By Brian Jewell
n a state known for its beautiful outdoors, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is a leader in exploration opportunities for groups.
Although it’s far removed from the striking mountains and the ominous badlands of the western and central parts of the state, Sioux Falls gives visitors a great introduction to the wooded plains of the upper Midwest. The city prides itself on its access to the outdoors and affords visiting groups numerous opportunities to get to know its landscape.
Whether you make Sioux Falls a primary destination for your group or stop for a few days on a tour of South Dakota, consider taking advantage of one of these four outdoor adventures during your time there.
Sioux Falls takes its name from the falls of the Big Sioux River, which runs right through the middle of the city. Downtown visitors can explore the river and the rock formations that create the cascades at Falls Park.
“It’s a 123-acre park downtown,” said Krista Orsack, director of marketing at the Sioux Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s where the Native Americans first settled this land and where the first pioneers settled.”
The river and the rocky landscape around it were formed by glaciers thousands of years ago. The water flowing over the falls today begins as snow and rain runoff about four miles away from the city. When it reaches Falls Park, it cascades 100 feet down a series of coral-shaded rocks. An average of 7,400 gallons of water spill over the edge of the falls every second.
The park has plenty of green space, and there are many trails, so groups can spend their free time taking relaxing walks or hikes around the area. A five-story observation tower affords a great view of the falls and downtown Sioux Falls. Adventurous groups can also take a kayak trip through town along the river, although the excursions don’t take participants careening over the falls.
During the summer, the park also presents a sound and light show at the waterfall that takes place at dusk. There are also other attractions to check out at the park, including a historic horse barn turned arts center, a large granite bison statue and the Falls Overlook Café, which is housed in a century-old power company building.
In addition to being the natural and social center of Sioux Falls, Falls Park is also a stop on a 26-mile bike and pedestrian trail that winds its way around the city. Part of that trail has been further developed as the Big Sioux River Recreational Trail and Greenway, a paved path that winds through both urban and wilderness areas.
Although the trail has been around for some time, new developments near downtown allow visitors to have a variety of experiences in Sioux Falls.
“They just built a new pedestrian bridge over the river and a new amphitheater,” Orsack said. “There are lots of concerts and activities taking place there. It’s going to become one of our premier event venues.”
The amphitheater and greenway play host to a number of annual celebrations in Sioux Falls, including the Downtown Riverfest. The inaugural edition of this festival took place in August and featured a variety of local music and cuisine. The festival made use of high-tech LED lighting along the greenway to create a distinctive evening ambiance.
Next: Outdoor campus
Granite sculptures to be added to downtown Rapid City
Western experiences in the Dakotas
Culinary offerings in the Dakotas
Art in the Dakotas
Sioux Falls lands 2013 SMM Conference
More Going Places
Oregon's indie state of mind
Festivals define Omaha’s diversity
State Spotlight: Texas
It's personal in Eugene, Oregon
No clouds allowed in Florida’s Panhandle