Over the River and Through the Woods

Over the River and Through the Woods



By Jensen Goodell

A few weeks ago, interns Alex, Paige and I set out West River to help The Outdoor Campus – West – with their Outdoor University. Being from Minnesota, the last time I was that far West was when I was three years old, and believe it or not, I don’t remember it. As any good friends would do, Alex and Paige made sure I got the full West River experience. Don’t worry, we also managed to do our job.

jensen 2

Day 1:

      I would have to say that Day 1 was the most touristy day we had. Naturally, our first stop was historical landmark Mt. Rushmore. Let me tell you, the pictures of it are gorgeous, but nothing beats seeing ‘The Faces’ in person. Next, we set out for Sylvan Lake where part of National Treasure 2 was filmed. Sylvan Lake was absolutely beautiful! If you have not been there before I would highly recommend checking it out. Don’t be afraid to explore some of the ‘unbeaten paths’ either, that is where we found some of the most gorgeous views. For lunch we traveled to Hill city where Paige promised Alex and I that the Alpine Inn had the best steak. She was totally right. If you find yourself in that area of South Dakota, check it out.

Day 2:

            On the second day we set out to do our job, helping out at The Outdoor Campus West. The interns there did a great job of welcoming us and showing us around the campus before starting classes for the day. The Outdoor Campus West is brand new, the facility is so beautiful. Did you know that they had a tree house there? After work, Paige, Alex and I explored downtown Rapid City, where we came across a street dance and lots of interesting vendors.


Day 3:

            Day 3 at TOCW was pretty busy getting ready for the big event, Outdoor University! The whole afternoon was dedicated to making sure everything was set for the upcoming day. After work we headed to supper but then retired to our hotel to get a good night’s sleep.

Rock reads: “There are better things ahead than anything we leave behind” found at Poet’s Table

Day 4:

We arrived early at The Outdoor Campus West to help set up for the big day. Once Outdoor University officially started, the day was steadily busy. Alex and I helped with paddling and rock climbing, while Paige was busy helping families fish on the dock. Once we finished taking everything down and getting it put away, everyone met for pizza to celebrate surviving the heat and the crowd!

jensen 5

Day 5:

Before heading home we decided to explore one last time. This time we got up before the sun to beat the heat and hike to poet’s table at Black Elk Peak. We definitely took the unbeaten path to get to Poet’s Table, but it was well worth it. We found pieces of writing dating all the way back to the 70’s. It is something I will always remember, and I hope to return to someday. Paige, Alex and I left our own piece of literature behind at Poet’s Table highlighting our trip out West. This was an unbelievable experience and truly a ‘Great Place.’


The video version of our trip with more pictures is linked below. Grab your adventure buddies and get out to explore South Dakota, it’s pretty amazing. https://youtu.be/otuyB6CBrYg



Preserving History through State Parks

Preserving History through State Parks

By Emily Oyos

South Dakota has a rich history of people inhabiting the Plains region dating back thousands of years. Native Americans first lived on this land, followed by the pioneers and settlers of the 1800s and early 1900s.  Today, many of these beautiful landscapes made up of rolling grasslands and roaring rivers have been converted into housing developments and shopping malls.

Emily Blog Picture 1

However, there are still some places where one can return to nature and view the Plains as they may have looked hundreds of years ago. In the Sioux Falls region alone, there are three places I enjoy visiting to learn about the history of this area: Big Sioux Recreation Area, Beaver Creek Nature Area, and Good Earth State Park at Blood Run.

Emily Blog Picture 2

Big Sioux Recreation Area offers a variety of hiking and biking trails that lead into forested woodlands and up to the top of a hill that overlooks Native prairie forbs. If you look closely during the springtime, you may even find South Dakota’s state flower, the Pasque, hidden between the grasses. In the 1860s the land where the park is now located was home to Ole Bergeson.  For those interested in learning more about his homestead, Bergeson’s cabin is still located along the main road in the park.

Emily Blog Picture 3

Beaver Creek Nature Area is also home to hundreds of trees, acres of prairie grasses, and the Samuelson cabin. One of my favorite events held at the nature area, Homesteader Day, occurs every year in early September. At this event, the cabin is open for tours, there is live music, horse-drawn farming equipment, candle-dipping, food demonstrations, and much more. Beaver Creek is a wonderful area to explore and experience what life was like for early settlers on the Plains.

Emily Blog Picture 4

South Dakota’s newest State Park, Good Earth at Blood Run, features miles of walking trails, a state-of-the-art interpretive center, and a variety of scenic overviews. The Oneota Tradition Peoples lived on and cultivated the land from 1300-1700 A.D.  This sacred area was a major trading center for Native American people due to the abundance of flood plains, wildlife, and pipestone.  Whenever I visit Good Earth, my favorite stops along the path are the scenic overlooks.

Emily Blog Picture 5

Today, all you can see is farmland, trees, and the winding Big Sioux River.  However, I love to imagine what the fertile flood plain looked like hundreds of years ago when it was teeming with people harvesting food, trading, and going about daily life in their earth lodges. Good Earth State Park is a great place where one can connect with nature while learning about the Native people who once inhabited the land.

Emily Blog Picture 6

These are only three of many areas around the state where one can experience history and nature coming together in beautiful harmony. So stop staring at your phone, get off the couch, out of the air conditioning, and come explore everything the parks have to offer!




Adventure is Always Around

Adventure is Always Around

By Emma Lucchesi

School was finally slowing down and the anticipation of summer was at an all-time high. As the new season drew closer, my excitement to begin my summer internship grew each day. And although I was eager to experience real world career skills, I couldn’t help feeling jealous of my peers, always posting on social media about their grand summer adventure plans. My ears would perk up as I heard people talk about traveling around the U.S. or going abroad. I couldn’t escape the conversations at graduation parties.

I have always wanted to travel, but also felt that it was essential to develop future work skills during the summer. So my dilemma was figuring out how I could go on adventures during the summer while still maintaining a job.

I was determined to visit some places near Sioux Falls and Brookings that I hadn’t explored before. I started by visiting Falls Park. Then I ventured onto GoodEarth state park, the Palisades, Devil’s Gulch, Splitrock Park, and the Japanese Terrace Garden. Some places were cooler than others.


Emma Blog Post Pic 4

My favorite place was The Palisades. I went on a random day after work. I bought a four dollar park sticker, parked my car, got a trail map, randomly picked a trail, and started on my solo hike. At first I felt awkward on the hike, but then I started to embrace the quietness of it. I am an extrovert and enjoy being in the company of others, but I had a grand time hiking alone; I highly recommend trying it. Along my hike I met a really cool dog (the owner was nice as well), climbed some cliffs, jumped across the river rocks and just had fun exploring the area. At dusk, I made my way back to my car.


Being the volunteer coordinator intern this summer has been an amazing experience. I thoroughly enjoy my job and all the people I work with. Each day I get up and wonder what new thing/skill I will learn, or what task I will need to complete. When people ask if the two hour drive each day is hard I reply with, “It is easier to do because I love the place I work at!”

Emma Blog Post Pic 1

While I love my job, it does make it harder to travel. My biggest piece of advice though is to not let that stop you. There are always places to explore; you just might have to look a little harder!