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.

Meet Kyle The [New] Volunteer Coordinator

Meet Kyle The [New] Volunteer Coordinator

What is your favorite outdoor activity?


What is an interesting fact about you?

I’m a diehard Green Bay Packers fan

What about your family?

My wife Madelyn and I just celebrated our three year anniversary and I have my son Cullen who is three months old. He was born on St. Patrick’s Day.

What is your favorite park in Sioux Falls?

Sertoma Park for its great hiking trails.

What made you want to work at The Outdoor Campus?

I was a naturalist intern from 2011-2013. My Aunt Shelly is also the current school program coordinator. I loved working here as an intern and it is a great environment to work in with great people.

If you are interested in volunteering with us, you can contact Kyle at 605-362-2777 or kyle.grogan@state.sd.us for more information. Volunteers assist with classes, care for our animals, greet people at the front desk, and take care of our garden. The application process starts at age 12.



A Weekend Adventure

A Weekend Adventure

By Monica Boyer, College of St. Scholastica, Class of ’18

What makes a perfect adventure? I would say getting outdoors and trying something new. Last weekend, I had my own little adventure. My family and I traveled to Duluth, MN and the surrounding area for some outdoor fun. Our first stop was Gooseberry Falls to do some hiking. When I go hiking, I like to do a few different things. I always wear my favorite hat (of course it is a TOC hat), a sturdy pair of shoes and I bring a water bottle. I make sure that I have sunscreen and bug spray on; getting burnt or getting bit can ruin the adventure.

The view from one of the bridges.


My family and I hiked around Gooseberry and were able to see the upper, middle and lower falls. It was the perfect day to be outside! It was sunny but not terribly hot. We weren’t the only ones taking advantage of the great weather. Along our hike, we meet many other families and groups. Some of the families were from that area and others were from different countries. It was great to see so many people outside and enjoying nature.

Me and my favorite hiking buddy (my sister)


Taking in the view from the top of some rocks


My family and I had a great time seeing the waterfalls and spotting different types of birds and trees! It was a great outdoor adventure! After or hike, we were pretty hungry so we stopped for pie. My piece of pie had blueberries, rhubarb, strawberries and raspberries in it. It was an amazing piece of pie! I probably could have eaten six more pieces. Overall, it was a fun weekend adventure. I would encourage everyone to get outside and try something new outdoors this summer!

If you love the outdoors and want to share your passion with others, become a volunteer! Our volunteers assist with classes, care for our animals and welcome in visitors at our front desk. The application process starts at age 12. To apply to be a volunteer, visit our website  and click then click the “Apply Now!” link. If you have any questions about volunteering or just want to learn more, email me at monica.boyer@state.sd.us

Monica is the volunteer coordinator intern for The Outdoor Campus.

5 Facts About Cardinals

The northern cardinal. Photo by Keith A. Anderson.

Cardinals are everyone’s favorite bird! Here are five fun facts about the birds that will make you like them even more!

  1. Males and females can both sing very well. Many people mistakenly think males are the only birds that sing. Not true with these singing beauties! They do something called countersinging in which one bird will sing a song several times and the others will match it.
  2. The males love to feed the females. At your feeder, you might see a male picking up a bit of food and giving it to the female. After the pair nests the male will continue to feed her this way.
  3. There are four layers in cardinal nests. They start with a platform of stiff weeds and vines, then they create a layer with leaves or paper. The third layer is finer weeds and grass and the final layer is fine roots and grass stems. Nests take four to six days to complete.
  4. Cardinals usually lay two to five eggs and incubation is only 12-13 days. Only the females sit on the nest.
  5. Listen closely when a cardinal lands on your feeder. They almost always flick their tails and put out a call that sounds like  “CHIP.”


5 Camping Hacks That Will Change Your Life

5 Camping Hacks That Will Change Your Life

By Haley Baker, Kent State University ’16

Sometimes you wish things could be easier or more convenient when camping. You might have three rambunctious children and a grumpy, caffeine-deprived husband, or you are chaperoning a group of 20 campers with two other tired adults that wish they volunteered for the senior center casino trip instead. Whatever the case, these camping hacks will save you time and energy, or just make your camping trip just a little bit better.

1. Make instant coffee with these DIY coffee filter bags2

First thing’s first. You have to caffeinate for your long day ahead. But you don’t have to spend money on getting packets of instant coffee. Just take your favorite coffee, put one (or two) scoops inside a coffee filter and tie it off with dental floss. Make as many as you think you’ll need for your trip the day before.

2. Use Doritos (or any corn chips) as kindling when you can’t find anyscreen-shot-2014-01-18-at-12-47-35-pm

Pack some extra Doritos! The tasty chip we all know and love has just the right combination of chemicals, powdered flavor and oils that you need to start a fire. This is a fun experiment to try if you have curious kids or if you really can’t find any dry kindling out in nature. But this also makes me rethink my snacks choices.

3. Aim a headlamp into an empty milk jug for an instant lanternjug_light1

Need a light that lights up the whole tent? Take your handy headlamp (a camping staple) and aim it into an empty milk jug. Much better than paying for and hauling a heavy lantern in the tent when you want to read.

4. Use microfiber towels2-towel

Microfiber towels absorb more and dry faster. They are also lightweight, pack easily, and more durable. Sounds like a good camping towel to me.

5. Roast crescent rolls for fast breads and pastriescamping-recipes-campfire-crescent-roll-dogs-honest-cooking-cool-mom-picks_zps23597a1b

Crescent rolls are very versatile and pack easy in a cooler. There are a million campfire crescent roll recipes on Pinterest, but my favorite is the campfire churro because YUM! Just sprinkle a little cinnamon and sugar on your roll, wrap it and roast it. They are even better with whipped cream.

Haley is writing for the Outdoor Campus as part of an internship in Public Relations.






Kayak Tours with Sioux Empire Paddlers

Kayak Tours with Sioux Empire Paddlers

Sioux Empire Paddlers now has a ACA Certified Kayak Instructor to take you on a guided tour of any local lake or river. Check out their most recent post!

One of our ACA Certified Kayak Instructors is now offering tours and guide services. Would you like a guided tour down a local river or even a lake? Our instructor will build a personalized trip for you from anywhere between 3 hours and 4 day trips. Trips can be on the Big Sioux river or even the Missouri River. We plan trips to fit your needs and wants.

Do you want to learn how to kayak camp? These services will be provided in the trip. You can chose great hot meals or simple backpacking meals if you want to rough it.

We will provide equipment if needed and we have equipment for your kids to bring along on these adventures.

Tours start at $35.00 and go up based on you needs and wants for the trip.

Please contact Will at will@siouxempirepaddlers.org for more information or to book your trip today.

2 Day Spooky Paddling Trip

Do you like getting spooked, want to know more about the surrounding history, learn paddling skill, or learn paddling camping skill?

Well you are in luck!

Our organization will be hosting an overnight paddling trips on the Big Sioux River past the Good Earth State Park, Gitchie Manitou Preservation, Klondike and other famous landmarks. On this trip you will hear about the history of the area and some spooky tails from several spots along the Big Sioux River. Some stories might be real and some stories might be pushing the truth. You let us know!

Our guide will go over details of several stories while you paddle down the soothing Big Sioux River. You will then spend the night on the sandy river bank right in Gitchie Manitou Preservation. You will have the option to go hiking to check out the area and learn more about the history of the park. We will even provide you with an EMF Meter to help see if you can find any paranormal activity. Now if you make it through the night you will continue to paddle down the easy going Big Sioux River down to the old Klondike Dam.

This trip we hope you learn some history about the area, hear some spooky stories (true or not, we will let you decide), learn paddling skills, and learn how to plan and do your own paddling camping trip.

We supply the following:
Haunting History Lesson
Guided Tour
Paddling education and safety
Three Meals
Cooking Gear and utensils
Kayaks and gear (limited availability)
Dry bags
Education on packing your kayak with overnight gear and planning trips

What you will need to bring:
Extra underwear (It is scary there at night!!)
Hygeine products
Sleeping bag
Extra clothes
Bug Spray
Hat (to help block the sun)
Other beverages other than water
Personal Belongings
$75 we provide kayak, paddle and lifejacket
$60 you provide kayak, paddle and lifejacket /
$60 for current Sioux Empire Paddlers members

For more information or to plan your trip today please email us at will@siouxempirepaddlers.org

5 Facts about Snapping Turtles


Snapping turtles are laying their eggs right now in South Dakota. If you drive the country roads or walk on trails in our part of the state you’re likely to see one. Here are some interesting facts about snappers.

  1. Snapping Turtles Don’t Have Teeth – they’re vicious and can snap a stick (or a finger!) in half, but they don’t have any teeth in their mouth.
  2. Snapping Turtles are Omnivorous – that means they eat both plants and animals. It’s common to see a snapper grab a duckling for dinner from below the water.
  3. Snapping Turtles Can be Huge – think garbage can lid! The largest snapper ever recorded in South Dakota was a female that weighed over 44 pounds. On average, female snappers are smaller than males.
  4. Soil Temperature Determines If Eggs are Male or Female – If the soil temperature is 86 degrees plus, all the eggs will be female turtles. If the soil temp is 60 to 81 degrees only males will hatch. If it’s between 82 and 86 degrees in the soil, the eggs can be both sexes.
  5. Snapping Turtles STINK! That’s because their shell, or carapace, grows algae. The algae is actually responsible for the horrible swamp odor that follows these turtles around.