Still time to make summer memories at Palisades State Park

GARRETSON, S.D. -- Palisades State Park manager John Dummer recalls his first visit to the park, which was back in the summer of 2012. "I was amazed at what I saw -- it didn't seem like I was even in South Dakota," Dummer remembered. "How could a...

The main entrance to Palisades State Park in Garretson, S.D. (Camila Wede/The Globe)

GARRETSON, S.D. - Palisades State Park manager John Dummer recalls his first visit to the park, which was back in the summer of 2012.


“I was amazed at what I saw - it didn’t seem like I was even in South Dakota,” Dummer remembered. “How could a place like this exist, and yet a mile away from the park the land is covered with fertile farm fields that reminds us that we’re still in the Midwest.


“In my personal opinion, Palisades State Park is like no other state park in South Dakota.”



Even on a quiet day, the park is full of activities for visitors to participate in. Dummer’s first time exploring the Palisades took him on some of the many hiking trails.


“During my time on the [Split Rock Creek] trail, I was able to view upward on the Sioux quartzite rocks that tower over Split Rock Creek,” Dummer recounted. “This trail gets very close to the river, which is nice as it allows you to hear the sounds of the soft rapids along the creek. Cedar and ash trees, prairie cactus and lichen can be found growing on the towering rocks, giving the rocks a more characteristic look.


“I saw a few people out rock climbing, and they looked like pendulums swaying back and forth from their climbing ropes,” Dummer added. “The rock wall was roughly 60 feet tall.”


Dummer also hiked on the South Wall trail during his initial visit.



“This trail also starts near the picnic shelter but works its way southwest along Split Rock Creek and then circles back towards the picnic shelter,” he explained. “My first time on this trail was pleasant. I continued up the trail and was greeted by wooden steps that snaked between two large rock formations that led away from the river.”


Many events are available throughout the summer at Palisades State Park. One highlight of the season took place Aug. 12, when the park hosted a Meteor Shower and Star Party. A telescope was provided “for folks to see stars, constellations and also view the Perseid meteor shower,” said Dummer.


The Monarch Butterfly Program will be taking place at the park on Sept. 2.


“Participants will get to learn about the life cycle of the monarch butterfly,” Dummer said. “Typically, monarch butterflies migrate through South Dakota in September as they prepare for the winter months by traveling to Central Mexico. We hope to see a few monarch butterflies and, if we are lucky enough, participants may get to tag a few butterflies.”



The Homesteader Day Celebration will take place a little over 10 miles away at the Beaver Creek Nature Area on Sept. 10.


“[The event] offers visitors a glimpse of how the homesteaders lived in eastern South Dakota during the late 1800s,” Dummer said. “Throughout the day, participants can watch agricultural demonstrations, rope making, Dutch oven cooking, candle dipping, black smith demonstrations, and a Civil War reenactment.


“Every year I invite family and friends to Palisades State Park and share with them some of my favorite areas of the park,” he continued. “They all enjoy what the park has to offer with its incredible views and natural resources. My nieces and nephews enjoy finding the small prairie cactus that grow in the rock formations.


“Whenever I meet new people, they typically ask, ‘where do you work?’ and I respond, ‘Palisades State Park.’ After they hear my response, they typically get excited and, with a smile on their face, respond with their favorite memory of the park.”


“Everyone has a different memory of Palisades State Park, and that’s what makes this park so great. It’s more than just rocks and camping; it’s where people come to remember past memories and create new ones.”


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