The Butterflies of Fall

The Butterflies of Fall

monarch vs PLWe’ve all been trained to watch for monarch butterflies this time of year during their migration. There’s nothing like seeing a group of 100 in your trees at night, gathering up to catch the sun’s rays in the morning and continue their journey south to Mexico.

This time of year at The Outdoor Campus we get a lot of phone calls about butterflies. This year we’re getting more calls about painted lady butterflies than monarchs. They aren’t the same thing, but painted lady butterflies are quite interesting and very plentiful this year.

Check your sedum, Joe Pye weed and any blooming annuals this time of year in eastern South Dakota and you’ll likely see the erratic flight of the painted lady going from flower to flower. They will move in large numbers to cooler or warmer locations, depending on the time of year. The females laid their eggs on thistle or other plants in the mallow family. If you saw a lot of thistle this year, you’ll likely see a lot of these butterflies.

How are they different than monarchs? Painted lady butterflies are about 2.25″ vs. the monarch’s 4.5 to 6″ wingspan. Monarchs are orange on both the top and underside of their wings. The painted lady has a swirl of gray and grayish browns. The painted lady butterfly’s flight is erratic and fast, making them difficult to identify in the air. The monarch’s flight is softer, slower and they float some rather than fly all the time.

Painted lady butterfly
garden monarchs postcard
Monarch butterflies



Tan Lines of TOC

Tan Lines of TOC

By Paige O’Farrell

What comes to mind when you think of summer? For me, I think of spending time outdoors, eating ice cream and working on my tan. As an intern at The Outdoor Campus, I have no trouble at all fulfilling my wish of glowing, tan skin. As a Naturalist Intern, I typically spend around four hours a day teaching class outside. This summer, the other interns and I decided to document the unique tan lines we have the privilege of keeping months after out last day of work.


The Fitbit Tan

Many of us interns are faithful Fitbit users. These lovely stripes remain on our arms almost all year which is a helpful reminder to get those 10,000 steps in.

Jewelry Tan

Are you traveling and forgot to pack jewelry? Don’t worry, you’re already wearing it!

Paige Blog post pic 3

Sock Tan

Life Hack: Are you all out of white socks to wear with your sandals? Spend a week in your tennis shoes. Now you can fool everyone with your luminous white feet.

Croc Tan

Make sure to wear Crocs everyday if you aspire to resemble a Dalmatian.

Paige Blog post pic 6

Chaco Tan

Ah, the classic Chaco tan. This zig-zag, zebra pattern looks fantastic with other sandals. It’s perfect for all of your formal events throughout the year.

Keen Tan

Similar to the Chaco tan, this tan also looks great with sandals. It is the perfect accessory to add to any summer outfit.

T-shirt and Shorts Tan

Going to the beach or the pool today? Your t-shirt and shorts tan lines will look AMAZING under your swimsuit. Remember to warn the people around you before exposing your pale, blinding stomach.


With these helpful tips and tricks, you are sure to be the most fashionable person at the party. So get outside in those t-shirts and tennis shoes, you won’t regret it at all 🙂

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.


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!

Buddy’s Great Hitchhiking Journey

Buddy’s Great Hitchhiking Journey

Buddy was different from the other turtles in the pond, and it wasn’t because of his missing back leg. He had a unique yellow coloring under his neck and bright yellow spots down his arm. He was all alone, until a snapping turtle came up to attack. The interns at The Outdoor Campus West saved Buddy from the snapping turtle and brought Buddy into a safe location.


After recognizing Buddy did not belong to their part of the state, The Outdoor Campus West reached out to PhD candidate Drew Davis from the University of South Dakota, in hopes that Buddy could live east of the river.

With the help of The University of South Dakota, The Outdoor Campus West was able to identify Buddy as a endangered Blanding’s turtle, located far outside of his natural habitat. Blanding’s turtles are distributed across the Great Lakes region, east through Iowa, Minnesota and also northern New York. Very few populations exist around this region, especially not as far west as Rapid City where Buddy was discovered.

Emmett Keyser, the Regional Supervisor for South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, was in Rapid City for a meeting when Buddy was found. After receiving news of this unique turtle, The Outdoor Campus sent Emmett to go pick up Buddy in order to transfer him to the East location. Emmett and Buddy traveled across the state together where they enjoyed each other’s company. “I was lucky enough to hold him overnight; he’s a neat little critter” said Keyser. “He’s left an impression on all of us here at The Outdoor Campus.”



blanding's turtle habitat

The University of South Dakota will be taking Buddy today June 26th, 2017 to use in the Biology department for educational purposes. At USD Buddy will help teach students about endangered species as well as the importance of habitat protection.

“Buddy definitely has a story to tell, we don’t know how he got to South Dakota, but we sure are excited he’s here,” Keyser said.

For more information on Blanding’s turtles visit

Ms. Kailee’s Wild Read of the Week

Ms. Kailee’s Wild Read of the Week

My Summer Project

By Kailee Versteeg

While working at a job that I love, I was assigned to create and carry out a summer project. This project could be anything, from organizing a new class, to building a new playground item for kids to climb on. It could be revamping something old, or creating something brand new. I sat for a while and pondered what I would be passionate about making/ accomplishing this summer. I wanted to enjoy completing the project but my main focus was of course having the kids enjoy my project.


Reading immediately came to my mind; I absolutely love to read to kids. I know many kids enjoy reading but sometimes need something hands on as well. That was when my brain went to the idea of crafts. I combined the two elements and came up with an idea I call, The Wild Read of the Week.

Wild read of the week

Each week I find 3-4 books about a certain topic that I choose. Lots of the books displayed in my Wild Read of the Week corner are borrowed from the Outdoor Campus’s library. My reading/ craft station is located inside The Outdoor Campus East, right in the corner of the Bird Viewing area.  The theme changes each week and so does the craft. This keeps everything new and exciting for families and kids who are here regularly.


Last weeks’ theme was Butterflies, I had 4 books about butterflies or that have butterflies in them. I display these books on a white board which I also decorate according to the theme that week. On the table next to the book-display/whiteboard,  I have a small craft with instructions for kids to create. All the materials  are provided on the craft table so that kids can have fun creating something while reading the books. This week’s theme is Owls.


little girl coloring

I am happy to say that this space has been extremely successful. Since the corner has been up and running (which might I add has only been a few weeks) I am always needing to restock craft supplies and organize books because kids are going crazy about reading and crafts! This makes me so happy to see kids reading and being creative! I hope they continue to enjoy my summer project as much as I enjoy creating it weekly for them.