expect that to continue. So just be conscious of other park users. I think people are so anxious to get out of the house and do something and recreate, and state parks are providing that for them.”
Whether you’re looking for a new place to picnic, a scenic spot to practice photography or even a beach that offers swimming, you’ll find it at a state park or recreation area in Minnehaha or Lincoln counties.