Why is it called Sioux Falls? Because it has a significant water fall! We were driving across South Dakota, headed for Michigan and planned this as a short stop – only two nights. Sometimes when we make such stops we just hang out and rest for the next leg of the trip. South Dakota is not known for its lakes and rivers and I thought, “If it’s called Sioux Falls, there must be a water fall ” so we did some research.
Centuries ago the Sioux River flowed straight south. During the Ice Age a glacier blocked the normal flow and diverted the river to swing west and then east creating the S-curve that we see in the river today. The new riverbed flowed over quartzite, a hard rock that resists erosion. The soft surface soils were eroded away, leaving the quartzite riverbed, creating a series of waterfalls.
You won’t see a tall, majestic waterfall, but a series of small falls, each feeding into the next. We really enjoyed wandering around the falls. The park is laid out in a way that allows you to walk over the quartzite rock without being herded by fences and rails, making it a unique experience. You can see the remains of the Queen Bee Mill and have a light meal in the old Power Plant building, which now houses the Falls Overlook Cafe.
At the Visitor Center you can climb a tower that offers an awesome view of the falls.
Sioux Falls has a loop bicycle trail that starts at Falls Park. We rode the trail that led us along the river and past a series of parks. Even though this was a Monday, there were many other people biking, walking, or running on the trail. We also shared the trail with some deer that were very comfortable being around people. Part of the trail ran along the top of a levee that is part of the Army Corps of Engineers flood control program. As we rode along I spotted several flood gates that would release water into low laying areas if the water threatened to top the levee, as well as dams that would hold water back during times of high water. If you want to avoid some steep uphill climbs, ride the trail in a clockwise direction.
We enjoyed our day at Falls Park and I recommend Falls Park and the Sioux Falls Bike Trail.
Tuesday, September 13th, we were on our way to LaCrosse, WI.