Parks with Paige

by Paige O’Farrell

Hiking is one of my favorite outdoor activities to do throughout the year. While I’ve always enjoyed hiking, I never really knew about the amazing hiking available in the Sioux Falls area. I thought all of the good hiking trails had to be in the mountains. However, over the past couple of years, I discovered that some of the best hiking trails are right around Sioux Falls!

Good Earth at Blood Run

Good Earth is by far my favorite place to explore around the Sioux Falls area. The park is located on the east side of Sioux Falls. The park offers a wide variety of trails that wind through forests, prairies, and riverbanks. Not only does the park draw people in for its hiking trails, but the area is filled with rich Native American history and culture. Blood Run is one of the oldest sites of human activity in the United States.


Gitchie Manitou

Gitchie Manitou is almost directly across the Big Sioux River from Good Earth. This Iowa state preserve shares much of the same Native American history as Good Earth. The preserve is the perfect place for a short walk outside. The trail is not very long, but offers gorgeous views. The shaded trail winds along the Big Sioux River and small rose quartz outcroppings. Some highlights of the preserve include an old rose quartz building and a large pond.


Blue Mounds

Blue Mounds is located in Luverne, Minnesota. The park is popular for campers, climbers, and hikers. The park is made up of a variety of different landscapes. On one hike, you can hike high above the surrounding area through the prairie, down along the edge of 100-foot quartzite cliffs, and along the Mound Creek. You’ll never run out of new sights to look at!


Newton Hills

Newton Hills is located in Canton, South Dakota. The park offers a wide range of activities such as: camping, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and swimming. The miles of trails take you up and down the wooded hills in the park. The overlook tower is one of the highlights of the trails. The tower allows you to see down into the valley, above the tree tops.

Arrowhead Park

Arrowhead Park is on the east-side of Sioux Falls. This park is extremely popular for families. A vast majority of the trails are paved and easy to walk. The trails leads you around various quartzite ponds and through the prairie. This park is also popular with dozens of geese and ducks. Many people visit the park to feed or watch the birds.



These are just a few of the many parks around the Sioux Falls area available for people to explore. I highly recommend that everyone visit these parks. Not only do they offer amazing hiking trails, but they can also give you insight into the rich history of the area. Hopefully, this inspires you to get outside and find your park!

Paige is a naturalist intern at The Outdoor Campus. She is studying Sports, Recreation, and Park Management at South Dakota State University.

“Neature” Photography

by Abbie Blank-Libra

So, you want to take photos? Outside? Well, you’re in luck, because I have a few tips for this kind of thing! We’ll call it outdoor photography—creative, right?:)

Whenever I travel, I view my journey as an opportunity to capture the scenery through my camera lens. This way, I can look back at my photos and say—well, that was pretty neat!

Whether you are on vacation or taking photos of the flowers in your backyard, here are a few tips that may help you achieve the photos you are looking for!

Don’t just point and shoot! Taking a photo is similar to shooting a gun (you know, just not  as dangerous). The shooter has to take time to aim the gun, or camera in this case, at the target he or she would like to shoot. And just as with hunting, it takes practice. Most people who try hunting or shooting a gun for the first time do not hit the bulls-eye on their first attempt, and that’s okay! You don’t have to be a pro right off the bat.  Same goes for photography. As a photographer, you may not get the shot you want on the first, second, or third try! Or maybe you will and you could give me some tips!

These are the tips I have for you:

  1. Look for color! Color brings emotion into a picture, and can make it more enjoyable to look at:)
  2. OR: Take a photo in black and white. You may appreciate this new perspective!
  3. Find a fun texture (like bark on a tree) and get a close up.
  4. Use natural lines to lead a viewer’s eye—like a trail or a bridge.
  5. Frame your subject using the branches or leaves on a tree! The subject could be your friend, a bench across the pond, or maybe a deer in the field.
  6. Shoot from a different perspective. Lie on the ground, step on a ladder, or create an angle you may not normally see!

Now if we want to make things a bit more technical, keep reading!



Rule of Thirds (above): Rather than placing your subject straight in the middle of the photo, move it to one of the intersection points on the grid below. This makes the viewers’ eyes travel farther across the photo and gives them more of an idea of what may be surrounding your subject!


Think of it this way…

Aperture is also referred to as the f-stop. Imagine the pupil of your eye—it grows as your eye is exposed to less light. Therefore, a large f-stop lets less light in.

If your eye is exposed to bright light, the pupil becomes smaller. The smaller the f-stop, the more light it is letting in! You can see the lens in this photo acting like the pupil of an eye.


Think of it this way…

ISO is like the curtain during a play. As the curtain (ISO) gets higher, the more light you are able to see. As the curtain (ISO) gets lower, the less light you are able to see.


Think of it this way…

The shutter acts like your eyelids.  If you are blinking quickly, your eyes are letting less light in. As you slow down your eyelids, more light is able to come through.

If your photo turns out dark, it needs more light. You will have to “blink slower,” or slow down your shutter speed. And if your photo is too bright, do just the opposite!


If you made it all the way to the end of my post, way to go! I hope you learned a little something about photography, because it can become a lifelong passion!:)


Abbie is a recent graduate of Augustana University, currently on the lookout for a job as a teacher in the Sioux Falls area. Abbie has spent the past three summers working as a naturalist intern at The Outdoor Campus. She enjoys the archery and paddling classes the most!

What is Orienteering?

What is Orienteering?

It’s registration day for classes at The Outdoor Campus, and you come across a class titled “Orienteering.” Unless you are an outdoor expert or you have signed up for the class before, most people don’t know what orienteering is.

So what is orienteering?

According to Orienteering USA, orienteering is a competitive international sport that combines racing with navigation. It is a timed race in which individual participants use a specially created, highly detailed map to select routes and navigate through diverse and often unfamiliar terrain and visit control points in sequence.

Originally a training exercise in land navigation for military officers in Scandinavia, orienteering has developed many variations. Among these, the oldest and the most popular is so-called foot orienteering, orienteering while running or walking on foot. Typically, when people use the term orienteering, this is what they’re referring to. But now people also orienteer on skis, mountain bikes, and even in canoes!

It is essentially a big, elaborate scavenger hunt.

How is the course set up?

A standard orienteering course consists of a start, a series of control sites that are marked by circles, connected by lines and numbered in the order they are to be visited, and a finish.


The control site circles are centered on the feature that is to be found; this feature is also defined by control descriptions (sometimes called clues, a list of which you’ll receive along with your map, or printed on your map. You can see some examples of these clues in the photo above.

To verify a visit, the orienteer may use a punch hanging next to the flag to mark his or her control card. Different punches make different patterns of holes in the paper.


Hopefully this gives you a better idea of what orienteering is and maybe you will find it in you to register for one of our classes. It’s a fun way to get outside and helps kids learn how to read and follow a map. To register for our classes you can log on to our website or give us a call at 605-362-2777. (Class spots for the rest of the summer are limited. Fall registration starts August 10 at 7 a.m.)



Tips to Avoid Getting Rained Out

Tips to Avoid Getting Rained Out

By Alex Osborne

It happens to everyone at some point, you plan an exciting day outside only for it to be drizzled out by rain; it’s a buzz kill and a down right drag. Here are some tips I’ve picked up to help you predict the weather and avoid being surprised by the elements this summer.

1. Get to know the system


There are two fundamental things you need to know if you’re going to try and predict the weather; the first is that most major weather systems in North America move west to east. The second is that low pressure systems bring rain. It can be kind of difficult, but with a little practice you’ll be able to recognize the signs of a low pressure system in your area.

2. Look for feathered friends


Watch the birds. When rain is imminent, birds will fly lower to alleviate the pressure on their ears. If birds fly high in low pressure it hurts their ears. Just like when you swim too deep in a pool.

3. Red in the sky means high


A reddish tint to the sky in the west during sunset means that a high pressure system is stirring dust into the sky and that dry air is moving toward you. The opposite can be said for a red sky in the east when the sun is rising, this would indicate that the dry air is past you and that a low pressure system is moving in bringing with it the possibility of rain.

4. Check your smoke


My next tip involves one of my favorite things on a cool summer evening, fire! Chances are if you’re out camping you’ll have some logs burning. This is an easy time to try guess if rains coming or not simply by watching the smoke. Smoke that swirls, curls, and descends means low pressure and that rain is coming. During high pressure, smoke will rise steadily.

5. Look up at the clouds


My last tip for you outdoorsmen and women is to get to take the time to get to know your clouds. Not only is it a neat thing to teach the kiddos, but it will help you predict the weather too. Nimbostratus clouds mean that rain is imminent while towers of cumulus clouds are a strong indication that rain is on the way.

Those are all the tips I’ve learned over the years to try and get a jump on the rain. I hope they can help you stay dry this summer and avoid and ruined plans.

Alex is the horticulture intern for The Outdoor Campus this summer. He is currently at Dakota Wesleyan studying Wildlife Management. 

5 Things Not To Do Outdoors

By Tate Stensgaard

1. Don’t flip a canoe

Through experience, I have found out I do not want to flip a canoe or kayak. During summer training, we had to flip in the pond to know what to do and how to help someone out if it ever happened. I found that it is not my best skill getting back in once I flipped. Knowing the proper way to get back in does not mean you know how to actually do it. While trying to get into the canoe with my partner, Jensen, I found it incredibly hard to get my lengthy body in after she had already jumped in so easily. Every time I would attempt to get in to paddle back to shore, I surely flipped the two of us back over numerous times until I finally got in and we ended up having Jensen dragging myself and the canoe in. So, easiest piece of advice I could give is to simply NOT flip your canoe.

2. Don’t be a hooker

While teaching at The Outdoor Campus, I have found the most nerve wracking thing to be is fishing on the dock with many kids. My fear is that while kids swing the fishing poles around like there is nobody there, someone will catch another student. We hope that every student will catch a fish, but pray that they don’t hook anyone else. There have been countless times a fish eats the worm off the hook and a student whips their pole in a full circle to have us put another on. Every single time it happens, my heart stops and I hope nobody is near the hook. When you are fishing, just be careful of where you are swinging your hooked line.

3. Don’t take home/pick up an animal

baby animals ducks

We all hear those stories of people picking up a baby buffalo, or baby deer they think is abandoned by their parents, so they feel sorry for it and want to do it good by picking it up to bring somewhere like the Outdoor Campus or Game, Fish and Parks office. Well here’s a good piece of advice…. DON’T. As lost and in need of help as the animals may look, they are usually going to be just fine on their own. If you are unsure if the animal is in need of help, don’t pick it up. It is better to call someone that is meant to help, than to pick it up when you don’t know what you’re doing. One of my favorite sayings at The Outdoor Campus is “if you care, leave it there.”

4. Don’t take the unbeaten path

Log Across Path.JPG
Photo by Matt Stoffel


Refer to Erica’s post about getting lost in the mountains if you want to know what being lost is like. I’ve never been lost because I’m too scared to be. So know where you’re going and tell someone where you plan to be.

5. Don’t forget sunscreen

My final tip for things not to do outdoors is to forget sunscreen. I have done this too many times and regret it every time. Being fair skinned, it takes 30 minutes on a sunny day to turn me as red as a tomato. The following days are miserable, everything is so much harder when every move you make, your shirt rubs your shoulders and the pain is miserable. For everyone that has been burned badly, you know the pain.

Tate is a naturalist intern at The Outdoor Campus this summer and is a recreation, park, and tourism management major at the University of Western Illinois.

An Outdoor Survival Lesson

An Outdoor Survival Lesson

By Erica Jurgensen

One particular class we teach is Outdoor Survival to our Jr. Explorers (8-12 year olds). Little did I know that this class would come in handy while I was out exploring the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

It all started off with a list of things we should have done to prepare for our hike but never actually did. Big Mistake! I always tell my students to be prepared but I of course did not take my own advice. When I left for the hike it was bright, sunny, and 85 degrees out. I had my hiking shoes and long pants on but was just wearing a t-shirt. I thought about bringing a jacket, but decided against it. I also had a day pack along with some water and snacks and enough room for the camera. The one correct decision I made was to not conquer this hike alone.

The start of the hike was very leisurely with a nice gravel path to follow on. We followed the path up to an area called Alberta Falls. It was an amazing site to see all the snow melt rushing through the pass. We continued on our way with anticipation for the view around each turn. We saw the snow-peaked mountains in front of us and the Valley of Estes Park behind us. As we continued we came to a fork in the road. We knew we wanted to continue to the right to make the loop to see three different ponds on our hike. But when we looked to the right, there really wasn’t much of a path. All we could see was a few footsteps walking through the snow.

We checked the map over about three times before determining that it was indeed the way to go. So, we followed the footsteps through snow that grew deeper as we went further into the mountains. It was surprising how much snow there was when the air temperature was so warm. We followed orange markers that were tied around the tree every 20-50 yards or so.

Around a turn we finally came across the first of the three ponds. It was spectacular to see the still water reflecting the mountain tops. At this point we had walked a little over 4 miles and it was now the mid-afternoon. We stopped for a snack and it dawned on me that the skies were getting darker. Little did we know that every afternoon during the month of June, it apparently rains in the mountains. Yet another mistake!

I always tell the kids to do some research of the area before you go into the wilderness. Well, the only research I did was that we were somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Seeing the darker skies we realized we should probably kick our leisurely stroll into high gear.

We got off the path a bit and realized that we were no longer following footsteps but instead we were walking on a water path. We did not realize this until the snow broke through behind us and we saw the freezing, gushing water. You can believe we got off that as quickly as possible. Luckily the path wasn’t too far off.

As we continued on our little path we came across another group of people and asked them to make sure we were headed in the right direction. Good choice! As it turned out we were indeed heading in the right direction. When we came around yet another turn, we finally saw one of the other ponds from a distance. As we started our descent down, my friend continued to head towards the direction of the pond, which was to the left. But I saw a T in the road going to the right that he did not see. I paused for a moment because the one to the right seemed more like a path then the one to the left. But I fought my instinct and continued to follow my friend to the left. Another big mistake!

This path had footsteps on it, but it was one of the sketchiest paths I have ever been on. There were times when we had to cling to the snow and traverse across a cliff to get to the other side. If we were to fall, it would be a 20ft tumble down. Remember how I said I only had a t-shirt on? I was definitely regretting my decision now of not being prepared. My hands and arms were freezing. Now there was thunder and lightning to add to the mix. We continued on this ‘path’ for a half a mile before coming to a dead end. Seeing this dead end was utterly heart-breaking. The last thing we wanted to do was go back the way we came! But that was the only choice we had.

So, back across the cliff we went! There came a point where we saw the footsteps we had been following go down a slope. We debated for a time if that was the way to go. It was within this debate that I saw a lightning bolt strike the mountain directly above me. In a panic, I decided I needed to get off the mountain. I once again forgot my tips to my students and let panic take over. Yes, I slide down the slope at a very unsettling speed. Luckily, I was able to stop. My friend however was not so lucky and slide into a rock.

We were very fortunate that this bad decision did not result in any broken bones. Unfortunately for us, it was not the correct way to go, again. And back up the slope we went. We went back to where I saw the fork in the road, which did indeed turn out to be the correct way to go. When we finally made it to the lake, we kissed the sign that told us we made it to our destination!

After a long adventure, I now have a tale to tell my students. I make it a point that they understand to always prepare for the worse, don’t fight your instincts, as well as to never let panic take over. Even an instructor can be in the worse of situations. It can happen to anyone. This post is not to scare anyone away from hiking the Rockies. In fact, I highly recommend doing it. Just make sure you check the map and dress appropriately!

 Erica is a veteran naturalist intern at The Outdoor Campus and is an elementary education major at the University of South Dakota.

5 Places to Go Fishing in Sioux Falls

5 Places to Go Fishing in Sioux Falls

Summer is a perfect time to take your kids, grandkids, nieces or nephews out to go fishing on a lake or river near you. If you’re in Sioux Falls, you most certainly do not have to go far as there are several places to cast your line. Check out these public fishing areas.

1. Family Park


Family Park Fishing Saturday is a great place to go if you don’t want to haul poles and a tackle box to the access point. In cooperation with Game, Fish and Parks and The Outdoor Campus, Family Park provides the poles for free and all you have to do is show up. They will even teach you how to bait a hook and properly cast. The water is restocked with about 14,000 rainbow trout each year, but you can also catch bass, crappie, and northern pike.

2. Big Sioux River


This is an obvious place as it is the large body of water that runs through the entire city. The Big Sioux is a tributary of the Missouri River and is home to a wide variety of walleye, pike, bass, crappie, catfish and bullhead. There are several fishing spots located throughout its flow through Sioux Falls.

3. Covell Lake


Located in the peaceful, serene setting of Terrace Park, you can enjoy shore fishing for crappie, perch, bullhead and pike here. The park also offers several other amenities to enjoy like picnic shelters, a nearby swimming pool, and the beautiful Japanese gardens. So if the kids get bored of fishing, you have other things to do.

4. Scotts Lake


A very popular angler spot, Scotts Lake, formerly Scotts Slough, is located about 25 minutes north of Sioux Falls in Hartford. This is a place where you can catch a lot of fish in one trip, which is great for beginners. If you like fishing on the water, there are access points for non-motorized boats. The most popular catches here are perch, sunfish and bullhead.

5. Lake Alvin


This 59 acre park, located 25 minutes south of Sioux Falls in Harrisburg, is best known for its beach and excellent fishing. Although it is small in size, anglers can expect to catch walleye, northern pike, crappie, sunfish, perch, catfish and bullheads. The 105 acre lake is the perfect size for any boat and motor; however, the lake is designated as a no-wake zone to protect the shoreline from erosion.