Little Falls Lake is Back!

In 2019 I visited Little Falls Lake in Willow River State Park in Hudson, WI, only it wasn’t there. (see Blog posted 8/1/19 “Where’s the Lake”). My curiosity demanded that I come back. 2 years later The lake is here, although there is a big blue-green algae bloom. My luck isn’t very good with this Lake. I’m 0 for 2 for wading in it. I will try again in a month before I start my migration south for the winter.

Side Note: I wonder what happened to the creatures that moved in to the prairie when the lake was gone. While the lake is the highlight of the State Park, what’s best for the natural inhabitants?

Corn Palace

Mitchell Corn Palace

In 1892 Mitchell, SD was a small, 12-year-old city of 3,000 inhabitants. In order to compete with neighboring Plankinton’s Grain Palace, Mitchell built the World’s Only Corn Palace on the city’s Main Street. By 1905 the success of the Corn Palace had been assured and a new Palace was to be built, but this building soon became too small. In 1919, the decision to build a third Corn Palace was made. This one was to be permanent and more purposeful than its predecessors. The present building was completed in 1921, just in time for the Corn Palace festivities.

The Palace is redecorated each year with naturally colored corn and other grains and native grasses to make it “the agricultural show-place of the world”. They currently use 12 different shades of corn to decorate the Corn Palace: red, brown, black, blue, white, orange, calico, yellow and green corn! A different theme is chosen each year, and murals are designed to reflect that theme. Ear by ear the corn is nailed to the Corn Palace to create a scene.

Palisades State Park

Palisades State Park

Palisades State Park is a cute little state park and is one of the most unique areas in South Dakota. Split Rock Creek, which flows through the park, is lined with Sioux quartzite formations varying from shelves several feet above the water to 50-foot vertical cliffs. Scenic overlooks and rushing water make Palisades a popular getaway. The park is located just south of Garretson, 10 miles off I-90. At only 157 acres it is South Dakota’s second-smallest state park.

Pioneers settled in the area beginning in 1865. In the 1870s Split Rock Creek was harnessed to power a large flour and feed mill, and a town called Palisades formed around it. Silver was discovered shortly downstream in 1886, prompting a short-lived silver rush but the ore was found to be low quality. Three years later Garretson became a railroad junction and most of Palisades relocated to the north. A steel truss bridge built over Split Rock Creek in 1908 is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Steel Truss Bridge

Sioux Falls Park

Big Sioux

The history of Sioux Falls revolves around the cascades of the Big Sioux River. The falls were created about 14,000 years ago during the last ice age. The lure of the falls has been a powerful influence. Ho-Chunk, Ioway, Otoe, Missouri, Omaha (and Ponca at the time), Quapaw, Kansa, Osage, Arikira, Dakota, and Cheyenne people inhabited and settled the region previous to Europeans and European descendants. Numerous burial mounds still exist on the high bluffs near the river and are spread throughout the general vicinity.

Currently, the area is suffering a draught, the water level was much lower than expected.

Last time I was here I was 10, proudly wearing a turquoise cowgirl hat and a Ballard Bulldog sweatshirt (my grammar school) standing next to my sister.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

I had the best day yesterday at the Badlands. The weather was cooler, there was a nice breeze, and clouds gave a break to the solstice sun. I saw bighorn sheep, bison, prairie dogs, and a ton of swallows. My favorite sensory moment was hearing the sound of the wind through the grass.

Vast grassland

The Lakota gave this land its name, “Mako Sica,” meaning “land bad.” Located in southwestern South Dakota, Badlands National Park consists of 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires blended with the largest protected mixed grass prairie in the United States. It is desolation at its truest, where you can look for miles and see no sign of civilization.

No sign of civilization

This land has been so ruthlessly ravaged by wind and water that it has become picturesque. The Badlands are a wonderland of bizarre, colorful spires and pinnacles, massive buttes and deep gorges. Erosion of the Badlands reveals sedimentary layers of different colors: purple and yellow (shale), tan and gray (sand and gravel), red and orange (iron oxides) and white (volcanic ash).

Sedimentary levels

Badlands National Park also preserves the world’s greatest fossil beds of animals from the Oligocene Epoch of the Age of Mammals. The skeletons of ancient camels, three-toed horses, saber-toothed cats and giant rhinoceros-like creatures are among the many fossilized species found here. All fossils, rocks, plants and animals are protected and must remain where you find them. Prehistoric bones are still being uncovered today by park officials.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

I had the best day yesterday at the Badlands. The weather was cooler, there was a nice breeze, and clouds gave a break to the solstice sun. I saw bighorn sheep, bison, prairie dogs, and a ton of swallows. My favorite sensory moment was hearing the sound of the wind through the grass.

Vast grassland

The Lakota gave this land its name, “Mako Sica,” meaning “land bad.” Located in southwestern South Dakota, Badlands National Park consists of 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires blended with the largest protected mixed grass prairie in the United States. It is desolation at its truest, where you can look for miles and see no sign of civilization.

No sign of civilization

This land has been so ruthlessly ravaged by wind and water that it has become picturesque. The Badlands are a wonderland of bizarre, colorful spires and pinnacles, massive buttes and deep gorges. Erosion of the Badlands reveals sedimentary layers of different colors: purple and yellow (shale), tan and gray (sand and gravel), red and orange (iron oxides) and white (volcanic ash).

Sedimentary levels

Badlands National Park also preserves the world’s greatest fossil beds of animals from the Oligocene Epoch of the Age of Mammals. The skeletons of ancient camels, three-toed horses, saber-toothed cats and giant rhinoceros-like creatures are among the many fossilized species found here. All fossils, rocks, plants and animals are protected and must remain where you find them. Prehistoric bones are still being uncovered today by park officials.

Jewel Cave

Beneath the Black Hills of South Dakota is the intriguing underground world of Jewel Cave. With over 202 miles of explored passageways, Jewel Cave ranks as one of the longest caves in the world. The cave was discovered at the turn of the century by brothers passing through Hell Canyon. Brilliant color and fragile rocks reveal an amazing ecosystem not visible anywhere else. The third longest cave in the world has much to offer to a wide range of those interested in its natural glory.

Above Jewel Cave

Reptile Gardens

Reptile Gardens

I’m camped right across the street from Reptile Gardens. I couldn’t resist its charm, so I walked over to check it out. The origin story tickled my fancy, so I’ll share a little with you.

America’s largest reptile attraction isn’t in a Florida swamp. It’s Reptile Gardens, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and it’s there because local boy Earl J. Brockelsby (1916-1993) really liked slithery things. As a teenager, Earl would stand at the side of the road and stop cars by pretending to bite a live, wriggling rattlesnake (although he never really did). Another of his tricks was to politely lift his cowboy hat and reveal a live rattlesnake contentedly curled up on his head.

Visitor reactions to these antics convinced Earl that he was on to something, and on June 3, 1937, he opened Reptile Garden (The “s” was added years later). It was a stucco-fronted roadside shack that Earl built at the crest of a steep hill where cars often overheated. “They’d pull into the parking lot to let the car cool down,” said Johnny B, “and that’s when Dad would pop out of his little building and try to get them to pay ten cents to watch him jump in a pit and play with snakes.”

Reptile Gardens now has the largest reptile collection in the world — roughly 225 species — as well as tropical parrots, birds of prey, thousands of exotic plants (the “gardens” part of Reptile Gardens) and an entire prairie dog town with pop-up plexiglass bubbles for close human interaction. “He wanted to add a lot of things for people that might not be fans of snakes,” said Johnny B.

Custer Town Bison

Custer’s Bison

I saw painted Cowboy Boots in Cheyenne, WY, Custer has painted Bison. The idea was born with the Custer Stampede, an auction that gave artists the chance to showcase their talents through buffalo sculptures. “They all have such different personality and so that’s what we were honed to,” said Hennessy. The herd is 16 head but only half the herd lives in her yard year-round. The other half migrates downtown.

Gore Buffalo Jump

Buffalo Jump

Five hundred years ago, American Indian tribes began driving bison into a natural sinkhole bordering the northern Great Plains and the Black Hills. This perfect trap allowed the people to acquire large amounts of meat and hides to be used for their own survival.

The site was discovered just west of the Wyoming-South Dakota border about halfway between Sundance, WY. and Spearfish, SD, during construction of I-90 in the early 1970s. In 1989, the family of Woodrow and Doris Vore donated the site to the University of Wyoming, and today, the sinkhole is known as the Vore Buffalo Jump.

Bison Bones

Archaeologists estimate that at least 4,000 bison were killed over a period of about 250 years at this place. The Vore site is known for its massive quantities of bison bone and stone artifacts, which have been remarkably preserved in discrete layers. The sinkhole contains hundreds of layers of sediment, known as varves, which have washed into the depression annually. Scientists count varves like tree rings and combine this information with other dating methods to estimate when each bison jump occurred.